Bill Gates hopes to wow a technical conference Tuesday by showing off a prototype of a new personal computer that stops playing music when an attached telephone is picked up and has lights built into the monitor frame to alert users to an urgent e-mail or voicemail.
The prototype machine, code-named Athens, had its hardware and software jointly built by Microsoft and computer company Hewlett-Packard Co. With a built-in Internet telephone and video camera, it is targeted at businesses and improving worker productivity. “It’s more than just slamming things together,” said Steve Kaneko, design director of Microsoft’s Windows Hardware Experience Group.
Athens, executives say, goes even further, adding seemingly commonsense features that have escaped computer manufacturers.
To log onto the machine, the user simply inserts a special plug into the side of the screen and touches a fingerprint reader. The keyboard and mouse aren’t only wireless but also charge their batteries when docked to the monitor.
In the frame around the display, lights indicate whether messages await the user. Those are lit even when the monitor is in screen-saver mode. It would alert users when they first enter their cubicles, Mr. Kaneko said.
In an improvement that has been built into some computers already, devices most commonly accessed by users — the CD-ROM drive and Universal Serial Bus ports — are built into the display. The central processing unit case, meanwhile, shrinks.