In early May at the Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC) 2003 trade show, Microsoft made one point very clear: High dpi, wide-screen displays would be the screen of choice for Longhorn, the next Windows version. I've used several wide-screen displays, including the one on the vpr Matrix 200A5 notebook I reviewed in November 2002 ( http://www.winnetmag.com/articles/index.cfm?articleid=27445 ) and the one on the 17" iMac that I currently use for non-Windows tasks. Switching back to a standard 4:3 monitor after using a wide-screen display is difficult: The convenience of being able to display documents side by side can be a huge time-saver, and people are more attuned to viewing information in a landscape, rather than a portrait, orientation.

Today's wide-screen displays don't typically offer high dpi (i.e., above 96dpi) capabilities, but they're still worth investigating. If you haven't been following the wide-screen market recently, you might be surprised to discover several contenders at a variety of price points. In fact, if you're interested in a wide-screen display, you'll most likely be able to find a notebook machine in your price range.

The wide-screen notebook phenomenon, of course, started with Apple Computer, which launched its excellent PowerBook G4 more than 2 years ago (I reviewed an early 400MHz model in June 2001--http://www.winnetmag.com/articles/index.cfm?articleid=21610 ). Since then, Apple has complemented this 15" unit with a new 17" aluminum PowerBook G4, which features the same whopping 17" screen as my iMac. I'm not convinced a 17" screen is portable, but one thing is clear: Suddenly, Apple has a lot of competition in the wide-screen arena.

On the low end of the spectrum, eMachines offers its eMachines M5310, the budget PC company's first notebook offering. The M5310 features a 15.4" wide-screen display running at 1280 x 800 (WXGA), 802.11g wireless networking, an AMD Athlon XP-M 2400+ mobile processor, 512MB of RAM, and a 40GB hard disk for just $1200, but you can often find it for a few hundred bucks less at places such as Best Buy. That's Crazy Eddie pricing, and I intend to check this machine out soon.

Hewlett-Packard's (HP's) wide-screen HP Workstation X1000 series machines don't cost much more. For a starting price of $1299, this machine features an Intel Pentium M 1.3GHz (up to 1.7GHz) processor, 256MB of RAM, a 40GB hard disk, various wireless options, and a WXGA screen. For the frequent traveler, Sony recently introduced a tiny iBook-like notebook, the VAIO TR Series, which features a 10.6" wide-screen display running at 1280 x 768, an Intel Pentium M 900MHz processor, and battery life up to 7 hours. The VAIO TR Series weighs only 3.11 pounds.

Dell offers a variety of wide-screen Inspiron and Latitude notebooks and takes the game a step further by providing a range of screen types. You can choose between WXGA, WSXGA+ (1680 x 1050), and WUXGA (1920 x 1200) resolutions, although Dell's boxes are quite definitely desktop replacements--they weigh 7 pounds to start and go up from there. Predictably, Dell's prices are quite cheap; an Inspiron 8500 system starts at just $1299.

Other companies offer wide-screen wares. Going forward, I'll be looking at a few wide-screen notebooks for our "Laptop of the Month" feature. Drop me a note and tell me whether you think the future looks wide.

Fun Facts and Figures from Microsoft
Last week, Microsoft held its annual financial analysts meeting, which always provides a wellspring of information for people interested in how the company has performed and what it plans for the coming years. I'm still pouring over the videos, transcripts, and Microsoft PowerPoint presentations that came out of the event, but here are some interesting numbers I was able to cull so far, in no particular order:
- Microsoft is increasing its research and development funding in fiscal year 2004 by 8 percent.
- Microsoft has shipped 130 million Windows XP licenses; 70 percent are XP Professional Edition.
- PC sales grew 3 percent in the past year, but Microsoft's client business grew 11 percent; overall, Microsoft grew 13 percent year-over-year, thanks largely to Licensing 6.0 and users migrating to XP Pro.
- Microsoft said 350 million PCs still run Windows NT or Windows 9x.
- Windows and Linux are the only server platforms that will grow market share over the next year. Currently, Windows Server owns 53.1 percent of the server market, compared with 16.7 percent for Linux. Next year, the mix will be roughly 53.7 percent to 19.2 percent--in Windows' favor. Windows Server sales grew 7.7 percent in fiscal year 2003, compared with 19.2 percent for Linux.
- Today, 37 percent of developers use Microsoft .NET, compared with 34 percent for Java (a year ago the ratio was 25:30). More than 2.5 million developers use .NET technologies.
- Microsoft has sold more than 150 million Microsoft Exchange Server seats worldwide.
- Approximately 500 million cell phones are in use worldwide.
- 25 million unique users visit Microsoft Office Online each month.
- Microsoft has shipped 9.4 million Xboxes; each customer buys an average of 5 software titles for the device, and Xbox Live has more than 500,000 paid subscribers.
- Microsoft Office System products that aren't part of the core Office suite earn the company more than $1 billion each year. Microsoft Project alone generated $500 million in revenue in the past year.
- Microsoft applied for 1500 patents in fiscal year 2003.
- Almost half of the email that goes through Hotmail's servers--or 2.4 billion messages every day--is spam; in 2001, it was only 8 percent.
- Spam costs about a penny to send--and a dollar to receive; Microsoft estimates spam is a $10 billion-a-year problem for the industry.
- MSN Messenger is the largest free Instant Messaging (IM) service on the planet, and more than 9 million people are using the service concurrently at any given time.
- Google currently indexes only 30 percent to 40 percent of all Web sites.
- More than 80 million people worldwide access the Internet with a broadband connection.
- More than 70 percent of all time online is spent communicating with email and IM; less than 30 percent is spent browsing the Web.