Bruce Sterling on 15 Nov 2000 17:46:22 -0000

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[Nettime-bold] I'm an American And I Have a Microsoft Handgun

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Subject: Microsoft Announces Handguns with Web Access
Date: Sun, Nov 12, 2000, 06:16 PM

June 16, 2004

Microsoft Announces Handguns with Web Access

PHOENIX--Microsoft today unveiled its latest effort to ensure that the Web
is accessible "everywhere through everything" and that versions of its
Windows operating system become "ubiquitous and necessary, like the air we
breathe."  Speaking to a skeptical audience at CUEC (Conference on
Ubiquitous and Environmental Computing), CEO Steve Ballmer revealed that
Microsoft has acquired rights to the legendary Colt brand and has a custom
version of Windows for Handguns currently in beta testing.

 Brandishing a prototype "e.Colt," Ballmer extolled the virtues and
conveniences of "wired" firearms:  "Now, whenever I have my gun out, I can
also check my stock quotes.  Bill can still dash off an e-mail to me, and
I'll get it, even if I'm out searching for prowlers in the backyard in my

 The e.Colt is built around a fully-functional 9mm semi-automatic frame.
The grip includes a small, 256-color touchscreen and stowable stylus.  All
memory, computing and storage functions are handled by a 1 GB CRAM array
and low-power Intel Cranium processor.  A coiled, under-barrel
multi-function antenna permits connection with RF, WAP, IGI, and satellite
networks.  Running on a custom, embedded version of Windows known as
Windows HG, and utilizing full Bluetooth functionality, the e.Colt enables
users to engage in most of the most popular Web functions, including
browsing with full XML support, e-mail, and voice and data telephony.

 Microsoft's business strategy for the e.Colt includes producing and
selling the gun itself, licensing OEM design and manufacture of
peripherals, and licensing Windows HG to others in the firearms and
munitions industry.  "The hardware itself is really cool," exclaimed
Ballmer.   "I mean, wow!  But we've always been more of a software company
than a hardware company.  The hope is that the industry will pick up on
this and run with it.  At Microsoft we just want what's best for the
consumer:  innovation, and that includes innovation in handguns."

 Ballmer also demonstrated the Kodak Gun-Cam, one of the many peripherals
in the works.  The small camera plugs into the e.Colt's USB port and
gathers real-time footage through a patented down-the-sites view.  "There's
lots of important uses for this," noted Ballmer.  "With Windows HG's remote
firing capability and personal server functionality, you could set your gun
up somewhere, then, from anywhere in the world, keep track of what it's
aiming at and, when you're ready, fire.  We expect something like this to
be really big for rifle manufacturers interested in building the remote
hunting market."

 Remote firing is only one of several "remote" functions enabled by Windows
HG.  The OS includes a web-configurable and web-accessible gun lock and
safety system that makes use of 1,024 bit encrypted keys.  "We're very
concerned about gun safety," explained Ballmer.  "In HG we've got a
key-escrow system to help out law-enforcement curtail inappropriate gun
use.  We keep an updated copy of each of the safety keys on one of our
super-safe, super-secure servers.  If a cop or somebody has met the proper
legal standard and has the right paperwork, we can turn over the key and
they can lock-up the gun."

 Ballmer also pointed out the potential usefulness of remote firing and
lock-up control for co-ordination of firing in small groups or squads:
"Because of Bluetooth, groups of gun-owners can now network their guns
together and do things like appoint a squad leader with power to issue a
'hold fire' command which would instantly flip the safety on all of the
guns in the group."

 Members of the audience at CUEC remained skeptical:  "We're glad when
somebody with resources like Microsoft dedicates them to ubiquitous or
environmental computing initiatives, explained one attendee.  "The
enthusiasm helps draw attention to the field.  At the same time, though,
their specific plans don't seem to be in the right spirit.  They just don't
get it."


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