Microsoft, Intel and NEC Team on Digital Signage Platform

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NEC, Intel and Microsoft announced Wednesday that they’re planning a strategic alliance aimed at creating a next-generation platform for digital signage using the three companies’ technologies.

“The proposed collaboration will result in an optimized digital signage platform that addresses the retail and digital signage market’s need for a more streamlined, high-performance and highly reliable solution that supports digital content, interactivity, intelligence and life-cycle management,” a joint statement said.

Such a platform would be based on Microsoft’s (NASDAQ: MSFT) Windows Embedded Standard 7, a version of Windows 7 for embedded applications, and it would run on Intel (NASDAQ: INTC) Core i5/i7 processors using what Intel calls the Open Pluggable Standard (OPS) — the chip maker’s initiative to standardize digital signage.

Intel and Microsoft announced the first components of this proposed alliance in January at the National Retail Federation (NRF) Annual Convention and Expo in New York when the two companies demonstrated a digital signage platform optimized for retail settings.

“The optimized platform simplifies development, helping to lower the total cost of ownership [and] enables digital-signage device makers to focus on creating rich, connected user experiences that can be managed remotely and deployed anywhere from quick service restaurants and airports to hotels, cruise ships and retail stores,” Kevin Dallas, general manager of the Windows Embedded Business Unit at Microsoft, said in a statement in January.

NEC’s participation would be in the areas of “next generation digital signage products,” as well as collaboration with the other two companies on cloud-computing services.

For instance, NEC will produce a new controller module and display it has developed that supports Intel’s OPS. NEC will also work with Microsoft to implement solutions based on Windows 7 technologies in Windows Embedded Standard 7, including “Windows Presentation Foundation, Windows Touch and Windows Flip 3D navigation for multi-gesture touch interfaces and context-aware applications,” the joint statement said.

NEC will also work to sharpen the accuracy of its gender and age recognition technology, and will work with Microsoft SQL Server 2008 Release 2 (R2) to collect and analyze data. The new controller will be able to provide both signage management and audience management on a single board.

Additionally, NEC will incorporate Intel vPro remote management features, along with a new system for managing controllers, handling system and applications updating, and power management technologies to its software.

“With cloud-computing services and the optimized digital signage platform built on Windows Embedded Standard 7, the future of digital signage is here today to empower retailers,” Barb Edson, senior director of marketing for the Windows Embedded Business at Microsoft, said in a statement.

The companies are planning to show off a prototype system at the NRF Annual Convention and Expo 2011 in New York, Jan. 9 through 12.

Stuart J. Johnston is a contributing writer at, the news service of, the network for technology professionals. Follow him on Twitter @stuartj1000.

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