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June 27, 2011

There’s a Windows PC for everyone in your family

Last week I had the chance to join my friends from Xbox, Windows Phone, Microsoft Hardware, Bing and Office at Microsoft Preview, an annual event we hold in New York where we share the latest Microsoft consumer technology. It’s a chance for people to check out not just the newest and coolest PC, phones, Xbox games, etc., but to see how it all works together and how they can personalize it for their interests and their lives.

This year, rather than just set up a few demo pods, we decided to do something different and put all of our technology in the context of a family of 5 – a set of working parents, a daughter who’s just started college, a movie/music/game obsessed teenage boy (this sound remarkably like me when I was 16…) and a younger daughter about to enter her teenage years.    For each we assembled a great PC, a set of really cool accessories from Microsoft Hardware and our other partners, a cool Windows Phone, and tied it all together with a feature in Windows & Windows Live that helped each family member stay connected to the people and things that are most important to them.

Below is a quick rundown of the gear I picked out for each member of our virtual family and the “cool thing” that Windows does to tie it all together.  Do you agree with my choices?  Let me know…and let me know how you’re using Microsoft tech in your own family! 

Before we get started I want to say a big thank you to Heather Clawson from Habitually Chic who helped us style each space, and who took MUCH better pictures than I did. The photos below are all from her hugely popular blog.

Brad and Susan, our working parents

Like a lot of families, Brad and Susan are both full time parents and full time professionals.  That means two set of overlapping technology – one for work and one for home – and a need to share important stuff between them (and with the rest of the family).  We used this very common scenario to show a few of our favorite professional-grade and “home” PCs, connected together using Windows Live SkyDrive.  SkyDrive is pretty awesome stuff; you get free online storage with every Windows Live Account and the ability to share files with anyone you’d like through the web. Brad and Susan are using SkyDrive to keep important files in the cloud so they’re accessible on their  work PCs (the super-slick, ultra-portable Samsung Series 9 for Susan, an interior designer and a business-ready Lenovo ThinkPad Edge E420s for company man Brad), and their home laptops (a netbook sized, but big PC powered Acer TravelMate 8172 and the Best Buy Blue Label Toshiba e305).  And they have the really important stuff, like the extended family contact sheet, shared with their kids so everyone can use it regardless of where they are.

Mom and Dad 1

We also outfitted them with a brand new multi-touch HP TouchSmart 610.  This is a really neat PC; it sits upright for easy viewing when you’re using the mouse and keyboard, and then reclines to a flatter position when you want to use a touch app or play a touch game.    More and more people are using an all-in-one like this as a digital “home base”; a central location for their family’s music, movies, photos, important documents, and in many cases, as an entertainment center for movies and live TV.  That’s how Brad and Susan have theirs set up.  They’re using the TouchSmart 610 as their DVR, and pushing that content – as well as their home movies and photos – to their TV using Windows 7’s PlayTo feature. 

Mom and Dad 2

Megan, our college freshman

I’d say that beyond a set of clothes a PC is the most important thing today’s college students own.  That’s true for Megan who’s just starting out as a freshman, so we hooked her up with a dream dorm room, the centerpiece of which is the brand-new Sony VAIO L.  This is a new take on the all-in-one in that many common touch controls, like pausing/playing/stopping a movie or song or browsing back/forward in your browser, are found on the bezel, not the screen.  That means less smudgy fingerprints on that beautiful 23” HD display.  For class and working on the go, Megan has a Lenovo IdeaPad U160.  Like her dad’s Acer TravelMate 8172 this PC is netbook sized but has full PC power (4GB RAM, i5, HD display) so it’s perfect for working on documents, taking notes, and building presentations when she’s away from her Sony VAIO L.   Her lifesaver is OneNote synced through SkyDrive. With it, she can have access to her class notes wherever she is –  on her U160, on her VAIO L, or through the web anywhere in the world.


Eric, our teenage gaming fanatic

When I was 16, I cared about few things more than video games.  So I modeled Eric, our teenage boy, after myself at that age – a tech obsessed nerd who loves music, movies, and gaming.  Actually, now that I mention it, that sounds a lot like me now.    But I digress…

I outfitted Eric with one of the meanest gaming PCs on the market, the ASUS Republic of Gamers G73.  This is a 17” full-HD power PC that’s loaded with the latest technology, a killer display and monster speakers, all to deliver a pretty amazing entertainment experience.  It plays Crysis 2 like a dream, shakes the room when blasting music through Zune, and rocks at powering HTML5 content in IE9.  All for around $1300.


Amy, our 12-going-on-20 fashionista

Last but not least is Amy.  She’s a pretty typical 12-year-old who’s starting to define her own personality through her style.  The perfect PC for her is the Dell Inspiron 15r SWITCH because it’s the only PC on the market (along with Dell’s other SWITCH laptops) that offers interchangeable lids.  That means that whenever she changes her style she can change her laptop to match!  Style aside, it’s a very good PC powered by the latest Intel Core technology, and you can get one starting around $500. 


Of course, Brad, Susan, Megan, Eric and Amy are made up, so what I really want to know is how you and your family are using your PCs (and Windows) to stay more connected to the people and things you care about?  Leave a comment and let me know what gear you’re using!