Where Are They Now: Windows SideShow

Oh, Vista. You promised so much. I can't help but feel that you are a disappointment.

"Yeah!" I hear you all shouting at your screens, as you read this, "It's ALL eye-candy! No substance! You tell 'em, JEFF!!!"

To which I would reply, "Wait, you're wrong! It's not even all eye candy! At least, not the eye candy I was promised!"

Sure, it has Aero, and I can press a combination of keys (which I always forget, anyway, and waste more time trying to call up the helper app than it would take me to go through the windows, one-by-one, until I find the screen I wanted to find) and make my windows go all flip-flip.

But what ever happened to SideShow?! That's the eye-candy I was looking forward to.

Since this new feature was announced, way back in June of 2006, I thought that by now I'd have a second, tiny screen showing me valuable information without even having to boot up my laptop.

Yet, my new Dell notebook is conspicuously missing that secondary screen. How am I supposed to check the weather?!

It was much bally-hoo'd and trumpeted. MS fan boys went nuttier than apes at a banana convention. Heck, I went ape for it, and I'm the furthest thing from a fan boy (of ANY kind) that you'll ever find.

I expected a huge roll-out of SideShow-enabled devices when Vista hit the street, but somewhere along the way it seems to have all but vanished. Maybe it's just not being talked about as much — the negative press that the OS is receiving having pushed it to the side as pundits tear apart everything about the new OS (some deserved, some not).

So, just to make sure it's not really out there and just being overlooked, I went looking for where the current state of SideShow adoption is today.

As far as availability on laptops goes, ASUS appears to be the only manufacturer that offers a SideShow laptop to this day.

Which is sad, really, since Vista was released in January of 2007. ASUS was the first company to jump into the SideShow fray. Its W5Fe notebook was first on the scene, and remains the only one on the scene.

That's not exactly the rush-to-include fervor one would expect to see with something that is as useful as Microsoft claims it is.

Yes, early on, other devices DID come out with the SideShow feature.

A wide range of electronic devices, in fact, so much that you'd think that manufacturers are taking a trial-and-error approach, putting SideShow support into different devices trying to find where the new technology works.

I've found that, since it's launch, SideShow has been crammed into MP3 players, remote controls, home automation devices, handheld devices, e-book readers, phones, and even a refrigerator magnet! Seriously!

Many of these devices are available — you have to look close to find them — but they're there.

Overall, it feels as if manufacturers are stumped by this thing and they can't figure out where SideShow will have the biggest impact.

Maybe the idea of what SideShow can do for the consumer is just too vague. There is too much stuff it can, supposedly, do. So, you get all these different devices, with all these different uses for the application, but nothing seems to fit just right — except the use of it as a secondary screen on a laptop — which is exactly the one application that they're NOT pushing!

Things might be turning around. Dell just released its new XPS 420 that sports a tiny, secondary screen with SideShow support. Sure, it's a desktop... and I'm certainly not worried about wasting my battery life when checking my Sidebar gadgets on my home computer — which is ALWAYS PLUGGED IN!

But having a gigantic and well-respected (sorry, ASUS, it hurts because it's true) computer corporation get behind a feature is a good step in the right direction toward universal acceptance of something like this.

Maybe if we just keep waiting another ten months, SideShow will finally come into its own.

Jeff Somogyi is a dealnews Senior Staffwriter. Always an early adopter, he had a secondary screen implanted on his person, in anticipation of the SideShow revolution. Viva La SideShow!

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