Microsoft sponsoring $50,000 Win CE home automation contest

Microsoft announced a competition with $50,000 in prizes for a contest challenging students, academics, and hobbyists to envision the “home of the future” using Windows CE (which forms the basis for Windows Mobile). The “Sparks Will Fly” contest includes a giveaway of 50 Via Artigo computers , and culminates in a $15,000 grand prize.

Sparks Will Fly promotes Windows CE 6.0 technology via a three-round competition open to people in all countries. The event resembles Microsoft’s existing Imagine Cup, billed as “the world’s premier student technology competition.”

The Sparks Will Fly contest will end at 3 PM PST on Mar. 9, 2009 and consists of the following rounds:

1) Contestants will have until Jan. 7, 2009 to submit a one- to three-page proposal detailing a Windows CE-based idea for the home of the future at the website.

2) On Jan. 9, 2009, Microsoft will announce 50 contestants chosen to participate in round two. In order to build their devices, each will receive Windows CE 6.0. R2, Visual Studio 2005 Professional, and a Via Artigo computer. The contestants will be required to submit a four- to eight-page paper describing their solution, along with a three-minute video, by Mar. 11, 2009.

3) On Mar. 13, 2009, the top three finalists will be announced. Each, receiving a $1,000 award and an “all-inclusive trip,” will present his or her idea at ESC Silicon Valley, which begins Mar. 29. The eventual winner will receive $15,000, plus a trip to the 2009 TechEd conference in Los Angeles.

Ilya Bukshteyn, senior director of Windows Embedded marketing at Microsoft, said, “This is a great chance for the embedded developer to have an impact on the innovation we will see in the future. We are eager to see the forward thinking that will shape the home of the future.”