As computing evolves, networks expand and technology converges, we are seeing an explosion of new appliances hit the marketplace designed to help consumers remain connected to their new webbed world. There are lots of them that do many things, but the designers who think about culture and society alongside technology will sell the most units. The way people/families live and work today will shape the framework for choosing features and functionality for developers going forward. I’ve spent some time thinking about this and have come up with four imperatives for success.
- WiFi access, to allow users access to the web, e-mail, blogs, anything that is on the Internet
- Support for the online community/social networking world by allowing photos and video to be viewed, selected, edited and uploaded. This real time journaling feature is one of the main reasons to have one of these appliances
- Provide a rich and fun experience for kids, easy switching to the kids account that is sanitized through parental controls
- Lightweight, rugged, long battery life, and a simple, easy to use interface for all members of the family
I recently had the opportunity to briefly play with one of these new appliances the Eee PC. It is manufactured by ASUSTeK Computer Inc. and sells for under $400. It is white, small and rugged. The software window is displayed on a 7″ screen that is bright and easy to see. The interface has tabs allowing the user to select, Internet, work, learn or play spaces on the screen. This makes it simple to know where to begin. It constantly seeks a WiFi signal and will easily join so you are up and running with a Firefox web browser. You can check e-mail, update your blog, or keep tabs on your friends on Facebook.
It runs on Linux, but they indicate it’s Microsoft XP compatible. I found it relatively easy to use, but a little difficult to control the cursor with the thumb pad. The keyboard has a full set of keys, but because it is hardened, there isn’t much feel when you are typing. You can load on your digital photos and and video clips and upload them. There are also a nice selection of games. You can store music as well. The flash drive size is limited to either 2G, 4G or 8G.
I can easily see myself tossing it into the car for a road trip to keep kids entertained as well as using it myself to update a blog or photos site. Could also serve as a first computer for younger kids, since it is small, lightweight and can keep up with them. I wouldn’t call it a productivity tool, but that’s alright (we have enough of those already) as this milepost is very promising.
The web site that promotes the Eee PC can be found here. It is full of slow loading flash and it is not easy to navigate around from section to section. They are missing an opportunity here. I would also say the product name is not memorable, and the company name even less so.