Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Devices for Widgets for Devices

I spent the last two weeks on the Pacific coast of Mexico on a beach nestled alongside the jungle. The only "device" available where I was staying was an XM radio. Aside from the inherent fact that some folks consider radio and music the most important, most necessary, form of communication, I was intrigued by the XM radio itself.

It was about the size of a Palm Treo with a small black and white screen. It also had a remote control with even more buttons. The radio physically plugged into an amplifier. So there I was surfing radio stations on a small computer that was communicating with a satellite. The form factor, another device that fits widget sizing, was not lost on me amidst the relaxing environment. In fact, it seemed more pronounced as it fit seamlessly into that world. I didn't *feel* like I was communicating with satellites. I felt like I was using a radio widget on a "device" that was plugged into a stereo system.

When I got back a few days ago I saw a Widgify post that talks about physical widgets. Ricavision has announced a wireless device with a 3.5 inch screen that supports Windows SideShow (widgets). You can attach it to your refrigerator, take notes, and use widgets! Marketing silliness aside, this device makes a lot of sense. When there are devices that are portable, networked, and have applications that I use good things happen.

  • the line between "desktop applications" and "widgets" blurs. Would I like a device that travels with me that works equally well as a touch point to my social networks, works with the latest communication mediums (phone, email, IM), a note taker on the road, a contact list manager, a calendar, remote control for my home media center?
  • Would I like to be able to access these same applications and associated information in desktop appropriate versions from any computer using a full monitor and keyboard or other enhanced hardware available only on a desktop?
  • Would I like to ignore calling plan minutes and have generic data access, using my IP telephony application of choice? Note to phone companies: drop packets not calls.
  • Would I like to extend the physical functions of the device through plug-ins and then upgrade the entire device when the same functionality is built in? (satellite radio, cell, keyboard etc...)
There is an argument that there are some devices that are pretty close, and I agree. The iPhone is a great example, supporting a widget environment and smooth wireless capabilities. But it is the vision of one incredible company, still tethered to a closed cell infrastructure and other proprietary standards. Not to mention the fact that it is not seamlessly tied to my desktop applications.

What if we had wireless data connectivity, enough standards to make widgets platform and device compatible, and well thought out widgets and services that bridged that gap between quick portable device based interactions and longer desktop oriented interactions. Looking at the XM radios, Ricavision's device, and the iPhone I see the puzzle coming together albeit under proprietary silos. Here is one person's vote for open hardware and infrastructure, supportable software standards, and well thought out services.

1 comment:

flashaltman said...

Cool post. You seem to have the same mix of "Nature Lover/Tech Geek" that I have.

You may like this program I made - it let's people create their own ambient background music that they can listen to while they surf the net. They create the music by mixing in any number of nature sounds and relaxing music tracks together. It's hard to explain, but I bet you'd like it.

Here's the link: my Nature Sounds Mixing Board.

I hope you find it interesting.