Thursday, July 26, 2007

New types of computer: display and desk

For years, there have been three basic form factors for computers - the desktop, the laptop, and the PDA / smartphone. Now, finally, Moore's law and new display technology are changing things.

I'm not referring here to the iMac, Tablet PC or iPhone - these follow traditional factors, albeit in a new way. I'm also not talking about the underlying functionality, which is converging for all factors towards internet access, phone, and camera.

Instead, I'm saying computers will start to flourish in new environments. There are two in particular I've got in mind - the display, and the desk.


We'll soon see many display computers for the home. These are computers used for displaying information or art - usually wall-mounted, or sat on a table or mantelpiece.

The first examples are digital photo frames. Already, some are adding Wifi, to display photos from a home PC or from a photo sharing website like Flickr.

Within a few years, they'll have touch screen web browsers too, enabling them to display any website.

Imagine a display in your kitchen showing a clock, your up to date calendar, the latest weather information, and the news headlines.

Or imagine a display in the living room connected to the British National Gallery website, rotating through their art collection.

Or even imagine a display on the bedside table, showing a clock during the night, and tuning in to a TV to wake you up with the morning news.

Although they'll be standard web browsers, people won't use them much to browse - mostly, they'll be connected to a single website, refreshing regularly to show the latest content.


When you're in the office, you want more than a computer desktop - you want a computer desk. Watch the Microsoft Surface demonstration to get the idea, and imagine if your entire office desk was a touch screen computer. This replicates the physical paper and files scattered around your desk for the virtual world.

Personally, I can imagine a computer desk being easier to use at an angle rather than horizontal, so you could reach documents further away.

I'm sure the software and processing power for this is here today. We might have to wait a while for the display technology, though - after all, it requires massive, durable, high resolution touch screens. But the first prototypes are coming out now.

Fitting our lifestyles better

People have been talking about the digital home for a long time. Finally, the vision is becoming clearer - touch screen web browsers, connected to personalized services in the cloud (the home server was a red herring).

Now we have this vision, and most of the technology required to achieve it. It's a question of fitting it to our lifestyles - whether it's in the office, the kitchen, or the living room.

1 comment:

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