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Information appliances: gadget Netopia

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1 Author(s)
Lewis, T. ; Technol. Assessment Group, USA

With the convergence of so many disparate technologies over the past few years, it makes sense that we are now seeing PC descendants emerge as a breed of entirely new products that use their inherited technologies in innovative ways. These inherited technologies include wireless connectivity, Internet access and ultraportability. The combination of these and other technologies is forming a new class of devices known as information appliances (IAs). IAs-a class of products that also includes Web-enabled TVs-are related to desktop computers, but unlike network computers, IAs aren't crippled PCs. IAs are a separate class of devices defining new sets of applications. In fact, they are defining several new categories of computing. Initially, these devices will add functionality to the two killer applications of consumer electronics: television and e-mail. Eventually, however, they will pull away from the more obvious extensions (like wireless handhelds and e-mail-enabled cellular phones) and find their way into cars, wristwatches, kitchen appliances, and just about anything else that can be made more useful by extending typical capabilities with new technology. Every appliance will eventually become an IA, but not as soon as some people think. The challenge for vendors is how to design and manufacture extremely easy-to-use yet sophisticated devices at prices that will attract the masses. The technical hurdles are great and the market risks are clear, but the rewards will be huge. This tension is perfect for fomenting the next revolution in computing.

Published in:

Computer  (Volume:31 ,  Issue: 1 )

Date of Publication:

Jan. 1998

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