Saturday, July 22, 2006


I love technology

Today I want to highlight two interesting/amusing new technology plans. So I will. Both are reported to us by Reuters, via the Washington Post.

"Smart" washers and dryers: It seems Whirlpool have decided that the old "buzzer" that tells you the laundry is done is just too 20th-century, so they've come up with "connected" versions that alert you with a message on your TV screen, with an instant message (it doesn't say what IM systems it supports; we can hope, likely in vain, that they've chosen the open-standards path of jabber), or with SMS to your mobile phone. That last is probably the most interesting, because you can get the message while you're out taking the kids to soccer, punch a few buttons on your phone, and add more time to the cool-down cycle or some such.

OK, I get that, but it seems like the wrong applicance to start with. When I can send an IM from my BlackBerry and have a robot move the laundry from the washer to the dryer and stick a new load in the washer... well, then I'll agree that the laundry room is the place for this. But let me control my air conditioner, my heater, or my video recorder, and I'll sign up for that. (In fact, I can control my air conditioner from a web browser, thanks to a thermostat with a wireless radio that I got from Con Edison a couple of years ago. Unfortunately, the web site isn't compatible with the browser on my BlackBerry, and it gets a javascript error when I try to log in.)

Anyway, speaking of BlackBerry devices, we get to the other item: RIM wants to pack more into the BlackBerry.

"We'll be definitely supporting more forms of media, it's a big part of our direction," Jim Balsillie told Reuters, adding that delivering features such as photography, music and video with the BlackBerry "opens up some bigger markets. It's totally adjacent and complementary in some respects, but also in other respects it lays right on top (of) our existing market."
(I'm not sure what that last sentence means; I think it's how you have to talk when you're a CEO. Like this other unintelligible thing he says later in the piece: "[...] we're always looking at rounding out the sort of whole BlackBerry middleware solution proposition." Anyway....)

What we're developing here, in the BlackBerry, in the Pioneer Inno, and in other such devices, is the 21st-century technological version of the Swiss Army Knife — electronic devices that do everything but eat.[1] It's a mobile phone, an address book, a calendar, a memo pad, an alarm clock, a web browser, an email device, a camera, a personal entertainment system (audio and video), a video-game system, a GPS device, a ... if you can fit it into 4 square inches of screen space (well, or even if you can't), it'll be there. Wait, let me see, where did they hide the toothpick?

[1] Back in mainframe-computer days, when memory was measured in kilobytes, there was a well-known utility program that we used for copying data from pretty much any then-extant storage medium to pretty much any other. The program was called "DEBE" (pronounced "Debbie"), which stood for "Does Everything But Eat".

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