LISTSERV mailing list manager LISTSERV 16.5

Help for IT-DISCUSS Archives


IT-DISCUSS Archives

IT-DISCUSS Archives


IT-DISCUSS@LIST.UVM.EDU


View:

Message:

[

First

|

Previous

|

Next

|

Last

]

By Topic:

[

First

|

Previous

|

Next

|

Last

]

By Author:

[

First

|

Previous

|

Next

|

Last

]

Font:

Proportional Font

LISTSERV Archives

LISTSERV Archives

IT-DISCUSS Home

IT-DISCUSS Home

IT-DISCUSS  April 2001

IT-DISCUSS April 2001

Subject:

TOP-CAT : Why Internet Appliances Failed [ ??? ]

From:

Steve Cavrak <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Departmental Technology Coordinators <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Tue, 3 Apr 2001 09:33:00 -0400

Content-Type:

TEXT/PLAIN

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

TEXT/PLAIN (129 lines)

/* An interesting point of view - the "failure" of the
   appliance being that it tried to emulate a failed
   device - the PC. As long as we try to fit big feet
   into small shoes, we're doomed to bunions. Maybe the
   way for TOPCAT is to absolutely minimize (eliminate)
   PC'ness. ??? Steve
*/


Why Internet appliances failed
By Alice Hill, Special to ZDNet
April 3, 2001 4:44 AM PT
URL: http://www.zdnet.com/zdnn/stories/comment/0,5859,2703985,00.html

COMMENTARY--Not long ago, I wrote a column detailing my disappointment
over 3Com's "Audrey" and the almost dramatic sense of loss the product
created. The disappointment had less to do with the Audrey and more to do
with the fact that I do believe there is a real untapped need for a
"non-PC" in the home. As the folks at 3Com quickly learned, where there's
actual need is where you'll find the greatest risk for the product
developer. Get it wrong, and people get incredibly disappointed.


It was also a pretty tall order. The "Internet appliance" was supposed to
address the many problems of home computing: PCs are still scary to the
beginner, the price points are better but home computers are still major
electronics purchases that become almost instantly obsolete, and basic
e-mail and Web surfing should be something one can do without a lengthy
boot-up. To fix the problem, a small Web appliance was to be inexpensive,
would instantly power on and offer easy access to features like e-mail,
and would be small enough to use from any location in the home. Piece of
cake, right?

Lesson not learned

Consider the success of the Palm Pilot, ironically from the makers of the
Audrey. For starters, the device was incredibly simple. The unit powered
on at the touch of a button, the main screen used simple icons to get you
easily to address book, calendar and so forth, while a row of buttons on
the bottom took you to those same places in case you wanted to bypass the
main screen.

While the product itself was excellent, the real success came from how it
was positioned in the marketplace. The Palm wisely understood that it
should not compete with the PC as a desktop replacement--the sheer fact
that it traveled with you made it a different but equally useful tool,
while the one-touch hot sync with your PC made it a logical extension,
instead of an also-ran competitor to the PC.

The Internet appliances on the other hand, tried to outright replace
desktop PCs by offering a lot less computing capability for slightly less
money. That just doesn't add up for most consumers. Anyone can go out and
buy a $9.95 Seiko organizer that will crudely store your address and date
book, but the Palm won because it offered to get even more from your
desktop at a fair price. If the appliances mimicked the Seiko organizer
formula and cost $29.95, there might have been a small market for them,
but by placing themselves in the desktop crosshairs, they were priced and
positioned to fail.

Portrait of a winning appliance

So what would need to happen to make the Internet appliance take
off? Above all, I believe an Internet appliance needs to be wireless. It
needs to break free of the bumbly, weighted desktop and roam the house as
freely as the Palm roams office meeting rooms and hallways. Unfortunately,
that's a tall order right now with most homes still mired in annoying dial
up technology.

Next, the unit itself has to be incredibly lightweight and
durable. Nothing is harder on electronics than an American family. To wear
the label of "appliance" means offering the same durability as the remote
control, cordless phone, bedside clock and so forth. A fragile laptop-ish
device would not last in the typical home. The Audrey not only weighed
more than my last laptop, it was such an awkward collection of cords,
keyboard, power supply and jutting stylus, that I quickly cleared the mess
out to free up some counter space. Appliances by their very nature must
strive to save counter space not overrun the kitchen or family room.

And last but not least, the unit needs to be achingly simple to operate
but incredibly useful to have around. The main problem with the Audrey is
that it didn't do much. The user interface was lifeless, while sending
e-mail stooped over a kitchen counter was annoying at best, and surfing
the Web on a slow and darkened touch screen was about a much fun as doing
your taxes. Where was the need for that?

Sony is on the right track with a sleek tablet-shaped prototype that would
play crystal sharp DVDs, as well as music CDs, and when in range of a
wireless network, would let you surf the net and send email without
dialing up. The recent announcement of a delay in its simpler $500
"eVilla" appliance spells trouble in my book, but they're the first to get
closer to what the home really needs.

Small equals cheap?

Unfortunately, the real lesson from the failed Net appliances is that it's
easier and usually much cheaper to build big machines than it is to create
a miniaturized marvel. That's why the biggest setback in this category was
the highly publicized notion that small would equal cheap. Compare a
comparable laptop to a desktop and add up the premium we always pay for
miniaturization. That's one of the main reasons why I tell first time
users to buy a desktop instead of a laptop. And yet, the makers of
Internet appliances convinced the average consumer that an appliance would
be scads cheaper than a desktop and do the virtually the same things.

I do think that an appliance needs to be affordable, but it can rival the
cost of a low-end desktop if it either makes better use of the desktop I
already have, or sets me free from the sedentary dial up world of most
home PCs. That said, we're still miles away from such a device. Going back
to the drawing board is not a bad idea right now, but you can bet that
when the company who gets it right rolls out a next-generation appliance,
they'll be more in the $799 range, and believe it or not, you'll be pretty
excited to shell out the cash for one.

Alice Hill was the vice president of development and editorial director
for CNET and is EVP of Cornerhardware.com. She covers technology every
other week for ZDNet News, pondering everything from the wireless Web to
why geeks love motor scooters and the twillight of the LCD display. She
welcomes your comments and e-mails.


--
  _______
||       | Stephen J. Cavrak, Jr.      [log in to unmask]
 |*     |  Assistant Director for      http://www.uvm.edu/~sjc/
 |     /   Academic Computing Services Phone:  802-656-1483
 |    |    University of Vermont       Fax:    802-656-0872
 |   |     Burlington, Vermont 05405   North:  44o 28' 33"
 ----                                  West:   73o 12' 45"

Top of Message | Previous Page | Permalink

Advanced Options


Options

Log In

Log In

Get Password

Get Password


Search Archives

Search Archives


Subscribe or Unsubscribe

Subscribe or Unsubscribe


Archives

June 2021
May 2021
April 2021
March 2021
February 2021
January 2021
December 2020
November 2020
October 2020
September 2020
August 2020
July 2020
June 2020
May 2020
April 2020
March 2020
February 2020
January 2020
December 2019
November 2019
October 2019
September 2019
August 2019
July 2019
June 2019
May 2019
April 2019
March 2019
February 2019
January 2019
December 2018
November 2018
October 2018
September 2018
August 2018
July 2018
June 2018
May 2018
April 2018
March 2018
February 2018
January 2018
December 2017
November 2017
October 2017
September 2017
August 2017
July 2017
June 2017
May 2017
April 2017
March 2017
February 2017
January 2017
December 2016
November 2016
October 2016
September 2016
August 2016
July 2016
June 2016
May 2016
April 2016
March 2016
February 2016
January 2016
December 2015
November 2015
October 2015
September 2015
August 2015
July 2015
June 2015
May 2015
April 2015
March 2015
February 2015
January 2015
December 2014
November 2014
October 2014
September 2014
August 2014
July 2014
June 2014
May 2014
April 2014
March 2014
February 2014
January 2014
December 2013
November 2013
October 2013
September 2013
August 2013
July 2013
June 2013
May 2013
April 2013
March 2013
February 2013
January 2013
December 2012
November 2012
October 2012
September 2012
August 2012
July 2012
June 2012
May 2012
April 2012
March 2012
February 2012
January 2012
December 2011
November 2011
October 2011
September 2011
August 2011
July 2011
June 2011
May 2011
April 2011
March 2011
February 2011
January 2011
December 2010
November 2010
October 2010
September 2010
August 2010
July 2010
June 2010
May 2010
April 2010
March 2010
February 2010
January 2010
December 2009
November 2009
October 2009
September 2009
August 2009
July 2009
June 2009
May 2009
April 2009
March 2009
February 2009
January 2009
December 2008
November 2008
October 2008
September 2008
August 2008
July 2008
June 2008
May 2008
April 2008
March 2008
February 2008
January 2008
December 2007
November 2007
October 2007
September 2007
August 2007
July 2007
June 2007
May 2007
April 2007
March 2007
February 2007
January 2007
December 2006
November 2006
October 2006
September 2006
August 2006
July 2006
June 2006
May 2006
April 2006
March 2006
February 2006
January 2006
December 2005
November 2005
October 2005
September 2005
August 2005
July 2005
June 2005
May 2005
April 2005
March 2005
February 2005
January 2005
December 2004
November 2004
October 2004
September 2004
August 2004
July 2004
June 2004
May 2004
April 2004
March 2004
February 2004
January 2004
December 2003
November 2003
October 2003
September 2003
August 2003
July 2003, Week 1
July 2003
June 2003
May 2003
April 2003
March 2003
February 2003
January 2003
December 2002
November 2002
October 2002
September 2002
August 2002
July 2002
June 2002
May 2002
April 2002
March 2002
February 2002
January 2002
December 2001
November 2001
October 2001
September 2001
August 2001
July 2001
June 2001
May 2001
April 2001
March 2001
February 2001
January 2001
December 2000
November 2000
October 2000
September 2000
August 2000
July 2000
June 2000
May 2000
April 2000
March 2000
February 2000
January 2000
December 1999
November 1999
October 1999
September 1999
August 1999
July 1999
June 1999
May 1999
April 1999
March 1999
February 1999
January 1999
December 1998
November 1998
October 1998
September 1998
August 1998
July 1998
June 1998
May 1998
April 1998
March 1998
February 1998
January 1998
December 1997
November 1997
October 1997
August 1997
July 1997
May 1997
April 1997
March 1997
February 1997
January 1997
December 1996
November 1996
October 1996
September 1996
August 1996
July 1996
May 1996
December 1995
November 1995
September 1995
August 1995
March 1995

ATOM RSS1 RSS2



LIST.UVM.EDU

CataList Email List Search Powered by the LISTSERV Email List Manager