2005-03-20

Bring On the Auxiliary Displays

Many computer users today run a set of applications that is no longer requiring them to upgrade their PC every two years or so to avoid being frustrated at the sluggish performance. Now that I'm to that point, I look to how I can make my computing experience more enjoyable and productive, other than by buying the latest x.y GHz processor. Notebook PCs are one of those categories that improve the experience, but there are plenty of times that I don't need the keyboard and notebooks are far too expensive to be add-ons for most folks. I already have the computing horsepower in my desktop. I just need to untether it.

Last August, rumors started to fly about a "Wireless Display" that was in the works from Apple. This product class is very interesting to me. The idea of the Wireless Display is that the "computer" still resides in your desktop machine. The Wireless Display isn't much more than a display, battery, wireless connectivity, and perhaps a touchscreen. This is like the tablet computer class, but without the processor, seperate RAM, hard drive, and optical drive. The goal is to be able to control your main computer from this display and keep the display cheaper than buying a notebook or tablet computer which can be used to run remote desktop software.

I have also noticed a trend in "burst information" lately. I define burst information as those little notifications and tasks that are accessed frequently, and for short periods of time. Examples of burst information include:
* Email notifiers
* Instant Messages
* Meeting reminders
* Stock quotes
* Weather

Steps have been taken to improve burst information. For instance, many apps now have windows that slide out of the task tray, but burst information is still one of the primary distractions and productivity killers in today's busy lifestyle.
I'm certainly not the only one to notice this trend. More likely, I'm noticing it because of the actions of the big guys in the computer world. For those paying attention, the writing is on the wall. Microsoft is pushing their Smart Personal Object Technology [SPOT]. Today this exists on watches, but I see potential in them directing this technology to other displays.
In fact, Microsoft is calling on developers to bring apps to this platform. Apple is also trying to seduce developers with design contests for their new Dashboard technology.

Now, finally to my point. I want auxillary displays. These displays can be of varying size. Some may be monochome. Some may be full color. Some may be tall. Some may be wide. Some will have touchscreens. Others will just be screens. To make this happen, we need two things, hardware and software. The hardware won't happen without the software. The software could be SPOT. It could be a flavor of Dashboard. Most likely it will have to be something beyond what we have so far.



I did some playing and created a concept of a high end aux display. Again, nothing real ground breaking here, just evolutionary changes to existing products. Take the widescreen off of the 15" PowerBook, slim the bezel, add a touchscreen, add WiFi, add a video card, and add a fat battery. Click on the concept picture to see some further notes. Toshiba recently wsa showing off a concept similar to this.

Think of all of the things you could put on your aux display. Here are a few:
* Stock quotes (every computer tech must involve stock quotes)
* iTunes remote display with full album art - How cool would it be if you could glance at the wall in your favorite club, resturant, karaoke bar, or cycling class and see the full details of the music you are hearing?
* Vendors and presenters at conferences and expos could display more live information with less wiring and fewer computers to run the displays.
* Live picture frames - These already exist, but they are never a complete solution. They often have their own storage, require subscriptions, and some require you to upload pictures to a website. Why mess with all of that? You could just have a button in iPhoto that sends an album to that aux display. This isn't a stretch. We already have that exact button in iTunes to send the music to an aux sound output, the Airport Express.
* Weather Displays
* TV Lineups for the evening

I wouldn't expect seperate screens for all of these things. I would want a way to time share the device, either automatically or with a controller attached to the aux display. Obviously this could get very expensive, and I'm already hearing the chants of read a newspaper.

2 comments:

-- I said...

You do realize that it's people like you who make graphics like that which start all the 'next apple product' rumors, right?

Let's send *just* the image to engadget and see what happens. Call it an experiment ;-)

-- I

Jason said...

I'll have to add this to a future Ultimate Box (UB) discussion on my blog. I can see these things becoming very versatile with increasing uses around the house.

I thought the resteraunt/bar idea was a good one too. I hadn't thought of that use before, but it would probably sell a bulk of them off the bat.