Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Unbundling the PC - Scope for New Devices?

Sony Corp has just announced a new device - a small hand-held device called Mylo (my life online, if you really want to know!) which is a 2.4 inch screen, a thumb keyboard and is intended for instant messaging, and other Internet based communication. Can do email but can't do corporate email (read: No Outlook, although it doesn't say what would happen if you tried to do Outlook Web Access). Yahoo and Google chats are included and Ebay and Skype are also partners. Of course, it plays music and talks with other Mylo devices. Mylo was also Sony's branded Wireless service.

Which brings me to an interesting point - the unbundling of PCs and phones. Even as feature packed and Swiss Knife like devices have proliferated in this space, there has, I believed emerged a large market for unbundled devices. Let me elucidate with some examples of products not yet in the market (to the best of my knowledge!). Of course the new Swiss Army Knife comes with a USB memory stick and an MP3 player which is detachable, so when you board a plane you can just carry the music and leave the knives in your luggage. This is worth remembering as we continue forward.

The PC has moved from computing, to office automation, to communications and finally to an entertainment device. To be really honest, an abominably miniscule fraction of people probably use more than 1% of the computers "computing" capability - both in terms of hardware and software resources. So isn't there a market for a pure browsing device? A stripped down device with a laptop form, which can be used for browsing and viewing files with a very stripped down computing functionality? And priced at an entry level? Pepper Computing has both such a device as well as the engine to allow others to make this device. But I'm willing to bet most of you will not have heard of Pepper Computing! Sonly's Mylo is priced at $ 350 which seems quite expensive. This could be an ideal second computer - for kids to browse on. See my earlier reference to Miuchiz, yesterday.

And why not have PC's themselves which you can stack up and buy functionality as you go? From a software perspective this is what Writely and other web based applications are seeking to achieve. But can hardware components be made plug and play? Just like the USB port has moved to the front of the machine for consumer PCs, could we have PCs where you can plug in more computing power soon? So that you enter the market with a low RAM machine aimed at surfing the web and upgrade as you go?

The same applies to mobile phones. My mobile phone, the XDA Exec, is 8cm X 13 cm X 2 cm. It flips open and has a querty keyboard and a 3.6 inch screen. Which is great while I'm working and looks like my laptop has its own mini-me. But if I could pull out a sliver of it which just gives me a basic phone functionality and slip it into my back pocket when I'm out for the evening and don't need my Outlook calendar, tasks, skype, notes, Wi-fi connections, or Powerpoint, Excel and Word, that would be fantastic.

To be sure, this isn't a new idea, there have been discussions like this going on for years. But it may be an idea who's time has come.


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