19 Jul Have you rebooted?
This past weekend, I had to reboot my washing machine. Not just turning it off and on, mind you, but a hard reboot. I pulled the power plug from the wall, waited a few moments, then plugged this so-called state-of-the-art clothes-cleaning machine back into the outlet. Flashing lights, a trill of beeps, and voilà: I was back in business.
The whole experience got me to thinking just how complicated ordinary machines have become, how accustomed we’ve become at man-handling them into compliance—and just how wrong that is.
I have learned, for example, that when my computer slows to a crawl or my DSL connection drops, it’s time to reboot. I turn off the power to the PC, router, and DSL modem; wait 60 seconds; then turn the whole system back on and go make a pot of tea. In the time it takes the kettle to boil, my PC churns through its start-up routine and I have a cup of herbal tea to soothe my stress. Because as luck would have it, my PC almost never crashes when I’m casually reading e-mail or playing some mind-numbing game. No, my PC has an uncanny way of giving up on me just as I have a deadline to meet.
Somehow, my washing machine figured out this trick, too. I needed to pack clean socks and knickers for an early morning departure on a week-long trip. That’s when the washer started chirping like a bird and flashing an obscure code.
I then realized how much complexity is involved in making life simple. Sure, most days my Fisher Paykel washing machine beats a washboard in the river. And I can’t imagine going back to an IBM Selectric, let alone the Olivetti manual typewriter on which I pecked out term papers as a high-schooler.
Still, I fear we’re reaching a point of diminishing returns.
Technology is so complex that it takes squadrons of administrators at every enterprise and ISP to ensure that the vast interconnected e-mail system doesn’t collapse. Technology is so complex that we can no longer simply look under the hood of a car; a trained technician with the proper computer has to read engine codes to determine that some electronic part that costs something north of $500 is required to satisfy the relentless “check engine” light that flashes on the dashboard. Technology is so complex the people think it’s their problem when they just don’t understand a user interface. We’ve accepted the myth that computers are smart and people are stupid.
It’s time to change this situation. Products don’t become simpler by incorporating more complex technology. Software is not easier to use because it incorporates more intricate algorithms and interfaces. Hardware isn’t more robust because it integrates more firmware. Technology doesn’t make life easier if we must spend any amount of time worrying about making technology work for us.
As we adopt technology in support of an increasingly mobile and independent lifestyle, technology must be simple to understand, use, and repair. These are the sort of technologies I’m looking to bring to DEMOmobile in September. The good news is that I’ve found a few very intriguing possibilities. And the better news is that these new devices and services point to a new computing paradigm, one I’m calling service-oriented computing.
Service-oriented computing suggests that applications and data reside on centrally managed systems accessible by an array of simple and manageable devices. We’ll see the first glimpses of this model at DEMOmobile, and we’ll see this trend emerge on the larger stage over the next 24 months.
And it will arrive not a moment too soon. If my washing machine is getting more complicated, then please let my computing experience finally become more simple, because I’m pretty certain I can’t handle that many “smart” machines at once.
DEMO 2004 alumnus Convoq has announced a new introductory “pay-per-use” pricing for its Web conferencing system. For $0.10 per minute per conference participant, the company is claiming this is the lowest pay-per-use offering on the market. The ASAP system combines video and audio conferencing over IP, text chat, screen sharing and PowerPoint presentations into one service. Convoq said that a three-person meeting for 20 minutes with video conferencing and a PowerPoint presentation would cost $6 (three people at $0.10 per minute x 20 minutes). Check out more information on Convoq at www.demo.com/demo/demonstrators/2004/page773-697025.html.
Covad Communications and Netopia have teamed up to provide an all-in-one wireless LAN and broadband offering for small business and consumer customers. The Covad Wireless Network Solution uses a Netopia 3347W ADSL Wi-Fi Gateway with 3-D Reach, a device that combines a wireless access point with a DSL modem. The system configures itself automatically, including wireless security and firewall features. Covad will provide customer support for the system also, the companies said. The system will be available for a one-time fee of $159; customers without a wireless card in their notebook can get a PCMCIA card for an extra $20. Go to www.covad.com for more details.
We’re still using three different instant messaging clients, with different buddies on each service. So this news was interesting:
Microsoft last week said it would open up communication between its enterprise IM server (Live Communications Server 2005) and the public IM networks (Yahoo, AOL and Microsoft’s own MSN). The integration between the three services would only work with companies that use the LCS, however; but this move could indicate that closer interoperability between the three services on the public IM space may finally occur. For more details on the Microsoft LCS announcement, go to www.nwfusion.com/news/2004/0715microtoli.html.
The search is under way to find the 50 products that will launch at DEMOmobile 2004, September 8-10, 2004, in La Jolla, California. DEMOmobile is a high-visibility launch platform that will set your company on the path to success. It’s the best venue for positioning new mobile and wireless products and establishing strategic relationships with the players who will lead you to success. The conference’s stringent selection process and excellent reputation serves as an endorsement for your product as it comes to market. DEMO events have helped companies like Palm, Handspring, IBM Pervasive Computing, Logitech, Mirra, Tapwave, Macromedia – even Microsoft – launch their products, create critical business relationships, and sell to thought-leading early adopters.
DEMOmobile 2003 demonstrators benefited from more than 162 million media impressions before, during, and long after the event.
http://www.idgexecforums.com/demonstrate/tour/index-demo2.html to learn more and complete an online application.
September 8-10, 2004
Hilton La Jolla Torrey Pines, La Jolla, CA
Chris Shipley is the executive producer of NetworkWorld’s DEMO Conferences, Editor of DEMOletter and a technology industry analyst for nearly 20 years. She can be reached at email@example.com. Shipley, has covered the personal technology business since 1984 and is regarded as one of the top analysts covering the technology industry today.
Shipley has worked as a writer and editor for variety of technology consumer magazines, including PC Week, PC Magazine, PC/Computing, and InfoWorld, US Magazine and Working Woman. She has written two books on communications and Internet technology, has won numerous awards for journalistic excellence, and was named the #1 newsletter editor by Marketing Computers for two years in a row.
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