If Only Things Connected

A News.com story reports that Microsoft has a new initiative based on its .NET system allowing different devices in your house to sync up and work together. The example used in Bill Gate’s keynote at the Consumer Electronics Show was an alarm clock that got its alarm data from your PC…

Here’s the actual passage from the news story:

” While initial presentations on SPOT have stayed on the theoretical side, Gates on Wednesday demonstrated the first devices that will use the technology. Watchmakers Fossil, Citizen and Suunto all plan to have SPOT-enabled models available by the end of the year.

The watches will connect to PCs to calibrate themselves, download software and connect wirelessly to streaming data beamed over FM radio signals to grab the latest sports scores or stock prices.”

Is it just me, or is this a totally wacked “solution in search of a problem” sort of thing? Let’s face it, many people can’t even get their PC to talk to their modem properly and when you add multiple printers, a scanner or a Palm or other peripheral device, they’re hopelessly lost. My father-in-law waited until I was visiting to even try to clean up his printer drivers, get his color printer working, and figure out how to sync his new Palm to his old Palm data (two different cradles were involved, one serial, one USB!)

Together, and with tech support, we never got his GPS talking properly to his GPS software (from Garmin, if you’re curious).

In this sort of baffling network environment, Microsoft is going to give us the chance to have our alarm clocks and other household appliances “sync” together? Oh boy, there’ll be some books written about this – I already envision .NET @ Home for Dummies – but this sounds like a distopia, not a utopia to me.

Of course, Apple has iSync and is starting to roll out the oddly-named Bluetooth wireless peripheral communication technology, but at least Apple seems to pay more attention to interoperability of networked devices. Adding a printer, scanner, etc, is a breeze. Hook up a digital camera and poof you’ve got Image Capture running and it’s sucking up all your pictures. First time, no configuration.

But… I still think that the people in these companies need to get out of the lab and visit with real customers more. It’s not about more, more, more, it’s about getting things right in the first place. And networking would be a very nice place to start.

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