It’s amazing what kind of rat’s nest of wires we have behind our PC’s. It’s only gotten worse in recent years, as we connect up iPods, cameras, cam corders, SD cards, DVD writers, and more to our machines.
There are many potential vectors for improvement that consumer products could take. For instance, companies are working on better usability and simplicity, having seen the success of the iPod. Capacity is improving, as memory and hard drive prices continue to fall.
But one area that does not seem to get enough attention is "connection simplicity". While there are technologies that address these issues, such as WiFi and Bluetooth, when you look at what’s actually for sale at Amazon, Best Buy, and other leading retailers, the vast majority of the products require wires for power and connectivity.
The consumer product industry needs to have a "war on wires" — a concerted effort to enable devices to talk to each other and receive their power without wires. This kind of innovation would lead to cleaner form factors and easier connectivity.
There are a number of specific products that could be built around this theme:
- Printers with WiFi built in
- Network-attached storage devices with WiFi built in
- iPods with Bluetooth and WiFi
- Mice and keyboards with Bluetooth (as opposed to proprietary wireless standards)
- Webcams with WiFi
- Speakers, monitors, and TV screens with WiFi and Bluetooth
- And more…
Having this breadth of wireless coverage would be good for users. Not only is it convenient — e.g., point your webcam at the dinner table during Thanksgiving so you can videoconference with faraway relatives — but it would enable totally new applications, such as "Tivo’d Internet Radio for iPods", which I’ve mentioned in previous posts.
A war on wires would also be good for companies, as it would touch off another set of product upgrade cycles. Example: I have no need for a new inkjet printer, even though I’m using one that’s 4 years old. But a printer I can connect via WiFi and place anywhere, that’s something I’d consider.
What prompted this posting is this story: Product usability weblog: Very touching. While yet another wireless standard could bog down the war on wires, it’s good to see companies are thinking of this opportunity.