Advanced PC Design: Coolness With a Purpose

Carl Weinschenk

We don't have a lot to add to these five linked photos, here posted at PC World, that display the stunningly innovative entries that took honors at Bill Gates' annual PC design contest.


It seems that half or more of the battle is accepting the fact that a computing device doesn't have to be a laptop or a desktop CPU, monitor and keyboard trio. That thinking is gaining more acceptance as smartphones, UMPCs, tablets and other emerging form factors break down the traditional orthodoxy.


It is taken to an extreme in this competition. Consider the Zeed+, which took the third place Judge's award. This is truly a case in which a picture is worth a thousand words, so we aren't even going to attempt a description. Suffice it to say that Zeed+ is not a traditional PC.


Another good example of what happens when smart and motivated folks are let loose in a design lab is a computer called "Light Up Your Life." It can be used, the caption says, as a "flashlight, portable multimedia player, mobile phone, or as an interface to wireless networks." That may sound like an iPhone or similar emerging convergence device (except perhaps for the flashlight). It looks, however, like an impressionistic bowling pin.


There are a tremendous amount of intensely creative folks working in design shops across the computer industry. We're sure that Gates' awards only scratch the surface. It's easy to get lost in the coolness factor, but it's important to remember that these advances aren't just cosmetic.


The new form factors expand the universe of people who can benefit from computing technology. Indeed, strip away the sleekness of the designs, and the bottom line is that the competition is about putting computing functionality into places where it hasn't been before.

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