Components instead of Computers

22 May 2008 - 11:21am
5 years ago
3 replies
608 reads
Jared M. Spool

In following the Roka/Netflix player discussion, I was thinking that
there's always been a push to simplify functionality down to the bare

When everyone was trying to put PCs in your pocket, Palm came out with
with an elegant, brain-dead device that didn't do much, but what it
did was the necessary components.

Pauric (if I understand his arguments) was saying that the Roka box
was the wrong direction, because its more limiting than using a real
computer in its place (ala Apple TV-ish).

Then, in my email this morning, Best Buy shows me this device:
It's basically the logic component for a digital picture frame that
you'd plug into a real display and use for store display or a trade
show. I've even seen it used in food-court restaurants for menus.

Sure, you could just plug a low-end PC into the display and do the
same thing, but is there a place for a dedicated component that has a
great experience for doing just thing one or two things it needs to do?


Jared M. Spool
User Interface Engineering
510 Turnpike St., Suite 102, North Andover, MA 01845
e: jspool at p: +1 978 327 5561 Blog:


22 May 2008 - 12:52pm

> is there a place for a dedicated component that has a great
> experience for doing just thing one or two things it needs to do?

I live this question daily. I work at Comcast; we used to be just a
cable provider, now we provide internet acces, voice services, cable
content, web content, mobile content, etc.

We are often trying to make one device accomplish too much. Often
because we have one device that does one thing successfully and it's
easy to expect that adding other things to it will make it as successful
(which isn't necessarily true as you have diminishing returns the more
you add, features or content).

If there is one thing that we are learning more and more through our
research across platforms is that there is a paradox between people
wanting extreme simplicity (aka limited choice and complexity), and
expecting to be able to access everything available immediately and

It's when we try to address that paradox by picking one device or
channel to expose everything through that we mess up. I applaud Netflix
and Roku's focus -- I haven't even received it yet and I already have
preemptive criticism, but I knew I wanted it the second I first heard
about it.

22 May 2008 - 1:06pm

Hi Jared, apologies for being unclear. I think the Roka box is a great idea
- "do one thing and do it well". Anyway I've laboured that point to death
and obviously wasnt very eloquent in my argument that the Roka box is a
feature and AppleTV is a system

>From a systems perspective, a 'computer' is a versatile tool that can be
applied to a wide range of problems. Metaphorically its the hammer and all
problems start to look like nails. The advantage to this approach is cost
efficiencies gained in the mass production of this tool means it can be
quickly and cheaply applied to design problems. The downside however is
that the tool's interface (OS UI framework & peripherals) has to be generic
enough for it to be applicable to a wide range of problems which leads to
issues such as

For example, a PC can be a games machine, but it will never be as good as a
Playstation/XBox/Wii. It can be packaged as a media center but wont be as
good as an Apple TV. It has an infinite number of applications but not
always as good as a dedicated product if the task is simple and well
defined. As a systems solution its a jack of all trades but master of none.

So, to your example of the Sony BKM FW50 (who comes up with these names?) a
computer could be applied here, the issue is having non technical staff
operate an application... total cost of a lowend PC, Linux & application
maybe ~$400. The Sony solution, doing one task well, weighs in at $720.
That premium of ~$320 is for no end-user support & display space savings.

22 May 2008 - 3:55pm
Victor Lombardi

BUG is an example of this:

There could be an interesting niche between self-sustaining appliance
and components-requiring-programming.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new

Syndicate content Get the feed