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Cool tech needs comfort factor

In this annual showcase for gee-whiz stuff, two things are expected to be conspicuous: one, the presence of machines that show the "Internet of Things"- a reference to how devices can now be networked with microchips and Internet connections; and two, the absence of Microsoft, which like Apple, thinks CES is no longer cool, writes N Madhavan.

gadgets Updated: Jan 06, 2013 21:54 IST
N Madhavan

As I write this, there is excitement about the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) beginning at Las Vegas this week.

In this annual showcase for gee-whiz stuff, two things are expected to be conspicuous: one, the presence of machines that show the "Internet of Things"- a reference to how devices like washing machines and ovens can now be networked with microchips and Internet connections; and two, the absence of Microsoft, which like Apple, thinks CES is no longer cool.

Technology writer Kevin Kelly once famously said that in the future, every machine will have "a sliver of thought" - in a poetic reference to targeted microchips that will make everyday machines work like computers.

Bill Gates spoke two decades ago of a future when you could switch on your oven from your car when you are still coming home from office.

The future is here, more or less, because of cool mobile apps.

And yet, I wonder why I bought a handset based on Nokia's out-of-vogue Symbian operating system last month. In this, I draw a lesson about the future they speak so much of.

While I first bought a Samsung Android machine, the problem was that I felt extremely uncomfortable with a touchscreen device as my fingers kept erring time and again. For QWERTY keyboards, a better range was available in Nokia or BlackBerry handsets.

I settled for a Nokia E5 because it gave me two good reasons: the keyboard was just right for my fingers and also because my old handset was a Nokia, which saved me the bother of learning new things to manage my contacts and files.

It was a reluctant decision not to switch to something jazzier, because it gave me a comfort of the familiar.

Much as I celebrate the arrival of cool new gizmos and the "Internet of Things" I do believe that the convenience of users, and the culture they operate in will determine the course of adoption of technology.

I would put my money on companies that keep the convenience of average users in mind as gizmos turn cheaper. In this, Microsoft is one to watch out for.