A Fifth PC Form Factor: Computing Wallpaper?

I spoke last week at The Big Money’s Untethered 2010 conference in NYC. I couldn’t stay for the whole event, but I really enjoyed seeing Phil McKinney, CTO of the Personal Systems Group at HP, interviewed by James Ledbetter. He wowed the audience with a little show-and-tell: a flexible screen display printed on a mylar scroll that’s bi-stable (meaning that, like an E Ink screen, it can use very little power to display text) but can also display video at 60 hertz.

Phil McKinney shows mylar flexible display

[Photo courtesy of ZDNet UK (not from Untethered, but it’s the same demo)]

According to McKinney, we’re about 24 to 36 months away from seeing this display make it into products on the market. Imagine walls papered with the stuff, furniture covered with it. Your “device” would be your portable connectivity, which would trigger your data to appear on one of these screens in your home, office, or public space as you approach. I’m envisioning something that looks like the world in “Splinter Cell,” which my gamer husband has been playing on our Xbox 360:

Splinter Cell projected display

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Steve Ballmer Is Right: The PC Market Is Getting Bigger

At The Wall Street Journal’s D8 conference in June, Apple CEO Steve Jobs compared the PC to a farm truck, saying that when America was an agrarian economy: “All cars were trucks because that’s what you needed on the farm. Now trucks are one in 25 to 30 vehicles sold.” Whether you think PCs will shrink or grow in importance seems to depend partly on semantics. During the same conference, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer countered: “I think people are going to be using PCs in greater and greater numbers for years to come. . . . The PC as we know it will continue to morph form factor. The real question is, what are you going to push.” 

Jobs may not view the iPad as a PC, but we do.

Our view is that the consumer PC market in the US is indeed getting bigger: Over the next five years, PC unit sales across all form factors will increase by 52%. In fact, desktops are the only type of PC whose numbers will be fewer in 2015 than they are today — and even desktops will benefit from innovation in gaming and 3D. We detail our findings in a new report, The US Consumer PC Market In 2015. Clients can read the full report on our Web site, but here are a few key takeaways:

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iAd -- Is $60M A Big Deal?

Most of the news this morning at WWDC was around iPhone 4 and iOS 4. Will leave the new device and platform play to my colleague Charles Golvin. I can't wait to get one of the new phones . . . very slick as it looks like a mini iPad in a modified format.

iAd . . . $60M committed for the second half of 2010. Initial advertisers include: AT&T, Best Buy, Campbell Soup Company, Chanel, Citi, DirecTV, GEICO, GE, JCPenney, Liberty Mutual Group, Nissan, Sears, State Farm, Target, Turner Broadcasting System, Unilever, and The Walt Disney Studios.

Pretty impressive. How do they get to $60M? Rumor is that the minimum buy-in is $1M, but it goes up from there. They claim to have 50% of mobile ad market share according to a J.P. Morgan study. I think it is a bold claim unless this is purely the media spend and doesn't include creative. Our number is comparable -- but without creative. Advertisers can count on the buzz surrounding iAd's launch on July 1. That alone may justify the initial buy. These initial advertisers are a smart bunch. A few million dollars isn't much to any one of them, but these are sizeable buys for mobile.

I think there are a lot of interesting questions to be answered. Many will be "wait and see," but here's my wishlist:

- What do I get for $1M+ in mobile advertising? Am I buying creative, development, ads, and analytics?

- How much targeting do I get?

- Is it performance-based? Or CPMs?

- What will work well on the i OS4 devices? Branding? Or, will the ads leverage context -- the context of how, where, and when I use these devices? Will the ads drive me to online purchases or into a nearby store to make a purchase?

- How much control do I get over where my ads are placed?

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Is The iPad A PC Or A Smartphone?

Today's FT reports Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer's take on this question:

"To a man with a hammer, every problem looks like a nail," he said. “We have our hammer [with Windows],” while Apple had its own hammer with the iPhone operating system that it was expanding to support the iPad.

This is a supremely shrewd observation, but it misses one important fact: Microsoft has a rival to iPhone OS in the mobile device market too, and one which would be ideally suited to tablets. The right tools are Microsoft's true mobile-optimised platforms on which Microsoft's handhelds, phones, and Windows Phone 7 are built. See more information, including photos, of the proof of concept Microsoft tablet running Windows Embedded Compact here in Engadget's Computex coverage.

This is significant. Because Microsoft has failed many times in the past using full versions of Windows in tablet designs such as Ultra Mobile PCs, Windows for Pen Computing, Windows XP tablet edition and the rest. These past failures were due to a lack of convenience. Microsoft must avoid repeating history now. So, Steve Ballmer is wrong: Windows 7 is not the right hammer for tablets to compete with the iPad. Why?

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Windows 7 Tablets From Computex Don't Go Far Enough To Unseat iPad

As Apple announces it has sold more than 2 million iPads (no indication of US/global split), would-be competitors are unveiling their tablets at Computex in Taiwan. With so many products in the mix (and so few on the market), it can be hard for a product strategist to keep up with it all. So here’s Forrester’s quick guide to the tablets that are taking on Apple in the near future (note: this list doesn’t include devices that may have a tablet form factor but are primarily eBook readers, such as Acer’s planned 7” Android tablet. It also excludes tablets that are more rumor than reality. And I know just by putting together this list I will leave some off, and if that’s the case leave a comment and tell me which ones you think I should add. Okay, enough caveats!):

Tablet competitors to iPad: Archos, Asus, Dell, ExoPC, LG, MSI

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