"Welcome to Audrey." With those three words, I experienced my first Internet appliance. 3Com's Audrey was meant to deliver lightweight "internet snacking" from a user's kitchen, and offered email and internet access, a calendar and contacts database, plus synchronization of up to two Palm devices. It had a touch-sensitive screen, wireless keyboard and a clear plastic stylus that would glow green when new mail arrived.
Unfortunately for 3Com, the Audrey was launched immediately prior to the dot-com collapse, and was discontinued just seven months into its initial run. I picked one up on eBay a few weeks ago for ten bucks, and it's been fun to play with. I can't help but wonder what would have become of it if 3Com had received user feedback and time to develop a second version. We'll never know, but perhaps the Chumby holds hints.
My experience with the Audrey has got me thinking about the inevitable synergy between computers, household appliances and many of the tools we use every day. For instance, my car told me that one of its tires needed air recently. A friend's refrigerator has been beeping to get her attention since Monday (she's a very patient person).
TiVo has completely changed the way I consume TV shows, as the Apple TV has for others. How many of the shows you watch are "time-shifted?" For me it's at least half. As we said in a recent talkcast, the computer and television will eventually merge into a single device. The process has begun for sure, but I don't think it's complete.
But let's get back to the kitchen. Like many of you, that's where my day begins. Upon waking, the first thing I do is make breakfast for myself and the kids. Then I glance at the calendar on the refrigerator, as well as any flyers, etc. that have been posted there. As the pancakes are sizzling, I'll wander over to the computer to give the morning's email a cursory glance, and maybe hop on Newsvine. Then it's back to the stove to flip the pancakes.
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