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First Internet Appliance With BeIA - From Sony? 153

A reader writes: "SONY has announced at CES2001, their "Network Entertainment Center", eVilla, which is basically an Internet appliance powered by BeIA. For an enlarged screenshot, zing has got some. For more information, visit eVilla's homepage www.evilla.com. An Internet appliance with a journaled filesystem, not bad."
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First Internet appliance with BeIA - From Sony?

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    Oooo...I guess I don't know what I'm talking about then, do I?

    How about a link? [escribe.com] The "Re: Linux ports" thread on Sun, 7 Jan 2001 is of interest.

    It starts with "Once upon a time a nice guy ported the Linux 3c509 driver to BeOS. But a GPL fanatic blamed him for violating GPL and the author was driven into closing his door." Another post says "The file is still available though" and gives a link. Then follows up with "*hush -- don't tell*." The original author of the driver posted "Yes I was told, that I had to delete my link to the driverarchive. I did this. I removed the link, but maybe I've forgotten to delete the archive itself. So if some people are "searching" and "trying" a little bit around my site, and they will find the archive, there is nothing I can do..... :-) I think Internet is a really unsafe place :-)"

    Sounds to me like "some people on BeDevTalk are trying to figure out way to circumvent the GPL to get a 3com driver going."
    I don't need to "trash an alternative (BeOS) OS" when Be, the developer community, and the user community are doing a fine job of it themselves!
    There's nothing worse than a reformed smoker...unless it's a BeOS developer whose been screwed over one too many times!
  • by Anonymous Coward
    P/M wanted 10 million customers for WebTV, but got bored when sales hit 1 million. They quit advertising them, and now you can get WebTV with all accessories in the bargain bin for $50.

    WebTV is great for mobile people, the retired mobile home bums who spend the whole year driving away from bad weather, truck drivers (immensely popular with them), anybody who hops around.

    But this market is beneath the dignity P/M. These people have loads of disposable income, want simplicity, and want to stay in touch with the kids and family. But they're not the 18 to 35 crowd that loads up on pr0n and drugz, so the marketroids don't know what do to.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    I thought British men were gay to the last sodding poofter, myself.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I have to agree that this whole applicance market does not have any substance. It started with products like CD-I from Philips and CDTV from Commodore. Now we are at the stage where most major computer manufactors try to develop such devices hoping that they will find the right form factor. I could easily imagine to find Sony's device in hotel rooms f.ex. Until now you were pretty much forced to take your laptop with you if you needed to write some simple emails.

    Consumer products of this category need a lot of marketing efforts, Sony will be in a situation where they need to create demand for a product category which does not have any successful examples. Chances are low that its gonna work. Its much easier for PCs since their deployment usually works on a personal recommendation basis and the only question is which brand to choose to perform the task. Ex.: My mother only has a computer because she wants to contact other people through email. The PC was installed by family members. Or people buy a PC for home since they have to use PC for work.

    I think that Be's strategy is to supply a full featured software environment which can be used for a varity of different hardware giving the hardware companies a chance to easily experiment. After all the hardware is the attractor, but the software behind has to be rock solid once the customer starts using it. I just hope that the software is really stable and that the footprint is as low as they claim. Does it include a Java runtime? In this case I am curious how this looks performance and footprint wise. WebTV took a long time before their stuff got usable at all. So far Be's web browser were less than acceptable and that includes the Opera port.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    What I would love to see is an Internet appliance release of Linux. It would need to be robust and simplified. The "normal" screen would include just an easy-to-use browser, e-mail, and maybe a word processor so that we could all get older relatives (and other hold-outs) on the Internet. I do not want to be able to change the look & feel. I don't want to select between KDE and Gnome. I don't want multiple virtual screens or the ability to install applications. I want every one to look the same with the exception of resolution -- which could be set based on screen size and the visual acuity of the user. It should have the ability to automatically download updates and install them without user intervention.
    You are just describing BeIA here apart from the fact that it is not Linux ;-)
  • by Anonymous Coward
    The BeIA browser is Opera 4, and yes it's supports java and macromedia flash.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    One thing I love about BeOS and it's journaling filesystem is how fast it boots. I want to see how fast the average BeIA system is up. I would consider buying an Internet appliance if it had zero or near-zero boot time.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    1. This box has a really great screen. Many of the folks this box will appeal to are older and a good screen is a must. This screen is great for anybody really, great for full motion video or games -- nice touch SONY. This sure beats trying to use a TV for the screen but it may be in the future SONY could offer that option when the proper definition is supported.

    2. This box has a proper keyboard. Much of the appeal of this box will be for email. Wireless would be nice but it is not a simple as a tethered keyboard.

    3. This box has good support for easily sending a receiving pictures. This is a "must have" feature.

    4. Support for SONY's memory stick is a great feature since most of their cameras, and even their new PDA, CLIE, uses this extension. This will be an integration tool and much more as time goes on.

    5. The online support/update automation is a key feature. This is not new but it is a must have.

    6. "Easy on" is a great feature along with simple buttons and an email LED. This is an important part of usability and helps a great deal with long-term satisfaction.

    7. Simplicity! Just as Palm has found wild success with a relentless focus on simplicity so will SONY be well served by keeping it simple and painless.

    Strategically, SONY establishes a platform for moving forward. This platform can compete against competitors coming into their consumer market. There is no MSFT to be found here. They can branch and diferentiate this product into cable boxes, personal TV, music delivery and satellite services without any reliance on or competitive limitation.

    Finally, this is not WebTV being hamstrung by MSFT's agenda nor is it open source in such a way that there is little incentive to invest into the platform. This is a top tier company with a history of success, a strong incentive (and adaquate resources) to make this successful and a stong technological foundation already established in digital cameras, digital video, PDAs, Music and Cinema. This is completely different from WebTV, Compaq, AOL, Intel, IBM, IOpener or anybody else trying to figure out what works in the appliance space.
  • i mean, evil a? It's not like you have to play it backwards.

    By the way, did anyone else look at this and immediately think 'evil edna'? I'm sure BeIA can generate an Outraged Kenneth falsetto, too.
  • Tell that to all the people who bought Ruby iMacs.

    The general public does not know what IE is, they only know what eMail it (if we are lucky) and what the web is.

    The people who the target for this is will only say "I can't see this movie", not "Hrm, this IA does not seem to support 3ivx or QuickTime."

    Oh, and this thing _does_ play Shockwave. =P
  • I think you were trying to be funny, but it would have been more clearly an attempt at humor if your syllogism had been logically valid i.e. true if the premises are true.

    In this case, while all three statements are arguably true, they don't form a valid argument.

    My cat is mortal.
    All men are mortal.
    Therefore, my cat is a man.
  • Actually, I believe Compaq has BeIA devices already on the market. Blue things with keyboards - far too big for an IA, IMO.

    -lx
  • And web terminals with none of the convergence features have also flopped, proving that convergence in and of itself isn't a key to failure.

    One of the assumptions of single purpose web stations is that they require some space to be operated. In most homes this usually means a desk, or some other sit-down space. If I'm going to put one of these on my desk, for nearly the same price I could put in a complete computer workstation that would do more than just connect me to the web.

    By adding convergence features, and in particular features like TV, radio, CD and DVD you can eliminate the dedicated space and put them pretty much anywhere you have a small TV now -- kitchen, den, bedrooms, etc.

    I think most of the other convergence devices have failed because they have tried to put the PC on TV with TV controls, instead of putting the TV on the PC with PC controls. You need to make the smart device do dumb things, not try to make the dumb device do smart things.

  • An IA needs to boot fast. People wouldn't put up with waiting for something to turn on. Heck, I get tired of waiting for my DVD player to read a new DVD - imagine if we had to wait for VCR's, telepohones, and tv's to load up.

    This is the new millenium. People don't like waiting for anything. Boot time is *very* important for an IA. BeIA gives any device this option.
  • Can you carry your PC into the bathroom with you, and browse websites? Carry it into bed or out on the porch to read an e-book (and if you don't have the book, buy it online and begin reading it). Interact with television programs, live sporting events with cool stats applets from ESPN, all from a reclined position in your easy chair? Can you carry your PC to the dining room table and read NYTimes.com while you eat breakfast in the morning?

    Yes, it's called a laptop :)
  • scrolling would be coupled of course, and you could actually scroll *sideways* through the pages

    Excellent! Developers, please take note.
  • How is the title of this article a question, or at all in question?

    I am getting annoyed by seeing all the slashdot headlines having questionmarks after them for no particular reason.
  • (Semi-off-topic...)

    Besides, if you really want to pick nits, the "VAXmate" came out LONG before an iMac did.

    Go to Google and search for VAXmate. You'll see

    Again, DEC had it in 1986.

  • I gave my stepdad a WebTV. He LOVED it also. When he went back to Ireland, I gave him a laptop with Windows so he'd have something to read email with. It's collecting dust because "it's not as easy as WebTV"

    There's a market out there for the over-55 crowd. Our Moms and Dads need something SIMPLE that always works, is limited in functionality, and lets them print pretty pictures of the kids.

    A Linux distribution that addressed this need would go a long way. All it has to do is work and have a REALLY simple interface. (no, X et al is too complicated. Clone Webtv an you've got a winner!)
  • Alex, it seems like you think Apple was simply shopping for an operating system back in 1997, and made the wrong choice in this process.

    However, Apple was on the market for more than that -- it needed a knight in a shining armor to rescue the company. The candidates, Be and NeXT, seem very similar at first look: Both were failed companies led by ex-Apple entrepreneurs working on a doomed-to-obscurity operating system.

    By this time, it was becoming clear that Gil Amelio had failed to stage a National Semiconductor -like comeback for Apple. As you no doubt remember, the lack of confidence in Apple had reached an all-time high, and predicting Apple's immediate doom was the favorite pastime of journalists.
    The Apple board was wise to realize that what the company really needed was a new story. And the return of the company's original founder would definitely qualify as one.

    Steve Jobs obviously knew how to take advantage of the situation. His old enemies at Apple were long gone, and as the original founder, he enjoyed natural authority. In a word, he had the opportunity to transform Apple into whatever he wanted.

    In retrospect, it seems obvious that he chose to transform Apple into NeXT. This "reverse takeover" of Apple is in my book one of the weirdest business transactions of the last decade. Really, take a look of Apple's management, current hardware, and future software products. Which company are we talking about, Apple or NeXT?

    If Apple had bought Be, it would've been a simple software transaction. It wouldn't have been enough to save Apple in the face of investors, customers and the general public. Perhaps the company wouldn't have died immediately, but I'm quite confident that it would have slowly faded away.
  • There certainly are people who would benefit from a simple IA or WebPad or whatever. The question is, how many? I believe that their number is quite small, and is decreasing as more people get PCs for their homes or have to use computers at work and so get used to them.
  • Many modern LCD-Displays can be turned to portrait.


    Samba Information HQ
  • I'm not aware of any third party readers at the moment, but Sony does sell various readers/adapters that will work with current hardware. Two in particular - they have a floppy disc adapter that you'd place your Memory stick in and use in a floppy drive. The other is a MS reader that has a USB interface. Both are definitely not power hungry drives. BTW, the USB reader is slick and small, though the only downside is people might think it's a mouse!

    Another point to make is that everybody has been complaining about the MS as being pure evil. I think it should be clarified that they have two different types - one the normal MS and another type with extra copy protection. The non-copy protection one is the one that is provided by default with their products.

    As for what makes them better - the slicker packaging is exactly what makes them better! They're extremely easy to carry around and use. There's reasons why stuff like the Nintendo gameboys are so popular. Sticking a game cartridge in the device is easy! Well, the memory stick is easier than that!

  • I don't understand what is so important about booting really really fast. Yes, it's an issue with Windows because it crashes so often and you have to boot quite often. It could be an issue with a laptop, depending on your usage habits (i.e., do you boot the thing every time you get a chance, or only when you have a 2-hr layover?). For an internet appliance, I would think the thing would be on all the time anyway. Why would you want to power it off on a regular basis? Have the monitor shut down and go into suspend or 0Mhz clock speed mode, don't shut the whole appliance off. In the infrequent occurances when the power is removed (power outage, moving the appliance, etc) the users can wait a minute.
  • And people are immediately going t obelieve you, even though you don't put any link to BeDevTalk that would prove this.
    Oh well, anything goes, as long as you can trash an alternative (BeOS) OS.

  • If Memory Stick tech is licensed, then you WILL need a possibly expensive/clumsy/power-consuming drive to read them.

    Uh, you are not trying to troll here, are you? Do I even need to answer this flaming BS?

    But I guess, based on the rest of your post, that you are not trolling, so I will try to answer: there is no need for a "drive" in the case of memory sticks, as they are solid-state. All you need is a port, with electronics integrated somewhere on the PCB (totally invisible, actually, due to it's simplicity. It's not like you need an AHA 2940 to write into a memory stick). So, it's not clumsy, and it's not expensive. Sony woud shoot itself in thefoot if it asked lots of $$$ for the license. They want to sell the media, not the license for the readers. Power consuming? Ummm... maybe you were trolling, after all.

    You're not even a good sport, you don't see how such a miniature media, that can carry a LOT of data, can appeal to people. And it does. MDs are still widely popular in Japan and in Europe. Have you seen those MD walkmans that can record? They're so tiny, and totally cool! Now imagine how tiny you can go when you replace an MD with a very very small memory stick. Oh yes, this thingy has a huge potential, just you wait 'enry 'iggins, just you wait!

  • With all the discussion we've had about MS monopolizing the browser market, it's nice to see some other big name (Sony) trying to push an appliance that doesn't have IE. I don't use IE and I don't plan to purchase an EvilLA (it's all in the capitalization :-) but if other large corporations get in on the bandwagon, this may give a push to alternative browsers which would be an excellent thing. Also, I don't know if a market yet exists for these internet appliances but give them enough cool advertizing on TV and you'll see a lot of people developing a need for them.
  • For anyone to accept this as a tv-like appliance, then you'll have to be able to walk up, flip the switch, and be on in only a few seconds. And btw, some people DO mind having their appliance in the "on" state and have to worry about unplugging it by accident, which will apparently "break" or "mess with" the system somehow when it has to do a scandisk or fsck or something and it takes 5 minutes to boot instead of two seconds.

    That was a long rambling sentence, but it's 6 fucking am.
  • Can you carry your PC into the bathroom with you, and browse websites?

    Yeah, I've always wanted to read Slashdot while taking a shit!

  • Why would it mean more lines of code? I stretch my terminal to 132 columns when I program. One of the advantages of X is that you can choose different-sized fonts!

    Really, I think the best solution is one of those monitors that swivels between portrait and landscape orientation, and the video driver decides which way to render it. I think ViewSonic or some such company made one for the Macintosh about 12 years ago. I don't know if anyone makes these any more.

  • Are you implying that MiniDisc technology is not an open industry standard? If so, you are mistaken. Many companies (Sony, Aiwa, Sharp, Kenwood, et cetera) make MD decks and portable units.

    (pulling out the Offtopic Soapbox)

    Personally I think MD is ten times better as a way of transporting music because the media is twenty times cheaper per minute of high-quality music. I can store 72 or 80 minutes of music on a disc that costs between $2 and $5 (depending on whether I bought in bulk or not) and can be re-recorded, which lives in a protective cartridge. The quality of the sound is about as good as a 320Kb/s MP3. How much is it to buy solid-state memory technology with enough storage to house 72 or 80 minutes of MP3s at 240 or 320Kb/s? Even if all your MP3s are 128 or VBR, it's still tons more expensive.

    The only drawback is that making a direct digital recording to a minidisc usually means the deck sets the Serial Copy Management System (SCMS) flag on the disc, which means you can't digitally copy music off the MD. However, you can still copy music off the deck in analog format (obviously), and there are FAQs out there with regards to disabling SCMS.

  • Indeed. Web appliances are likely to come with support for Flash, MPG, AVI, QT, RealAudio, and maybe ASF. However, many people encode MPEGs and ASFs with wierd codecs that have to be separately fetched and installed, and which may not be, strictly speaking, legal - or legally ambiguous. For example, will the eVilla play .ASFs encoded with the "DivX;)" codec?

    Also, what about plugins? There are tons of stupid plugins out there. Surely Sony can't expect all plugin authors to port their plugins to BeOS - never mind ActiveX controls.

    Another thing that disappoints me about this appliance is that it uses Opera. I have used Opera before and in certain cases it is even more finnicky/broken than Netscape 4 about certain HTML formatting elements. Netscape 6 would have been a better choice. Paying Microsoft to port IE would have been even better than that; as anyone who has done development on mixed platforms for multiple browsers can attest, IE is far superior to either of the other two browsers.

  • Thank god they aren't using the iMac look. It works on an iMac, people -- not on a microwave oven [sharp-usa.com].
  • Actually, another use of the BeIA is the Aura stero thing. Really impressive sounding. And if you've never seen the BFS queries for building a playlist, get a copy of PE and try it out. Be's handeling of MP3's is what finally got me to convert. Anyway, the Aura system and the HARP system are both fantastic network music systems for the home environment.
  • they are a huge, widely distributed "company" that has long since passed the point where you could actually look at it as one singular entity.

    This is completely wrong. Sony is one of the most integrated modern companies out there. The management is very centralized, and it is easy for them to turn on a dime. Just look at the memory stick. Every product that Sony has introduced in the past year that may have a chance of using the memory stick has the memory stick. You don't get that level of integration overnight without an entire company marching in the same direction.

  • Maybe, but let's not forget that convergent technology devices with all of these elements have traditionally flopped.

    I think Sony might have made the right choice here. They will leverage the PS2 as the entertainment device and the eVilla as the fun information appliance device.

    Eric W. Sarjeant
    ericsarjeant[@]mediaone.net

  • The thing about Sony is they know how to produce media and devices that demonstrate good visual design. Usually borrowing from golden-mean or divine ratios, every Sony product -- including the Beta cassette tape and the Compact Disc -- demonstrate great visual cues.

    So - people will buy this stuff, and eVilla appears to exhibit these properties. Let's also not forget that Sony doesn't usually give up on stuff (in that sense they are very much like IBM). Just look at MiniDisc, BetaMax and Hi8.

    Eric W. Sarjeant
    ericsarjeant[@]mediaone.net

  • I can't believe my parents bought one of these inane transparent microwaves. It's getting tough to find anything anymore that's not see-thru, I imagine shoes and hats with the Apple iMac logo are right around the corner.

    Anyway, the real reason I posted was because the Sharp link in the original posting brings up a nasty message in Netscape 6:

    Attention Netscape 6 Users:
    Sharp-USA.com takes advantage of the latest Internet technologies such as I-Frames and Layers. Netscape 6 does not support these advanced technologies as they did in previous releases. We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused you. We suggest you contact Netscape Communications to offer your feedback.

    Yeesh. "Advanced" technologies? it's a markup language for cryin' out loud!

    Eric W. Sarjeant
    ericsarjeant[@]mediaone.net

  • It doesn't look like the iMac (good), but the OS does look a little like MacOS X. (That's also good.) It looks like a slick box. Sony has good style sensibilities.

    --
    Max V.
  • Your grandmother needs an iMac. This is the perfect computer for your grandmother. Seriously, this is the test:

    If she gets a computer, she will try to use the computer. She will get confused (well maybe not YOUR grandmother, but you get the point). What computer do you want to support over the phone?

    My Great Uncle has a Win98 machine from Best Buy (that has caused ME nothing but headaches) & one of my Great Aunt (on the other side of the family) has an iMac. The iMac has much lower grandparent tech support requirements!!! I'm practically ready to tell my Uncle that I won't help him anymore unless he gets an iMac.

    POIU

    ---

  • Uhh... Kernel 2.4 is already out.... Hope that makes your day.
  • Many companies (Sony, Aiwa, Sharp, Kenwood, et cetera) make MD decks and portable units.

    Do they have to buy licenses from Sony?

    Now, I'm not saying that solid state media are the be-all, end-all either. Frankly, I've no problems with CDs, and wouldn't mind if MP3-CDs became the industry format. They're even cheaper than MD's and can hold more. I personally, wouldn't use either MD's or solid state media players, but both have their own market segment and proponents. I can't really claim any authority as to which one is better, so I'm only going to say this: I've been under the impression that Sony controls the MD format, the players and encoders, something that tends to put them at a natural disadvantage.

    --
  • apple would have:...running on both PowerPC and Intel/AMD."

    uh huh but with neXT apple could have macosx running on x86, ppc, parisc and sparq(&68k too). Apple choses not to play in the x86 space. Not to mention the fact that Be, iirc, was ported to x86 after apple went with next and intel invested in Be.

    2.An OS which, at the same time, would put them in the middle of the consumer space for easy to use devices

    To be honest i'm not clear about what you are trying to say...but next couldn't be put there?

    Apple could very likely go belly up if the US falls into a recession. This could have all been avoided if they went with Be.

    You are right! ! the US recession could have been avoided if apple went with Be. ifapple had bought Be there would be world peace, end to hunger and pixie stix for all. if apple had bought Be then Compaq would have renamed itself Digital and a yellow hippopotamus would rule the world. if! if! if!

    Gassee's arrogance(remember the "a man in the desert doesnt argue about the price of water" comment ? Also be's presentation to apple's board or lack of), Steve Jobs history with apple, Next's mature api/dev tools, next's proven portability, webobjects and Next web history all played a part in apple choosing next instead of be

  • The evil one, perhaps. I agree with the original poster concerning Memory Stick. Time will tell though, but I'd bet that eventually they will screw themselves over because of the Memory Stick, in the consumer market, for the same reasons that Beta was eclipsed by VHS. Buy devices with Compact Flash.

    Now if only DVD weren't the betamax of this brave new world.

  • Ok, i know everyone's all like "it'll never work, everyone's been and there mother has tried to push internet appliances and failed." The major problem i've seen is that there's been no real advertizing for the appliances. Face it, American's are stupid, they'll buy anything if you just advertise it right. (And yes, i know, that last statement totally ignored the rest of the world...)

    Look at the iMac and Ibooks. I happen to own one, when i mention that i have one is "What color is it." What the hell does that have to do with anything...jack nothing, but it proves that people will buy anything as long as it looks good (which the Evilla does) and if you tell them it fills a need (real or illusionary.) If sony playes it's cards right it could sell these things. Especially to old people, they think real computers are scary...

    So all sony needs to do is blitz the media with the idea that if you buy one of these you'll be happy, it'll bring world peace, and you'll get lots of chicks...then again isn't that every ad.

    Oh well...i'm just waiting for someone to hack it so that we'll have full access to the OS...yet another cheap ass computer....:)

    tdawg
    the only bad F-word is FCC - Tom Morello
  • I think that this really hits the nail on the head. People who have gotten used to the advantages of a PC (i.e. powerful, upgradeable, under your personal control) don't like to give them up. OTOH, the box is big and moderately expensive and you can't take it with you around the house. What you really want isn't an independant, stand alone appliance but rather a terminal that connects to the household PC where all the guts are. People have already started talking about "information furnaces"- the powerful computer tucked away in a closet somewhere that has the household fast internet connection and large-scale storage that drives terminals and appliances throughout the house- and that sounds like a much more likely direction for things to develop than a bunch of standalone special purpose devices.

  • Well sir, I think I have exactly what you need right here (except for the X thing, but do you really want text to look like that?).....

    http://www.qubit.net/products/orbit.html

    it fits all those needs and just happens to run on BeIA as well!

    Probably a couple months more before its out and the unbranded/unsubsidized model will cost ya about $799-999 they estimate.

    I am seriously considering buying it; I would love to be able to browse the web from my couch rather than my desk.
  • I think one problem with IA model is that almost everyone has tried to push it as a replacement for the PC when it should be sold as a complement - an extension of the PC you already own in a smaller, task-specific, maintenance free form. You already have a PC if you've heard of Internet Appliances, and no one is going to buy a second PC to put it in their kitchen, so you should be offered something that leverages your existing capabilities: the LAN station with your old PC as home ASP, file+print server, and router. Maybe it will take pervasive wireless LAN tech to make it work.

  • I'm glad I'm not the only other person who thinks that way. What we need isn't an "Internet Appliance," it's a "Convergent Appliance."

    Our hypothetical CA should have all the features of an IA, plus the ability to actually handle documents, where "documents" can be audio, video and text files. When people (hi, TSW!) say that computers are too hard to use and IAs will be successful because they're not, they're making the implicit assumption that you can't make something that's as easy to use as an IA unless it's as limited as an IA. This assumption needs to be challenged. Computers are difficult to use for the "non-geek" because, objectively, they have terrible user interfaces.

    CAs will happen when companies apply some of the IA paradigms to more general functions. In practice, "one device for one function" only succeeds when it's not convenient and logical to combine functions. For most people, a component home stereo system doesn't include separate boxes for amplifier, pre-amplifier and tuner--it includes one box that combines all those functions. And most people don't have separate word processors, grammar checkers and spelling checkers. As a general rule, consumers prefer convergence to "best of breed" when the combination makes sense.

    Having said that, I think BeOS/BeIA is in a great position to be the foundation for such a "convergent appliance." (Not to say that other systems couldn't do quite well at it.) While I'd like to have seen 2000 have been the year BeOS on the desktop blossomed rather than wilted, I still hope Be is successful as a company.

  • The first few generations of PDAs didn't get too far. Companies nonetheless kept working on it. As we now know, it was only when the Pilot series caught on that PDAs in general took off. I believe the internet appliance (IA) market is in a similar state, but with more serious interest lined up for hardware (now that the wannabe Internet startups like Netpliance are being wiped off the board).

    Sony has an interesting twist on the theme, although obvious in retrospect -- the entertainment-focused IA. Nice display, speakers, Memory Stick support. It's reminiscent of the original compact Mac -- a system that sits on a regular desk, table or counter without dominating it. And cute (even in beige). As for the market response, we'll see. I think the monthly access charge and the "can I run AOL on it" issues will be tough to overcome.

    Maybe the IA never will take off. But PDAs were an item with only fringe popularity, close to being written off back in '96 [macpublishing.net]. Sometimes it takes a few years of refinement to get things right.

  • The PC is an aberration. It's existed in various forms for about 20 years now, but that doesn't give it the right to exist for 20 more. For most people, the computer is an appliance that does three things. Games, Internet access, and office productivity tasks.

    People who read slashdot aren't the general public. Most of the general public DON'T LIKE computers, and would throw them away at the least provocation in exchange for an appliance that could do a few simple things, so long as it did them well, and was cheaper than a PC.

    We already see that the vast majority of the gaming market has moved over (or should I say back) from general-purpose computers to the console market. Why? Because for users, consoles are instant-on and no hassles, and for developers they are a stable platform to aim at.

    A lot of people have a PC and a games console.

    Just like there's a market for dedicated games boxes, there's one for dedicated Internet boxes. An instant-on device that configures its own Internet connection and has a friendly interface should find a market, especially compared to PCs, which are crufty, annoying boxes that are really difficult to set up, and generally have about three times the power that an average user would need.

    As far as office productivity goes, the most that home users tend to do with this is load up Word to write letters. Add a simple word processor and a printer interface, and Jane Grandma won't need a PC at all.

    The problem with net appliances has been that the hardware is still too expensive. This has meant that you've either ended up with incredibly weak machines that can't run real software, and thus give people a terrible net experience (WebTV), or appliances that have the power to run real Internet applications, but have to be sold at a loss, and therefore get bought out by hobbyists looking for a toy to install Linux on, and who don't care that the hardware isn't as powerful as an off-the-shelf machine.

    As processors get further and further into the realm of "power-you-don't-need", net appliances will get cheaper, until they're actually at the point that you can get a net appliance significantly cheaper than an entry-level PC, without noticing it's under-powered by comparison, and without having to have your purchase subsidised.

    Give my mother something that can do e-mail, web browsing, and type letters for around US$300 bucks, and she'll be able to throw away the crappy P-100 she uses for her home computing, and she'll thank you profusely.

    Charles Miller
    --
  • I like this evilla thing, I am not going to elaborate why.

    Blah, you're no fun.

    I also like the memory stick, and on that I am going to spend afew lines: memory sticks are very practical. More practical than the click(tm) because they are pure solid-state and don't require a special (and expensive and clumsy and power-consuming) drive, and faster, too.


    Don't require a drive? Remember that's if, and only if, you own a Sony product with the Memory Stick reader built-in. As far as I know, there are no 3rd party devices with this tech built-in. If Memory Stick tech is licensed, then you WILL need a possibly expensive/clumsy/power-consuming drive to read them.

    If Iomega made computers too, I bet they'd have Pocket Zip (it's no longer called Clik) drives built in.

    You get to transfer 64/128 MB of pictures/mp3 from your camera to the evilla or from the evilla to your portable mp3 player. In solid state. I think it has it's benefits, and your trashing is a bit gratuitous.

    What you're citing as a benefit of Memory Sticks is, as far as I know, also a benefit of technologies like SmartMedia and Compact Flash. The difference is, Compact Flash is an industry standard, not controlled by a single company like Memory Sticks.

    I still don't see what's so great about Memory Sticks versus every other solid state storage tech out there. Other than the fact that Sony has the clout to force it into the market in every one of its products. Oh, and maybe the packaging of the sticks themselves is slicker.

    It's not that I don't appreciate your opinion, I do, but I'm puzzled you are unable to envision any benefits of this technology.

    Well, let's see... A technology that practically duplicates the benefits of several other existing technologies. A storage media tech that is controlled by one central company, who also happens to be a media giant, who also happens to be on the forefront of pushing to limit fair use rights.

    Hmm. Do you think Memory Sticks will be free of hardware level copy protection, and simply remain bit repositories? Hmm.. Oh, wait, here it is, and it's called "Magic Gate". [sony.com]

    I'd rather just pay for the flash ram, and not a bunch of content gateways on top of it.

  • Convergent Applications have existed before with not much of a glance from consumers. The folks at Oracle tried to sell these to everyone. Of course this has to be taken with a grain of salt, back when Ellison and crew came up with the idea most people had no idea an internet even existed. Now I wonder if such an idea would take off where it basically failed before. However regarding internet appliances, I wonder why their manufacturers don't invest some beaucoup cash into ASP solutions. MSN provides this to an extent with their MSN Companion (which are actually pretty neat). I'd like an IA with an X server on it.
  • The screenshot I saw didn't have a DVD player, but given that DVD is a wide format, wouldn't a wider display make more sense? I could see one of those things going on the kitchen counter next to (in place of?) the answering machine, and in place of the TV/CD/radio devices.

    If anything, the portrait display would make a lousy TV and something like this would make most sense in a space-limited environment like a kitchen, bedroom or somewhere else where you might want at least TV if not DVD as well.

  • There isn't enough information on Sony's page to go by, but it sure sounds like they are going to require the use of some proprietary ISP. I am at least happy to see it has ethernet, but what about wireless support? I'm sure most of the people connecting to the internet still use modems, but the early adopters, the people who are going to make or break devices like this are already using high speed internet and probably toying with in-house wireless networks. The Audrey from 3com is laughable, a web pad that has to be plugged in to the phone jack! If you are going to make a web tablet type device it had better be completely wireless except when charging. And these manufacturers need to stop tying us to whatever ISP they made a deal with. And then there is always the concern about support for new technology. Are these devices upgradable? What is BeIAs web browser like? It had better be 10 times better than the browser built into BeOS, because that sucked! Are there going to be SVG plugins? Flash plugins? Shockwave plugins? You may view that as fluff, but its still used on a lot of web sites. I'm all for the concept of web pads and IAs of other forms, but until companies start releasing products without so many limitations, they are not going to take off.
  • Yeah, I always thought LA was evil.
  • US$20 says they will be slapped with a lawsuit from Apple al a eMachine's eOne attempt. Looks too much like an iMac to let Steve Jobs sleep at night.
  • Be was going to be much less expensive than Next as I remember it. I really think that it was a much better choice from a technology perspective. I am not saying Be was a better technology, but more Apple like. Be sells itself on graphics and ease of use, like Apple. Next sold itself on being high end. My only experience with Next was in the financial world. I ported my options valuation software from C++ to Objective C on a Next box. It was screaming fast and real time supported calculations for many traders. Of course it was so expensive, we got our client to lend us one because we didn't want to have to shell out the $$ to buy one ourselves. Also, Next had Jobs.
    Which brings me to why Next made some sense from a business perspective. Jobs revitalized the market's opinion of Apple and the consumer's opinion of Apple. He might have hit a bad quater but there is one more X factor in his corner...and that X is OSX. If Apple can really enter the server market than can get ahold of what all the other PC players knew they needed: a high profit margin business. Apple is learning the hard way (again) with the cube that consumers will not pay a lot for this muffler. Businesses on the other hand, will pay a lot for a high end system. Twice the quality will cost three to four times as much. The difference becomes pure profit. Also, Apple can now leverage off the free software phenomenon. Remember that they make money off of hardware so they will support any software, free or expensive that helps them sell pretty boxes. I can't wait to see cube clusters (how borg like, eh?) running web applications on OSX.
  • Hell, I would *love* to have a tablet PC or webpad to cruise the web with. That way I could go into the living room and casually cruise the web during commercials on TV or something. Of course it has to be done right with wireless ethernet, a good browser, etc..

    JOhn
  • Funny how you complain about low-functionality internet capable devices in your post, then mention the low-functionality internet capable Dreamcast in your .sig. You make saying yes and no at the same time look so easy... :)



  • Well, releasing a GPL driver wouldn't violate the GPL as I understand it. Doesn't it only violate the GPL when the product is *distributed* with linked-in GPL code? That means if someone in the community ports a GPL driver, it doesn't really count as a GPL violation, right? Also, the GPL gets a little silly with stuff like BeOS. It's not like its being compiled in or anything, its a totally independant (partly userspace even) module. Does the GPL really intend to prevent users from extending closed source apps with their own GPL'ed software?
  • At that time BeOS couldn't print, but NeXTStep needed UI-easierizer treatment as well, so the engineering cost balances out. Also, *NIX isn't any more MacOS compatible than BeOS. Writing the Classic environment for BeOS wouldn't have been much easier. NeXT DID have several cool technologies though, which is why I think Apple went for them. However, most of those cool technologies were utterly useless for the home market. And the ccol technologies that WERE usefull, Apple ended rewriting anyway (Quartz.) So in the end, all you really got from using NeXTStep was Jobs (who's value shouldn't be underestimated by any means) and the NeXT Objective C model (who's value is probably overestimated for the target market.)
  • Actually, some people on BeDevTalk are trying to port a PCMCIA ethernet driver, so keep on the look out ;)
  • True, not all Be developers agree that it's legal, but the general consensus seems to be that it is. In particular, the issue with OSS-ed software linking to system libraries being allowed makes sense.

    RMS claims that it is illegal to load a GPL'ed driver from a closed kernel. The reason he states is that the process of linking to the kernel makes it illegal. HOWEVER, GPL'ed drivers are allowed to link against non-GPL system libraries. The kernel is a non-GPL'ed system library (more or less.) The kernel doesn't rely on the driver to work, but the driver relys on the kernel to wrok. If the logic saying that using GPL'ed drivers is illegal holds true, than the GIMP port to Windows is illegal (since they link to the closed source kernel, and closed source libraries) any GPL'ed software running on non-Open *NIXs is illegal, etc. Clearly, Windows GIMP is not illegal.
  • Be has essentially abandoned users of its operating system.
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>
    *this* arguement again? I'm reading high-down, and I was happy with the general reaction, until this. Would you please care to support your statement here? I say that Be hasn't abandonded its desktop users. My support is that OpenGL is near completion (let's see which comes out first, 2.4 or BeGL ;) multi_audio (multi-channel audio) is being upgraded, game_audio (audio for gaming oriented cards like SBLive!) is being released, BONE (a new network environment) is in late beta testing, and the Interface Kit (the UI programming API) is being actively improved. If this stuff comes out in a point release, it will effectively have more improvements than kernel 2.4. From this level of activity, I really can't see how you can say that Be has abandoned BeOS.

    either MS will stamp on them
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>
    This is funny. I just recently saw a Casio Casiopia handheld for $399. 16MB of RAM, 133MHz processor, great color screen, ability to play MP3s, Pocket Office, full internet access, etc. For $399 you can also get a color Palm handheld, with 256 colors (much less than the Casio) a 20MHz proc, and 8MB of RAM. Guess which one is selling better? MS is totally out of their league here. In the embedded market, their not st*o*mping on anyone!
  • Which would explain why Opera 4 is being ported, right? Seriously, though, the Linux browser tech isn't much better. They've got Mozilla, we've got BeZilla (which, btw is being actively developed, just go check BeNews) Netscape 4.x is effectivly unusable (compared to IE), and KHTML doesn't have any more features than Opera 4 (which, btw, also seems to be being ported.)
  • Really. That explains why I ran BeOS 5 PE as my only OS for a month before I got Pro! Idiot. All you have to do is download the Linux version (I'm assuming you have an OS to begin with!) and burn image.be onto a CD. Then boot from the included floppy and install the think to its own partition. Voila, no 512MB limit, full SMP, etc. In fact, everything except the develop tools (ftp.be.com, or Tucows) and RealPlayer and BInkJet drivers for the HP printers (which are both pay-ware to begin with.)
  • Well, trolls usually don't run Windows.
  • If anyone from Sony is reading this, I'd like you to understand that Be, Inc. [be.com] does not possess the moral fiber that is necessary for a company you will be trusting for a business-critical component of any product.

    This lack of integrity goes to the heart of Be's corporate culture, and is in particular exemplified by the attitudes and practices of Be's CEO, Jean Louis Gassee.

    Read about the experience of one of Be's formerly most-loyal and most enthusiastic business partners in:

    Note: the page gives the URL's for a number of alternative vendors for Internet Appliance operating systems, many of which are open source (an important consideration in a market where your vendor may abandon you). Also see the Embedded Linux Journal [linuxjournal.com].

    I have no doubt that BeIA has tremendous technical advantages. See what this once-ardent BeOS developer is doing to harden the competition for Be Inc. at The Linux Quality Database [sunsite.dk] and Freeing the Developer from OS Vendor Shackles [sourceforge.net].


    Michael D. Crawford
    GoingWare Inc

  • Sony should listen, not because Be kicked me off their mailing list, but the reason I posted the criticism that got me kicked off:

    After years of silver-tongued promises of support from Be for such things as marketing support for developers, Be never effectively marketed it's own BeOS desktop operating system and then announced that it was ceasing development of it, except to the extent necessary to support it's development of the BeIA internet appliance platform.

    This means, for example, that the current rev of the BeOS won't install on my PC because I use an Ultra160 SCSI controller - Be doesn't see these as necessary for support of it's development platform.

    And you can forget about marketing support for those of use who listened to Be's promises and actually shipped commercial products for the BeOS.

    While I may have lost a lot of time and effort coding spellcheckers that could have been better spent elsewhere, Be developers BeatWare [beatware.com] and Adamation [adamation.com] lost millions, and are only able to survive because they ported to Windows or Mac.

    My essential point is that Be is not to be trusted by Sony when times get difficult for it. There was a time when folks like me, Adamation and Beatware were all Be had. If Be can screw us, why can't they screw Sony?


    Michael D. Crawford
    GoingWare Inc

  • Who's incompetence?

    The developers were out their shipping many fine, supported commercial products that worked very well - Gobe, Steinberg was onboard developing audio applications, Thomas Dolby spoke at the developer conference about supporting Be with his audio software (he was wildly enthusiastic).

    No, the incompetence was not the developers. It was Be's press relations and marketing (or to be more precise, the lack thereof). Be's technical staff is highly competent, and they produced a fine product, something Linux developers would do well to study [be.com] because of it's ease of installation, smooth and trouble-free performance, and clean integration. It's also a joy to program.

    My wonderfully positive experiences with using the BeOS and my sadness at having to leave the platform behind in order to have currently supported hardware and software is another component of what motivates my effort to improve the quality of Linux [sunsite.dk] and Free Software in general.

    But Be's business management was always, and still is, incompetent. There was never any effort made to convince people to make the move to the BeOS - they were always waiting for more applications to appear, even when there were plenty of applications for the average user to do almost all their daily work.

    Even though almost anyone who ever laid eyes on the system became an instant convert - and many of those became evangelists, such as I especially after I got it running on my laptop [goingware.com], Gassee never felt it was ready for the mass market and kept holding it back from the people who could have done him the most good - the public who was eager to try something better if only they knew it existed and where to get it.

    For example, I never once saw a banner ad on a website that was run on a non-Be related site directing the user to Be's website or BeDepot (Be's now-defunct eCommerce site).

    And speaking of BeDepot - Gassee very early on spoke repeatedly about the problem of penetrating software channels for new developers, especially developers for new platforms like the BeOS, and how Be was going to be very advanced in its thinking by offerring software for sale via download at BeDepot.

    And we all have seen what has become of eCommerce in general - it's the only way you can get many products for mainstream platforms - but BeDepot was one of the most ineptly run operations I have ever seen.

    BeDepot's ineptitude was murder to developers for whom it was the only sales channel - so you've got a newly released product? What do you do when it takes three months to appear on the website because they're either too understaffed to deal with it or too incompetent to just upload the damn file? I've heard lots of complaints from developers who had to wait months to receive their contract from Be that would enable them to sell on BeDepot.

    It's not like it's so hard to run a good online Be software site, as demonstrated by the folks who founded BeBits [bebits.com], in part to make up for BeDepot's and BeWare's inadequacies. (BeWare was for free downloads).

    If you won't listen to me because of Be's lack of character, listen to me because of Be's demonstrated incompetence, and know that if they couldn't keep an eCommerce site with a few dozen titles running efficiently, how are they going to provide adequate support for a bunch of disparate embedded hardware vendors?

    By the way, you should note that many of Be's most prominent engineers left when Be made the decision to drop the desktop and move to Internet Appliances, folks like Dominic who wrote the BFS Journaled Filesystem (with indexed file attributes - there's a read-only version of BFS you can get for Linux, that I'd like to make read-write, and would make a great addition to the system).


    Michael D. Crawford
    GoingWare Inc

  • The interesting part of this product announcement is the scheduled downloads. The examples given (retrieve email, etc) are of interest with a very slow dial-up or wireless connection, but there are other broadband applications.

    SONY wants to deliver video and entertainment. Even with DSL/cable connections that will require background downloading (if only because we'll saturate the net infrastructure with heavy use). This device, with the BeOS and scheduled downloads is well suited (ok, ignore the display for now).

    Go to a web page and request the video/music you want. Get billed. Servers queue up the material, perhaps based on how many customers vote for it. (Recent videos will get more votes). Deliver off hours, view in real time.

    So, why not a letter-box display?! Cough, cough. Got me there. Look for another model within the the year with a letter box display ...

    jfaughnan
    --
    John Faughnan

  • You get to transfer 64/128 MB of pictures/mp3 from your camera to the evilla or from the evilla to your portable mp3 player.

    If you'll notice, Sony's memory stick-compatible portable music players don't say "mp3" anywhere on the box. They're not mp3 players. They use a special propritary and SDMI-capable format. You have to convert all your mp3s to that format before you can upload. And thanks to SDMI, you can't listen to the songs on your computer until you delete them off the player.

    In theory, the memory sticks are a cool idea. (Insert obligitory Homer Simpson quote here.) Same deal with MD players. If they were made an open industry standard compatible with non-Sony products, they'd be darned nifty.

    --
  • BeIA doesn't have to use BFS if the OEM doesn't think it's needed. It probably doesn't have a hard drive either.

    --
  • I thought it would make me all 31337...
    --
  • And if/when .NET takes off, your front end system will be substantially reduced to the point where it's feasible that an appliance like this could host remotely distributed .NET applications

    My front end system will do nothing of the sort. I have no plans to adopt more MS software than I need to.
    --
  • Secondly, I don't see why one would want to break from a "dominant" standard. There comes a point where it is more trouble to reinvent something than it is worth. I suppose it won't ruffle any feathers since the target audience of this device will be almost exclusivly people with little to no computer experience, but still, something bothers me about the fact that almost everything out there today is written for a horizontal aspect ratio.

    Perhaps we can dream, and when something like this gets accepted by enough people, the 'Web developers' out there will finally start developing good Web pages that render well in different environments. :)


    Refrag
  • The point is simply that in the future, the PC will be the appliance. We are already seeing signs of it. Apple, INtel, Compaq and Sony all have computer models with DV options to edit and store digital video. Say goodbye to the VCR. It is also in the works to have af ully networked home piping mp3 music through to every room in the house, say goodbye to individual stereos. PC's can already do email, http, ftp, and instant messaging quite well (and no, it's NOT that difficult to get online, it was somewhat difficult 5 years ago, but with Earthlink, AOL, and other huge providers and their software, anyone can do it).

    I don't know. I see homes having an information server and several clients connected to it. For instance, if I were to use OggVorbis sound files to listen to music through out the house, I would want an OggVorbis compatible player sitting with the rest of my audio components in the living room connected to my LAN. I'd like to have something like the eVilla (or an iMac) sitting on the desk in my kitchen connected to the LAN.


    Refrag
  • Before you all leap on this comment, I'll add "on this machine?"

    AFAIK, the major benefit is optimising reboot time if the OS unexpectedly terminates, but surely a self-contained IA should not be expected to crash? And surely the average customer won't know what that is anyway, which probably explains why this feature is glossed over on their web site.

    Perhaps it might be to recover from the user hitting the power switch at random, but again an applicance like this shouldn't have that much background processing to make the HD update at random times. I also notice there's no mention of HD space, but the press release does mention there's 10Mb of online space included too, which suggests to me there might be no directly accessible local storage at all for the user.

    Also, with a Trinitron rather than a TFT, and no touchscreen, it's going to need a lot of space to use it. I don't think this is going to go anywhere - too simplistic for the expert user; for novice Windows/AOL market, just about all the automatic stuff can be emulated with Scheduler and a Power Management BIOS; and for people with no Internet connection, I think it's too expensive, and a proper computer is a better alternative.

  • Everyone is producing one of these prototype units, but no one has provided a useful answer about why I should buy one, or anyone for that matter.

    The bottom line is that they all feature crippled browsing experiences because they feature a non-standard embedded browser.

    You can't market a browsing product to the public and tell them that attachments, html email, and mulitmedia are off limits - in that case they might as well stick with their PC.

    3Com will drop Audrey within three months.

  • People could care less about the form factor of the box - does it run IE? Can it view quicktime? Can it play shockwave. The answer to all these questions for any given appliance out there is NO.

    That is why they will die - they are all crippled in features.

  • And of course no one has mentioned that PC browsers are far more feature-rich than the IA browsers...yes, I actually do want to view quicktime and shockwave and send html email.
  • This from a person with a hotmail address.

    How can you pull a speck from my eye when you have a beam in yours?

  • you must have never used Be.
    Be doesn't do a scandisk or fsck. It's a true journaled files system, and always always always boots in 10 seconds or less. It recognizes its hardware on boot time, and even when I take the hard drive from one machine to another with very different hardware, it still boots in under ten seconds. This makes it perfect for a web device. In fact, if I had an 802.11b pcmcia driver for it, it would be on my thinkpad right now. as it is, it's debian which is too slow to boot.

    A host is a host from coast to coast, but no one uses a host that's close
  • belkin http://catalog.belkin.com/IWCatProductPage.process ?Merchant_Id=1&Section_Id=1614&pcount=&amp ;Product_Id= 77&Section.Section_Path=%2FROOT%2FMacintosh%2F Adap ters%2F
    has a adb to usb adaptor that works with winders and apple. if usb under 2.4.0 is decent, you'll have no problem using the old pro keybd.

    A host is a host from coast to coast, but no one uses a host that's close
  • I won a WebTV in a drawing. What do I need with one? Nothing.

    So I gave WebTv to my Grandmother. She loves it! It does one thing well, it has a infrared remote and infrared keyboard. She shows off the pictures we take with our digital cameras to her friends.

    She is responsible for all the webtv sales in her old-folks home, and a few of her friends bought hp printers with glossy paper to print out the pictures of their grandkids.

    So, yes Virginia, there is a market for these devices. Whether or not that market will wither and die when it gets saturated is another question.

    First, you have to convince people like my Grandmother that they can use this new-fangled device.
    Second, you have to convince them they need it.
    Third, you have to convince them that it won't be outdated junk and not work well in a few months.

    Now, if it's not going to be outdated junk, how can the companies expect to stay in business? They sell a device, saturate the market, and *then* where do their new customers come from?

    This is the contradiction: a device sold as an appliance cannot be rendered useless by obsolesence. (by using drop frame time code, people were able to watch color tv broadcasts on black-and-white televisions. You don't alienate your entire installed user base, as a rule. (exception: lousy h/dtv where everyone has to throw out their tv's.))

    My in-laws use windows. The email/web browse, and use it for printing and retouching their digital photos. I'm not about to ask them to use linux (hebrew support isn't there yet, and they don't need to learn "configure:make:make install" anytime soon.) They also want to edit their own home movies. I'd convince them to buy a Mac, but very few people in Israel know the Mac (other than a few graphics arts shops.)

    I'd have to make the same pitch that I made to my Grandmother: This will do what you need it to, easily. You can use it. It will work when you want it to. You won't need to call me to figure it out. Obsolete? There will always be a faster, newer computer, but if this one will do what you want it to today, it can do that for years to come.

    I'm glad to see Be back in the news. My desktops run linux, macosX PB, and winders localized in Hebrew. If Be had a 802.11b pcmcia driver, my laptop would be running Be 5 pro. it does everything else right, it just doesn't have either of my pcmcia network cards as an option.

    A host is a host from coast to coast, but no one uses a host that's close
  • Everything an Internet console does can be duplicated by more feature-rich systems

    Can you carry your PC into the bathroom with you, and browse websites? Carry it into bed or out on the porch to read an e-book (and if you don't have the book, buy it online and begin reading it). Interact with television programs, live sporting events with cool stats applets from ESPN, all from a reclined position in your easy chair? Can you carry your PC to the dining room table and read NYTimes.com while you eat breakfast in the morning?

    And this is just the start.

    Look, I can play DVD's on my computer, but it's more satisfying to use a DVD player, and even my grandma can do it.

    I can record video on my computer from my TV, and play it back. But it's easier to use a VCR.

    I can send digital audio to my stereo system from my computer, and have it play over the speakers, but it's easier to use a CD player (and would be even easier to use an entertainment appliance, like Be's Aura platform [byte.com]).

    The long history of failures that "Internet appliances" have met indicates that there's not much interest in these kind of products.

    What internet appliances? All I've seen are wired, network computers. Those have a small niche, but bring on the broadband, wireless connected devices. The REAL internet appliances!

    Here they come...

    -thomas
  • However, I must say that Internet Appliances are going to flop. Why? Simply because they are based on the wrong model. Their mantra is that the internet should be fun and easy. Their underlying assumption is that it is not fun and easy and will not be fun and easy based on the cuurrent PC model.

    No, their underlying assumption is that it'd be more fun and even easier to use the internet if you're not chained to your desk. How exactly is that wrong?

    Their solution to this 'problem' is to create a myriad of devices- separate and limited appliances that do one or two things and do it well.

    Yeah, we all know devices that do one or two things, and do it well, are doomed! (DVD players, VCR's, camcorders, TV's, stereo receivers, CD players, microwaves, phones, stoves, refrigerators, dishwashers, clothes washers, clothes dryers, game consoles, ad infinitum.)

    The point is simply that in the future, the PC will be the appliance. We are already seeing signs of it. Apple, INtel, Compaq and Sony all have computer models with DV options to edit and store digital video. Say goodbye to the VCR.

    You do realize the geek market that would replace a VCR with a full blown computer is infinitesimal compared to the 'average person' market, right?

    If anything, PC's will be crammed into things like WebPAD's, such as what Microsoft is doing with their WebTablet.

    -thomas
  • sony like most companies are trying to market these things at people who are ether scared/illiterate about computers, well guess what thier going to be just as scared of these things

    I bought my parents a webtv for X-mas, teaching them to use it was not a easy task. as soon as my mom opend the box and found like 6-7 cables she dint want anything to do with it. once I hooked all the cables up. and set up the servis and all it took about 2 hours to get her to touch the keyboard and another 5-6 hours teaching her the basics of web browsing, and 5 days to teach them how to "log-on" every once in a wile I have to awnser a question like "why doesnt this web site look right" (web-tv does some funky things with imgs , being how it cant scroll left/right).

    I think if they realy want these things to take off they need to aim for the people who know how to use a computer , posibly wireless ethernet from webpad/puter, or howabout a wireless dumb terminal that way you could use (nearly) all software thats on your pc. once people get used to the idea of webpads and technology advances to the point of a decent browser on one it can be "intergrated" into the non-pc useing world
  • It's that same old problem that the Internet applicances have faced since the beginning: They cost about as much as a low-end PC but they are so much less capable.

    Let's look at real-world numbers. I put together a PC today (to use as a server/firewall in my home). Here are the specs and costs:

    $61 128MB RAM

    $53 AMD Duron 650

    $12 heatsink and fan

    $99 Hard Drive

    $10 Floppy Drive

    $99 All-In-One SIS based motherboard w. 10/100 Ethernet, 3D video, modem, & sound

    $42 Case & 300W power supply

    $20 (after rebate) 52X CD-ROM

    $396 total

    I buy a monitor, keyboard, and mouse and I have a complete system. A factory-refurb 17" monitor can be had for $130 and mice and keyboards are readily available for under $10 each. The total cost of this fully-capable PC is now up to about $550 and I can either go with Linux for no cost or pick up Windows 98 for under $100.

    So what's the difference in price? $50-$150. But then I have a real PC with a full-sized screen (17" landscape vs. 14" portrait), access to industry-standard software, ability to upgrade and expand, and no worry that tomorrow's plug-in won't work on my system.

    What I would love to see is an Internet appliance release of Linux. It would need to be robust and simplified. The "normal" screen would include just an easy-to-use browser, e-mail, and maybe a word processor so that we could all get older relatives (and other hold-outs) on the Internet. I do not want to be able to change the look & feel. I don't want to select between KDE and Gnome. I don't want multiple virtual screens or the ability to install applications. I want every one to look the same with the exception of resolution -- which could be set based on screen size and the visual acuity of the user. It should have the ability to automatically download updates and install them without user intervention.

    If someone did that, we could all start taking computers that aren't up to the task of running the latest and greatest 3D games, databases, Windows, etc. and recycle them into Internet appliances for relatives. Then you would truly have a low-cost Internet appliance.

  • While all the advantages you pointed out are 100% true, and in this application, I happen to think portrait orientation is just plain neat, there are a few reasons that I wonder about the wisdom of choosing it.

    First off, HTML optimization. In an ideal world, all webmasters would author their HTML so that it would render correctly at any resolution and aspect ratio. However we do NOT live in an ideal world. I run at 1024x768 and I see pages every day that look like hell because the author obviously didn't think to check it on anything but 800x600 or 640x480.

    Secondly, I don't see why one would want to break from a "dominant" standard. There comes a point where it is more trouble to reinvent something than it is worth. I suppose it won't ruffle any feathers since the target audience of this device will be almost exclusivly people with little to no computer experience, but still, something bothers me about the fact that almost everything out there today is written for a horizontal aspect ratio.

  • Companies have been pitching this whole "Internet appliance" for the past five years, and it still hasn't caught on. WebTV was supposed to revolutionize TV and the Internet, and it hasn't made a dent in either. It's pretty apparent that no matter what some corporate visionary says, consumers just don't want "Internet appliances." They'd rather have a PC that also does word processing, or a music player that also plays CDs, or a game console for gaming...

    My grandmother has asked about getting internet access a number of times. We've resisted because she lives a hundred miles away from her nearest computer-using relative. We're all afraid of having to support her over the phone.

    Realistically, I don't think my mom has used her home PC for anything but web browsing and e-mail in over a year.

    And if/when .NET takes off, your front end system will be substantially reduced to the point where it's feasible that an appliance like this could host remotely distributed .NET applications. With the included ethernet connection, a system like this could very well be all one needs to run a suite of .NET applications. If this is a coming trend, Sony is wise to get capable hardware out there early.

  • by soldack ( 48581 ) <soldacker.yahoo@com> on Sunday January 07, 2001 @10:20AM (#525600) Homepage
    I am pretty sure that you can already get a screen like sony's, except that you can rotate it when the wide ratio makes sense. For example, movies look better on a wide screen. You can lose the top and bottom black bars that always make you feel like you are "missing" something. Also, a wide screen can be split into two slightly narrow screens letting you see more at once. As for code, I know a lot of people that only print code landscape so they can see long lines. Sometimes wrapping (automatic or manual) makes the code harder to read. Just my 2 bits...
  • by ghoti ( 60903 ) on Sunday January 07, 2001 @12:15AM (#525601) Homepage
    The reason is the same as for cinemascope: it's more similar to your field of view. Why look at something with an aspect ratio of 2:3 when your field of view has as a ratio of 5:3 or something similar (I don't know the exact number)?
    I would much rather see a landscape display with a browser that would automatically display the document in two columns (make the window half the width of the screen, and what doesn't fit into the first window is displayed in the second one right of it - scrolling would be coupled of course, and you could actually scroll *sideways* through the pages. That would make much more sense, since then you would have a 2D layout instead of 1D.).
  • by dragonfly_blue ( 101697 ) on Saturday January 06, 2001 @11:42PM (#525602) Homepage
    Although I know a lot of folks dislike Sony, I personally have had mostly good experience with their PC products. To me, this looks like a winner. Why?

    Well, for one thing, the form factor is definitely going to be attractive to a certain type of people, for the same reason the iMac was appealing and the VAIO sub-notebooks have been so successful. Ain't nuthin' but a style thang, baby. The portrait view in particular seems like a great idea for web surfing.

    Another strength, too, is that Sony was hopefully able to keep the cost down somewhat by going with BeOS instead of the WinTaxME or WinCe. And I also hope that Be derives a sizable profit from licensing. They've been busting their butts to put together a truly innovative OS for quite a while, and it's high time they started to receive some return on their investment. What with all the open source hooplah, Be has generally been overlooked for the slender, high-quality operating system that it is.

    Anyway, I think Sony Corporation has some of the same types of problems that IBM has to deal with; the fact is, they are a huge, widely distributed "company" that has long since passed the point where you could actually look at it as one singular entity. Face it; we're not talking about some huge multinational conglomerate here; no sir, we're actually talking about one of the numerous multiple smaller companies that comprise Sony Corporation.

    Sure, their view on copyright law is royally fucked. Absolutely, Memory Sticks should be banned. And, yeah, they have screwed some people over and screwed some things up, but that doesn't mean that they're not going to come up something new and cool every once in a while.

  • by catseye_95051 ( 102231 ) on Sunday January 07, 2001 @12:43PM (#525603)
    In answer to "who will buy this" the answer is my wife and milliosn of people like her.

    PCs, particualrly Windows machiens, are inherently unstable and too hard to use and keep running. Anyone with a non-technicl person in their family knwos this and there are many many many tioems more of thso ethen us techno geeks.

    Unfrotunately, Sony missed a key service-- word processing. If this thing had word processing or if a really good web-based word-processor existed they would probably have a huge hit on their hands. As is my wife can't use it.
  • by Sonoma76 ( 103820 ) on Sunday January 07, 2001 @12:01AM (#525604)
    I'm a loyal Be user, and I'm happy Be has got a deal with Sony and Intel (intel is also releasing a BeIA web pad) However, I must say that Internet Appliances are going to flop. Why? Simply because they are based on the wrong model. Their mantra is that the internet should be fun and easy. Their underlying assumption is that it is not fun and easy and will not be fun and easy based on the cuurrent PC model. I believe this is fundamentally flawed. Their solution to this 'problem' is to create a myriad of devices- separate and limited appliances that do one or two things and do it well. And while marketing executives at companies like Sony, Intel, Microsoft and Compaq develop new applications, software, and hardware peripherals that enable the PC to do more and more, they are simultaneously developing products that do less and less, but do it supposedly faster, easier, and more simply. The point is simply that in the future, the PC will be the appliance. We are already seeing signs of it. Apple, INtel, Compaq and Sony all have computer models with DV options to edit and store digital video. Say goodbye to the VCR. It is also in the works to have af ully networked home piping mp3 music through to every room in the house, say goodbye to individual stereos. PC's can already do email, http, ftp, and instant messaging quite well (and no, it's NOT that difficult to get online, it was somewhat difficult 5 years ago, but with Earthlink, AOL, and other huge providers and their software, anyone can do it). Simply put, as PCs get more power to do more diverse things, they will become the total appliance and make these email and web machines obsolete. And as the software improves, it will be easier to get on the internet than it already is. The whole INternet Appliance craze seems to me to just be bogus.
  • Your post makes no sense on multiple fronts.

    1. Be is focusing on BeIA for one simple reason: Money. If they don't focus on BeIA, they die. And BeOS along with it. If they focus on BeIA and make money, perhaps BeOS will thrive again.

    2. BeIA has a 4.0 Opera browser that supports Java, flash, RealMedia, and any other media format supported by Be.

    3. You honestly think Be had a better shot in the desktop OS market, going against an established Microsoft, Linux, and Apple market? Or in the IA market, where there is no established monopoly OS provider, and Be's OS fits the bill perfectly (witness the recent announcements).

    4. You said "vendors will eventually opt for linux because of the lack of licencing costs." If that were true, and using Linux was so much cheaper to use, why didn't Sony choose them? Or Intel (which owns a stake in some Linux companies)? Or FIC? Or Qubit? Or Compaq?

    Try again... Next please!
  • by Snowfox ( 34467 ) <snowfox.snowfox@net> on Saturday January 06, 2001 @11:37PM (#525606) Homepage

    I like the portrait display orientation. This really makes more sense than landscape.

    I've never understood why monitors have continued to have a wide aspect. When reading text, it's easy to lose one's line when advancing a line after scanning too far left and right.

    More vertical space means less desk space. It offers a representation more closely resembling a conventional page of text. It means more lines of code (check out the amount of wasted screen space next time you're programming). The advantages are many, yet I haven't seen a new monitor with the portrait orientation in a LONG time. :/

  • by Yu Suzuki ( 170586 ) on Saturday January 06, 2001 @11:30PM (#525607) Homepage
    Companies have been pitching this whole "Internet appliance" for the past five years, and it still hasn't caught on. WebTV was supposed to revolutionize TV and the Internet, and it hasn't made a dent in either. It's pretty apparent that no matter what some corporate visionary says, consumers just don't want "Internet appliances." They'd rather have a PC that also does word processing, or a music player that also plays CDs, or a game console for gaming...

    Internet appliances are a classic example of a misguided inventor trying to use technology to fill a need that doesn't exist. Few people are going to buy a Internet appliance just because it's shiny and new, and there's no real void the systems fill. You can already get Internet access through your PC, a device at least a third of all Americans now own.

    Everything an Internet console does can be duplicated by more feature-rich systems. Believe it or not, most people are actually capable of turning on computer and clicking on their web page. It's just "all-in-one" home entertainment systems like the ill-fated 3D0 or PS2 -- companies expected them to be a big hit because they're simple, but no one needed one. People are smarter than you think.

    The most successful products are the ones that fulfill an actual desire. Granted, sometimes consumers don't really know they'd benefit from the introduction of a given product until it's actually introduced, but the long history of failures that "Internet appliances" have met indicates that there's not much interest in these kind of products.

    Neat to see BeIA getting some use, though...

    Yu Suzuki

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