24 February 2007

A show on the side

One of the more exciting new technologies to come from the Windows Vista stable is Sideshow. Its purported function is to run small programs (or 'gadgets' as Microsoft likes to call them), allowing users to access a range of PC functionality either remotely or without the computer even being on.

The first device to come out with this functionality is the Asus W5fe laptop. In this particular incarnation, the Sideshow facility is embedded in the lid of the laptop, and allows you to access your personal information without having to spin it up. Sounds like a good idea, although if the laptop is off, your data is only cached, not automatically synchronised with the server.

So far so not very exciting. In this day and age where every mobile phone syncs with Outlook, it is hard to imagine a situation where you would need to look up an address on the lid of your laptop rather than your phone.

But even if you don't have a phone that can do that, you can still replicate some of that functionality with a much older bit of technology - the Xircom REX 6000. This clever bit of kit, which can be had on eBay for around a tenner, is a touchscreen PDA small enough to sit in your laptop's cardbus slot. The real magic is that it syncs via the PCMCIA connection. So, even when your, say Asus W5f (sans 'e') is off, you can whip out your REX and look up that appointment or contact detail.

Tetris and over a hundred other programs can be added to the mix if so desired (call them 'gadgets' if you like). And if you don't want to lug your laptop around with you, you can always pop the REX in your shirt or jeans pocket and leave the computer behind. Try that with the Asus! It is also a more elegant solution than taping a Pocket PC to your laptop as an auxiliary display.

I am not discounting Sideshow as a platform entirely, and there are some really exciting looking remote controls based on it being released soon, but in its current form it is not doing anything that couldn't be done years ago.

No comments: