Ubiquitous Computing getting closer?

Today has been an active tech day, with Microsoft and Palm both showing off some surprising products.

I loved Palm back in the day, and I got my Handspring Visor when they first came out in high school. The simplicity of the input and navigation and the intuitiveness in the interface were really unsurpassed to this day. Even Palm forgot Palm’s roots with recent Windows Mobile releases. It’s true, the old Palm OS was showing its age in the world of always-on WIFI, streaming video, and mobile content push. However, the biggest mistake Palm made was not coughing up the dough to pay for the Graffiti input method. But I digress. Today, Palm showed off their new Foleo assistant, something their now calling a “mobile companion”. I don’t know what the real point of this device is. Although there certainly seems to be a middle ground between smartphone and laptop, no one has ever jumped on the bus to purchase something that isn’t particularly powerful or mobile. I don’t think this device is any different. Also, it isn’t clear from the videos or Palm’s own site what input methods other than keyboard are available.

In other surprising news, the much discussed touch-based input video table rumored a few months ago from Microsoft is a reality. Formally called Microsoft Surface, this coffee table system features a multi-touch interface that allows one or more users to interact with the UI and do some very clever things. In one example, they drop a wireless-enabled camera on the surface which syncs the photos over to the screen. The user can then scale, move, and share the photos with others. To top it off, dropping a mobile on the surface makes it visible to Surface, allowing the user to then “toss” the photos from the screen to the mobile. While just a POC right now, the extensions to POS devices (including self checkout), sales displays, office collaboration and presentations, and geeky-cool home mods are endless. Can this be a sign that Microsoft can still innovate, or is this the next Bob?