New devices designed to access the Internet are popping up all over the place. Across America, tiny Net-enabled appliances are hitting the street in the pockets and purses of mobile users; virtual characters and wireless systems are running offices; and a variety of Internet products are taking many aspects of the average home online.
And that's just the beginning - tech companies are in a mad rush to ensure that customers use their products to jump on the Internet any time, anywhere. Here is a brief sampling of some of the many Internet appliances on or about to hit the market.
The dominant mantra in Silicon Valley has always been "smaller, faster, smaller, faster, smaller, faster." Designers of pocket PCs hope to eventually provide users with computers so light and tiny that they can be comfortably worn, yet are as powerful as a high-end notebook computer. As an indication of things just around the corner, IBM just introduced a version of its tiny Microdrive hard drive - it's the size of a book of matches and has a billion bytes of storage capacity (enough to store the equivalent of one thousand 200-page novels). IBM hopes to make the Microdrive the hard drive of choice for manufacturers of future handheld devices.
Most Net-enabled handhelds these days are in the form of personal digital assistants (PDAs), such as the Palm series; or smart phones, such as those in the Qualcomm and Motorola product lines. Both PDAs and smart phones use wireless technology to access the Internet. While much can be done with these devices, they have a way to go before they can provide the user with the same functionality as a standard notebook. The following recently released products are examples of how the industry is striving to offer devices that are smaller, yet more powerful than their predecessors:
Internet appliances are changing the modern office. The first, most obvious result of these devices is the emerging trend of telecommuting, which allows companies to cut down on office space and employees to reduce travel time. Offices are heading in the direction of being a base for "face time," with fewer employees in the physical office location than ever. The following Internet appliances are examples of products that help create this new office atmosphere: