Saturday, February 11, 2006

Why can't people do the obvious?

Why can't people do the obvious thing and make a computer monitor with a DVD player, media reader and wireless keyboard/mouse hub built in?

20" LCD monitors are becoming standard, a decent one can be had for $500 in Costco. Even the absolute top of the range Apple screen is 'only' $2500. That is certainly a chunk of change but its not so long since the top of the range was 23" at considerably more.

The obvious thing to do when faced with a situation of this type is to differentiate the product by building in more features. Sony has taken this to an extreme with a range of PCs built into a monitor case. Its a cute but doomed concept, not least because squeezing the computer up against the monitor does nothing for heat dissipation. Computers last about three years before becoming obsolete. A monitor should be good for at least two computers.

I want a nice clean, uncluttered desktop. I don't want to have to buy a disposable $2000 computer to get that. Moving all the peripheral devices that the user needs access to to the monitor means that the computer box can be off in a corner.

My current desktop system was an attempt to do something of the sort five years ago. The CPU sits off in a corner. On my desk I have an LCD monitor which happens to sport a USB hub. The DVD player plugs into the USB hub. That still represents the state of the art, although finding a monitor with the USB hub is more of a challenge than it should be.

The system looks OK from the front but behind there is a rats nest of cables and power supplies. I tried to get the direct DVI connection to the monitor to work but the only way to get the necessary DVI cable in the length I need and with the right varieties of connector on each end is to hunt round the net and special order.

I want one cable for power and one fiber optic for data between the monitor and the CPU. The reason I want fibre is not because I need that much bandwidth, its because then I can buy the cable as stock instead of paying Belkin $75 or more.

Moving all the peripherals to the monitor would allow the size of the CPU box to shrink. The basic size of the CPU box has remained unchanged for 15 years or so. Even though nobody uses 5.25 hard drives any more the machine has to be wide enough for the dvd-rom. Take that out and the machine can lose 2" of width and up to 4" of height.

Of course the reason that these companies can't do the obvious is that for a market for this type of monitor to be marketable it has to either be sold as part of an all inclusive computer/monitor bundle or the monitor manufacturers and the computer manufacturers have to come together and agree on how to do it.

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