Cooking Up New Devices for the Kitchen

Reading Ben’s Hotline about the O2 Joggler, I think he’s identified a trend for “kitchen PCs”. The Joggler is more of a souped-up picture frame than a full PC, but it performs many of the functions expected of a device in the kitchen. It has a calendar, can play Internet radio stations and display photos. Its reduced feature set means it’s only £150 or free to customers renewing a mobile contract.

The Asus ET1602, below, is an example of a new breed of devices aimed at family environments. It’s a proper touch-screen PC, but it’s three times the price of a Joggler. Effectively a netbook (Atom processor, Windows XP, webcam, 160GB hard drive), it’ll do much more than the O2 device. But it’s unlikely to be offered free with a contract. And because it’s a full PC, it’s more likely to disappear into the kids’ bedroom or be taken over for Facebook updates.

Asus ET1602 touch-screen PC (source: Asus)

These devices are undoubtedly niche products, but they highlight a more refined approach to customer and product segmentation. Innovative operators like O2 hope to make more from targeted tariffs and value-added services. At the same time device manufacturers like Asus are pushing the envelope on PC designs. Another example of the trend toward greater segmentation is Italian operator TIM’s decision to offer a nine-inch screen netbook or a 4.8-inch mobile Internet device (MID) as part of its mobile broadband bundle. The boundaries between smartphones and netbooks keep on blurring.

Perhaps because I’m older and more boring than Ben, I’ll carry on using my kitchen only for cooking and socialising. But I’m intrigued to see how operators will counter the impending commoditisation of mobile broadband. And I wouldn’t be surprised if in two years’ time the idea of a “kitchen PC” becomes a mainstream reality.