Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Now with the Weather Report, Here's Mr. Coffee...

Have you heard the term that tech companies love to use, "convergence"? It means combining several functions into one device. Sometimes it's a good idea, but I recently read about one that sounds just plain dumb.

There's a new coffeemaker coming out (in time for the holidays, coincidentally!) that will display real-time weather data. This Robocop version of what used to be a simple appliance uses a "smart objects" technology that Microsoft has been pushing for a number of years.

Apparently this Mr. Coffee on steroids (though actually it's made by Salton) uses a wireless data system that will automatically show your current weather conditions and forecasts. Oh yes, by the way, this weather station may rain on your budget parade: The coffeemaker will list for $200.

Bill Gates talked up the technology behind this coffeemaker as far back as 2002, and said it would have a big impact. But the technology has been slow to be adopted (I wonder why).

Do we really need a coffeemaker to tell us the weather, since so many other gizmos can do the same thing? For $200, does the thing even make good coffee? Just because engineers can put an electronic gizmo in everything, does that mean they should? And what if you go for that all-important first cuppa joe in the morning and the coffeemaker crashes, giving you the message "Abort, retry, fail"?

There's a marvelous invention called the window (not made by Microsoft) that lets a person visually capture weather data in a real time, fast-refresh format, including cloud formations, precipitation details, and more. And it never needs an upgrade (unless a kid hits a baseball through it).

I'll let the gadget freaks and early adopters buy this high-tech weather station/coffee machine. I'll stick with my current model, the one that does nothing but make good coffee.

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