Computerless, Web-Enabled Devices Are On The Rise

The release of the RTX Dualphone and Sonos Digital Music System got me thinking about an important trend: PC-less devices on the home-network (not that I’m the first). The names of the hardware systems may not mean anything to you, but the web services that they tie into will. The RTX Dualphone (found via Gizmodo) is one of the first PC-less Skype phone available on the market (Netgear also has one). Sonos has direct integration into Rhapsody, Real Network’s music streaming service. I expect more from Real in the future; they are promoting their Rhapsody DNA program (white paper) currently. The Chumby (not widely available yet) is another example. Once plugged in, it finds your network and then relies on webservices for multi-purpose widgets. The now-in-Beta Eye-fi wireless SD card hopes to free your digital camera from the PC (Radar post). Other examples include IM devices designed for teens, Apple’s upcoming iTV, and the Ambient Orb (which relies on the pager network instead of WiFi, but is the earliest ancestor I can think of and probably would use WiFi were it being introduced now).

As home WiFi becomes ubiquitous, expect more devices that do one thing well and are very easy to explain, understand and configure. I also expect more USB/AC chargers to come on the market as well. If you know of other PC-Less devices please point me to them via the comments.

Update: As if by magic, today I read about a WiFi-enabled doorbell on Gizmodo. You still need a PC to configure it, but it doesn’t need one to function.