in Hardware

Drive + Mouse

IOGEAR put 64MB of RAM into a mouse. Now that’s smart convergence: take two devices that already plug into the same port and that you have to carry around with your laptop, and combine them, taking advantage of all that hollow space inside the mouse.

There’s still a challenge to help customers form a mental model of it: “You see, it’s a mouse, but you can also save your files on it.” The name helps: “Memory Mouse”. You could go further and make something about the form factor resemble a drive (do people even have a concept of what a drive looks like?).

(And if you start to think too hard, it just gets too weird: “You use the mouse to control the cursor to drag and drop files onto a desktop-mounted drive, the effect of which copies files onto the drive that is inside the mouse…”)

It’s a similar problem with the similarly convergent AirPort Express with AirTunes (sans the elegant name). It took me about 15 minutes to understand what it does, and it only really clicked when I saw the “living room” diagram on page 24 of the Tech Overview (PDF). “You see, it’s a wireless base station like the AirPort, but it can also relay music from your computer into your stereo. Oh, and it’ll let you share your USB printer…” I understand what is inside the thing, but even that would’ve made me raise an eyebrow: “It’s a wireless router, audio digital to analog converter, and USB interface in a little device that plugs into your wall.”

As stuff gets smaller, we’re only going to get more devices like this, and we’ll need to work harder to help people understand them.