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Here it comes – Windows for lawnmowers…

A Comdex keynoting Gates wakes an unexpected dragon...

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Many's the time that a cool feature devised for a Bill Gates demo has contributed to feature-creep in Windows.

But in his Comdex keynote last Sunday Bill unwittingly (we hope) laid the groundwork for the daddy of them all - a control and monitoring system for all your electronic and automotive possessions which will surely require serious modifications to the user interface, as well as scads more RAM and processor upgrades all round.

On reflection, we think maybe it might not have been unwitting. Bill, you may have heard, bought a car on the Web. Once he'd done so a little car icon appeared on the desktop, and he was then able to do all sorts of car-related things, including downloading music files onto the car's music system.

This raises a few questions about the car's status, and possibly also about licensing considerations. The car's obviously a client in its own right so it can surf the Web, like all cars are going to be able to do in the future, but it's also a part of a network with the PC Bill was using, so does it need a CAL (Client Access Licence)?

Do you have licence to use that kettle, sir?
You might argue that the networked status of the car is exceptional, but it won't be for long, because all sorts of other pieces of electronics are going to get networked, until the point where everything you own that's electronic will be wirelessly talking, possibly about you, behind your back.

Even Bill can't demand client licence fees for kettles, so skip the CALs and think about the control and UI issues. If you've got some kind of network link to your TV, your central heating or your lawnmower you can do useful things with them.

An icon will appear for your TV on your desktop, and can be used to program recordings. You can use the central heating icon to change the timer and adjust the temperature, and the lawnmower one to check the oil level, or something. Pursuing the Vegas angle, you could maybe even drag all of your money from your credit card icon and drop it on the casino icon, which automatically feeds it into the recycling bin, and deletes it.

You can basically do all sorts of cool stuff with everything you own that's networked, which is going to be practically everything you own, and you can see how that one little car icon has massive implications.

You'll need at least a special extra task bar to straighten out the mess of icons, but more likely you'll need several digital dashboards. Or a special digital dashboard to organise digital dashboards. ®

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