CES 2009: Microsoft demos Internet-enabled coffee maker, plans more devices

Posted by Rick C. Hodgin

Las Vegas (NV) - Today, Microsoft issued a press release indicating they've teamed up with Fugoo to bring a new generation of "neo-diginet" devices to market. These Internet-enabled devices will be powered by a Fugoo module using an x86 CPU. The first prototype is an Internet-enabled coffee maker.





According to Fugoo's founder, John Hui, "Many vendors are trying to come up with a multipurpose magic bullet to satisfy all the information needs in the home. But this sort of solution is bound to be expensive and complex. We’re taking a fundamentally different approach, building devices with computing power and Internet connections to perform specific functions in order to keep costs low and the user interface simple."

John Hui started Fugoo a year ago with Chris Chung (who previously co-founded eMachines) and Wayne Inouye (a former chief executive officer of eMachines and Gateway). He chose the company's name as "a variant of 'fugu,' which is a delicacy among sashimi aficionados. Hui has another company called FUHU, Inc., which is developing the user interface for neo-diginet devices.

Hui coined the term neo-diginet to describe this new generation of Internet-connected devices. He says, "Our platform will make it fast, easy and affordable to build an almost unlimited variety of neo-diginet devices — from digital photo frames to coffee makers and refrigerators— that will redefine the term 'household appliance.'"



The fundamental inner-workings of a Fugo module will contain a bi-directional Internet connection built inside, which operates x86-based software in something called the "Fugoo platform."



Hui envisions the snapping the modules in to multi-purpose devices, such as a regular computer mouse that doubles as a blood-pressure or blood-glucose monitoring device.



Microsoft's press release indicates the neo-diginets will be Windows based using on one of VIA's x86-based CPUs (probably Nano since it's due out sometime in late 2009). Microsoft's press release reads, "The popularity of the Windows operating system will make it easy for manufacturers and independent software vendors (ISVs) to create applications and programs for the Fugoo platform."



Hui goes on to say, "These applications will be offered in the form of software building blocks that consumers can mix and match to customize their specific device or appliance." He envisions a common framework for Interface style, much as we all have windows in our computers today with a bar at the top where we can close, expand, minimize, etc. The Fugoo platform interface will be standardized in a similar way.



Some early envisioned applications are refrigerators that monitor what's been added or removed (requiring RFID chips on everything??), thereby automatically generating a weekly shopping list. Or possibly even one more advanced that automatically places the required order from an Internet-connected store that delivers what's needed, even shopping around for the best deals.

Also, a lawn sprinkler that checks the Internet for local weather forecasts to see when it should activate.





Opinion



I don't know where to start. I have no doubt that these kinds of devices are coming ... but are we there yet? And on x86 technology? And how will they be powered? CPUs today require complex and often large power supplies. And even more, I don't care how cheap you make them, CPUs require motherboard resources, BIOS, memory, storage, all of which adds up fast. These kinds of devices will add a large expense to otherwise simple devices. C'mon! A coffee maker?!?



And what about the Internet connection? How will it be made? Will it all be Wi-Fi so my 16-yr old son who loves to play jokes can go around to all of my neighbors' homes reprogramming their neo-diginet'd fish tanks from his car as he drives by, heating them up and boiling all the fish?



I just don't think we're there yet as a species. Of course, that's just my opinion. I could be wrong.