Thanks to the expansion of broadband, wireless networking, a new generation of PDAs and software, you now have the ability to multitask at home as you do at work. And, you can clear your couch of the electronic clutter and easily navigate and control your recreational tasks.

Multitask in the Living Room

Anne Price

Want to Multitask in the Living Room?
New Generation of PDAs and Accessories Makes it Simple

Anne Price, for CardonWare

Thanks to the expansion of broadband, wireless networking, a new generation of PDAs and software, you now have the ability to multitask at home as you do at work. And, you can clear your couch of the electronic clutter and easily navigate and control your recreational tasks.


With downsizing and outsourcing in the workplace, almost everyone is being driven to more and more multitasking. Now, according to a recent survey conducted by The Media Center at the American Press Institute, more than 70 percent of TV viewers want to multitask while watching TV. Most of those surveyed wanted to also surf the web, talk on the phone or email, and to read the newspaper - at the same time. The survey didn't mention snacking, but we're betting this would be right up at the top of this multitasking list too.

Two of the technology trends which have expanded the list of living room multitasking options are broadband internet access and wireless networking technology. Today, some 30 million of the 110 million homes in the US have some sort of broadband internet access. More than 10 million homes have wireless networks according to IDC, with a growth rate over 20 percent per year. Together, these two technologies significantly expand the range of activities possible while watching TV. However, each activity seems to fill your couch with yet another piece of electronic gear, leading to a serious case of "couch clutter".

Fig 1 - Multitasking Drives More Intense "Couch Clutter"

Thanks to a new generation of advanced PDAs, software and accessories, you can now clear at least the electronic clutter while multitasking in the living room. These new PDAs, such as the Dell Axim X50 series, offer built-in wireless networking, powerful processors, and multiple expansion slots for accessories. The PDAs make powerful work companions which can help you multitask at work, and now at home. For example, the Dell x50 can easily surf the web, be outfitted to control your TV, stereo and living room lighting, and even host an internet-based phone call to another computer user or land line. Let's look at how this is all possible.

Surfing the web

The Dell X50 represents a new generation of PocketPCs which add significantly faster processors, built-in wireless networking, VGA class screen resolution, and landscape mode viewing options. They also have brighter screens with higher contrast than earlier generation PocketPCs. This combination makes it easier to scroll through web pages and check out the item you just saw in the commercial - perhaps without even using your reading glasses!

Surfing the airwaves

With a universal remote package such as UltraMote® on your PocketPC, you can easily change the channels on your TV, control the volume or start a movie. You can even control an X-10 based set of appliances if you have the X-10 infrared receiver. UltraMote software uses the built-in IrDA port on your PocketPC to send commands to your equipment. And, if you need more infrared range from your Pocket PC, you can get the patent-pending UltraMote Extender® CF card which not only extends your range, but also spreads your commands across a wider range. The built-in IrDA range varies greatly by brand and model of PocketPCs. A comparison guide is available at www.ultramote.com/um/comparisonchart.pdf.

Since UltraMote is a learning infrared remote, you can customize screens for your most popular activities (i.e. watch DVD). UltraMote screens are also skinnable, so you can create your own graphics or utilize pictures to make it easy to find the buttons you need for quick remote control. There are basic button templates available, or you can create your own and really customize your remote screens. You can even customize the "button press" sound with UltraMote.

Calling your Friends

Thanks to software from Skype (www.skype.com), you can also build on these internet, wireless and PDA technologies to make or receive calls right from your PocketPC. With Skype, you can call other computer or PocketPC Skype users for free. You can also call out to land lines by setting up a "Skype Out" account. Unlike first generation PC-based VOIP technology, Skype uses peer-peer innovations and the faster processors available in the newer Pocket PCs, to provide sound quality which rivals or exceeds landline quality, depending upon your networking bandwidth. Check the Skype website for details about PocketPC model compatibility.

Almost all Pocket PCs have built-in microphones and speakers and most allow you to connect headphones for privacy. Some, such as the new Dell x50s, let you connect a full headset similar to those used with most cell phones.

Fig 2 - New Generation of PDAs Enable Handheld Multitasking

Snacking

How can a PocketPC help you with snacking? Well, you could load one of the many diet programs to find out how many calories you just ate, but that defeats the fun of snacking. How about a simple utility which turns your PocketPC into a flashlight? Perfect for finding that lost bag of chips or the popcorn that fell in the crack of the couch! Check out PDALight1.0 at http://www.appliedpda.com/Products_Freeware.html . A simple tap of the screen turns your whole screen white or any of 8 different colors.

Putting it all together

Who would have thought that technology invented for the workplace could be so useful at home? Thanks to the expansion of broadband, wireless networking, a new generation of PDAs and software, you now have the ability to multitask at home as you do at work. And, you can clear your couch of the electronic clutter and easily navigate and control your recreational tasks.


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