A smart coffee cup? A computer that slips into your TV’s HDMI port? Once you start accepting these crazy designs, PCs inside wall warts seem almost…normal.
At Computex Tuesday night, Microsoft showed off a range of PCs designed for Windows 8 and the upcoming Windows 10, including the new notebooks and all-in-ones from the likes of Dell, Hewlett-Packard, and Toshiba.
But there were a couple of other oddities, as well: the Foxconn Kangaroo, which puts a fingerprint scanner inside a NUC-like form factor, and the Quanta Compute Plug (top), which puts an entire PC inside an ordinary power transformer or “wall wart”. And it uses Microsoft’s Cortana as a control mechanism, to boot.
Why this matters: Frankly, Microsoft doesn’t care what a PC looks like, even if it isn’t technically a PC. Microsoft has designed Windows 10 to run on PCs, desktops, notebooks, phones, sensors and other Internet of Things devices. So that can mean devices like Intel’s Compute Stick—and, well, everything else.
A PC hidden in a plug
Quanta, which normally develops computers for third parties, disclosed few details about the new Compute Plug. Microsoft itself described it as “a mini PC and power adapter in one that can be plugged into any outlet and connected to a TV to turn it into a smart computer that can be controlled using Cortana via a Bluetooth remote or headset.” It’s possible that it could be a mashup of Quanta’s existing NH1 stick, which includes a Intel Bay Trail T-CR SoC(Z3735F)7 chip, 2GB of RAM, and up to 64GB of MMC flash storage.
At this point, we’d be a little leery of using Cortana to control a PC full-time, given that its speech recognition can still be a bit wonky. But ordering it to “play Netflix” or surf to a website sounds pretty appealing.
We know even less about the Foxconn Kangaroo, another small form factor PC. Somewhat oddly, the small, flat box includes a fingerprint sensor, leading one to believe that the company expects it to be mounted in public areas. (Otherwise, a fingerprint sensor on a TV-connected PC seems, well, annoying.)
Anyway, the point isn’t that Windows 10 is riding on these form factors, but that the software allows them to be used. As devices shrink and computers become more voice- and gesture-controlled, these types of small-form-factor devices could proliferate.