Thursday 20 November 2008

Social Hardware

I’ve been a bit quiet this week for a couple of reasons… and one of those reasons is the distraction of getting a new a bit of technology in the shape of an Acer Aspire One netbook.

Now, this post isn’t intended to be a review. But for those of you interested in that sort of thing, I picked the Aspire One over some of the alternatives, like the EEE, primarily because I think the keyboard is a little better (compared to the EEE 900 series). I’m running with the Windows XP (150) version, although I was very tempted to pick the hard drive-less Linux (110) version (there is something elegant about no moving parts). However, while overall I’m very happy with the Aspire One, it is by no means perfect so I’ve been busy tweaking it to my satisfaction.

Luckily to help me in my quest there is plenty of bottom up support from the global Aspire One community, found in blogs, forums and free software – none of it Acer sponsored of course, but all adding tremendous value. This kind of community support for a product is really quite typical now and in fact I would be worried to find a product like the Aspire One or even the EEE where it didn’t exist (a bit like eating at an empty restaurant). This very much reflects the dynamics of participation described by Clay Shirky in his book, Here Comes Everybody because on its own, Acer could never directly manage that level of engagement itself. All it has to do of course is get out of the way and let it happen.

However, another thought did occur to me. Is the hardware itself getting more “social” too? My new netbook doesn’t have built in 3G, but its coming and is already available in some of the higher end laptops. Webcams are almost a standard feature on laptops of all sizes too now. And I was able to add Bluetooth support easily to my Aspire One with a tiny Bluetooth USB dongle. Social hardware, maybe?

Ironically the biggest limitation I’ve found with this netbook is really with the software itself – in a way, this new generation of mini-computers is stuck in limbo – the power of full size computer, missing software that is optimised to a 9 inch screen. This isn’t just Windows either, it affects some Web-based apps too. Still, I’m sure with enough community support the software can only get better. Meanwhile the computer manufacturers can stick to what they are good at – making the hardware more and more social.


  1. Anonymous4:04 am

    The term Social Hardware is not new to me, and it is quite visible on the web, via Google, but my attempt to put up a Social Hardware page on the Wikipedia is likely to fail because they consider it a neologism. It would help if someone could either provide references or argure for it on the Wikipedia talk page.
    Please help!


  2. @dpw I suppose it depends on how you define the term "social hardware"?


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