Electronic Design

Next-Generation PCs Take Top Prizes

You can forget about the boring box-monitor-keyboard setup on your desktop. Some new ideas are on the way, courtesy of the Next Generation Windows OS PC Design Competition. Sponsored by Microsoft and the Industrial Designers Society of America, this contest drew 195 entries and countless ideas as innovators created prototypes that could lead to the next wave of personal computing.

Sungho "Oho" Son, a graduate student in Purdue University's Industrial Engineering program, teamed with Purdue visual and performing arts professor Scott Shimm to win the $50,000 Judge's Award. Inspired by a friend's bulky collection of DVDs, their Bookshelf design streamlines the storage and enjoyment of digital media (Fig. 1).

Its foundation is a central processing unit housed in a 7-in. cube. Consumers then would add hard-drive attachments that include movies, music, games, magazines, or whatever. While these attachments would vary in width, their other dimensions would match the cube's height and depth. The system eventually would resemble a real bookshelf as users add or remove drives.

The concept has been tried before. But the Bookshelf's interchangeable attachments control digital content rights and management. Users could purchase, borrow, or rent secure attachments with preloaded content-management functions. Or, digital content could be downloaded from a provider's server—but not transferred to—a compatible PC by slipping the attachment into the expandable shelf unit.

Next, Microsoft chairman Bill Gates personally selected the winner of the $50,000 Charman's Award, Prashant Chandra's sChOOL Pak (Fig. 2). This design targets students who need a portable PC for schoolwork. Gates selected the device because it addresses many of his own concerns, including technology's integration into education and the need to help citizens of underserved countries cross the "digital divide."

The sChOOL Pak includes limited storage and networking, but it's enough for academic work. Instead of hard drives, it includes slots so users can plug in digital textbooks and notebooks, which could be stored on lightweight digital cards. It also features two screens. Based on the Tablet PC, the lower screen captures handwritten notes. Users can read text and other materials on the upper screen.

Chandra also considered his teenage market when he crafted its exterior. Instead of a traditional, business-like laptop casing, the sChOOL Pak comes in a replacable rubberized shell that can take the abuse of a typical school day. The shell also features a hip design and straps so users can wear it like a backpack.

The competition then opened up the voting with two $25,000 Public Choice Awards. Clemens Lango earned the prize with a portable electronic device called Janet that supports traveling and communication. Marcial Ahsayane won the other award for Be Free, a compact and round PC that's very versatile and transportable.

"Competitions like this are important to young professionals like me to test, analyze, and improve our design skills," said Son. "These competitons give every design enthusiast a very fair, equal, and just opportunity to make his idea 'speak' and get some much wanted recognition."

Next Generation Windows OS PC Design Competition

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