Saturday, February 23, 2008

Bill Gates an iPhone Fan? EMC’s Cloud; H-P’s Halos

Is Bill Gates a closet admirer of Apple’s keyboard-less iPhone? The Microsoft chairman told an audience at Carnegie Mellon University that he thinks the keyboard will soon go the way of the dodo and that people will interact with computers through touch screens and by speaking. “It’s one of the big bets we’re making,” he said, according to the AP. Gates has repeatedly said that people have a tendency to overestimate how much things will change in two years and underestimate how much they’ll change in 10. In his speech, Gates chose the middle ground, predicting that in five years people will conduct more Internet searches through voice than through typing on a keyboard.

EMC is taking to the clouds. The computer-storage company just bought Pi Corp., a startup with technology that lets people store and access information over the Internet, InfoWorld reports. Most of EMC’s sales come from tech equipment that businesses connect to their own computers and networks. The Pi acquisition is a sign that EMC is preparing for what many pundits expect will be the next big wave of data storage: “cloud computing,” in which businesses store their information on tech equipment run by a single company and access it over the Internet. (For some reason, a cloud is the metaphor of choice for all things Internet; “cloud,” a good thing in tech, is not to be confused with “vapor,” which is a bad thing.) Few businesses store data this way today, but EMC is betting that they will in the future. The company also launched an entire division dedicated to the cloud.

H-P says it doubled the number of “Halo Rooms” it sold last year. The rooms, fancy video facilities that cost $249,000 to buy — plus monthly fees — are supposed to make video conferencing more like a traditional meeting. But don’t look at the sales trends and think that a halo conference is in your future: H-P has sold only 140 of the rooms since they went on sale in December 2005, Reuters reports. H-P notes that 80% of its Halo purchasers are repeat customers, which makes sense, considering that you need at least two Halo Rooms to have a video conference.

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