Back in July, we wrote about our experiences in using a ViewSonic airPanel V110 - one of the new wireless networking devices based on Microsoft's "Windows-powered Smart Display" technology. At the time we said: "We found that it wasn't second nature to think of using the Smart Display (SD)--we would start for the PC first. In a way, this is like the early days of the Web (and online services before that): we'd always go look for a paper catalog or try to call on the telephone, rather than looking online." Our bottom-line assessment then was that SDs are over the bar for usability "but we're not ready to run out to buy one for ourselves."
An interesting thing happened after Microsoft forgot to re-claim the unit for several months. In late August, the unit failed (the battery wouldn't hold a charge), and we suddenly discovered that we missed it! We'd be sitting at lunch or dinner, or out on the deck, wanted to find some information online, and then remember that the SD was not working. Without realizing it, we had integrated the SD into our routines and behavior.
When we got back from speaking at the Broadband World conference in London, Dave called ViewSonic support and in a short time had learned the magic secret to bringing the battery back to life. And we immediately put it to use again.
Then alas, the other shoe dropped and Microsoft's PR agency remembered to re-claim the unit. And so the SD has left our house, but not without an attempt to strike a deal on buying it.
The moral of the story is that technologies--like PVRs and SDs--that call on people to change their behaviors need some time to catch on. They have to get into the hands of early adopters who learn how to use them, and then start building by word of mouth and other means until they finally reach "the tipping point".