Dear Microsoft, we need kitchen computers, but they also need to be cheaper and smarter


8, 2016

Lenovo YOGA Home 310

With rumours swirling around a Surface-branded all in one PC I can’t help feel in this case Microsoft is somewhat out of touch with the market.

I already have a laptop, and if you opt for a desktop PC it is unlikely you will settle for a less powerful All In One. What I really want is a PC for the kitchen.

The use case of a PC in the kitchen is pretty attractive – be it for recipes, entertainment, family coordination and communication, but the fact remains that we spend very little time in that room, vs the 8 hours per day we spend working on your PC, or the other 8 we spend clutching our smartphone. And when something gets little use we are not very willing to spend a lot of money on it.

A PC in the kitchen is attractive but only has limited utility – we have coped for centuries without one, and it is unlikely to fundamentally change what we do there.  For that reason it needs to be cheap – ideally less than 300 dollars, but still with a large-enough screen to be useful (probably more than 24 inches, the resolution is not that important.)

Also the interface needs to be adapted to the use case, meaning voice and gesture, not touch or keyboard, neither of which would not work very well with greasy fingers. In fact the kitchen is the ideal testing ground for a next generation user interface, vs demanding we use voice and touch when our hands are already on the keyboard and mouse.

Now you could easily roll our own hardware with a cheap 24 inch screen, a HDMI-based stick PC, a cheap webcam and some free software for well under $300, but of course it will ultimately be rather clunky and see little use by the target market.  The whole concept of a cheap low margin PC itself is not very attractive to OEMs and not something Microsoft aspires to with its Surface brand.

Conversely however a Surface-branded All In One PC will likely be a premium product with very limited sales, due to being tethered permanently to one position, and therefore also less useful.

If Microsoft is to increase their contact point with consumers (not necessarily the goal of the company these days) they need to break into new consumer markets, and one of those very under-served markets is one of the most important rooms in your home.

A kitchen PC with a next-gen user interface could be Microsoft’s Amazon Echo, but only if Microsoft price it right, and do the work necessary to adapt the user interface.

Do our readers agree there is room in the market for a cheap, limited-use PC for use in the kitchen, or should Microsoft leave this market well enough alone? Let us know below.

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