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Phone n’ Computer: teaming up an information appliance with a PC


Facing the ever growing complexity and usability problems of the PC, some propose specialized computers as a solution, while others argue that such “information appliances” are unnecessary. Rather than pitting information appliances and PCs against each other, we argue instead for exploring the design space in using them together. We experimented with a device teaming approach that takes advantage of both types of devices: the familiar and high bandwidth user interface of the PC, and the task specific form factors of an information appliance. In our experimentation, we designed and developed a phone n’ computer (PnC) by teaming up an IP phone with a general-purpose PC. We outline the design space for such a combination and describe several point designs we created that distribute functions between the two devices according to their characteristics. In comparison to separately using phones and computers, our designs provide new and richer user experiences including Drop-to-Call, sharing visual information, and caller information display.

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We thank our colleagues Jon Graham, John Tang, John Barton, Steve Ferrell, Tom Moran, Steve Cousins and Barton Smith. The work was performed when Min Yin worked at IBM Research—Almaden.

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Correspondence to Shumin Zhai.

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Yin, M., Pierce, J. & Zhai, S. Phone n’ Computer: teaming up an information appliance with a PC. Pers Ubiquit Comput 14, 601–607 (2010).

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  • Phone
  • Information appliance
  • Device integration