Information appliance

From Academic Kids

An information appliance (IA) is any device that can process information, signals, graphics, animation, video and audio; and can exchange such information with another IA device. Typical devices could be smartphones, smartcard, PDAs, and so on. Digital cameras, ordinary cellular phones, set-top boxes, and LCD TVs are not information appliances unless they become capable of communications and information functions. Information appliances may overlap in definition or are sometimes referred to as smart devices, mobile devices, wireless devices, internet appliances, web appliances, handhelds, handheld devices or smart handheld devices.


Early appliances

For a short while during the middle and late 1980s there were a few models of simple electronic typewriters fitted with screens and some form of memory storage. These devices had some of the attributes of an information appliance. One of these dedicated word processor machines, the Canon Cat was actually designed by Jef Raskin as the forerunner of the idea of the information appliance.

Consumer devices with touch-screen

Information appliances tend to be consumer devices that perform only a few targeted tasks and are controlled by a simple Touchscreen interface or push buttons on the device's enclosure.

Open standard protocols

In an ideal world, any true information appliance would be able to communicate with any other information appliance using open standard protocols and technologies, regardless of the maker of the software or the hardware. The communications aspects and all user interface elements would be designed together so that a user could switch seamlessly from one information appliance to another.

Walled gardens versus open standards

Some vendors are attempting to create "walled gardens" of closed proprietary content for information appliances, leveraging existing proprietary technologies. However, with the exception of NTT DoCoMo's i-mode, these efforts have been less successful than predicted, due to the willingness of most vendors to work together within open standards frameworks, and the pre-existing widespread adoption of open standards such as GSM, IP, SMS and SMTP.

Visionaries and origin

The term Information Appliance was coined by Jef Raskin, one of the original employees of Apple Computer, and the designer of the Canon Cat dedicated word processor mentioned above. The term and the ideas behind it were later explained in detail by Donald Norman in his book The invisible computer. The information appliance is the other type of device that Larry Ellison, Oracle CEO, mentioned, aside from the network computer, that would take over the desktop PC.

Related concepts

The idea of ubiquitous computing is related to the notion of information appliance because both take into account the need to design dedicated, interconnected devices from the ground up, by taking human factors as well as software and hardware issues into account. They differ on other matters such as the importance accorded to social aspects of computing.

See also

Sample devices


  • Norman, Donald. The Invisible Computer: Why Good Products Can Fail, the Personal Computer Is So Complex, and Information Appliances Are the Solution. Boston: MIT Press, 1999. ISBN 0262640414
  • Raskin, Jef. The Humane Interface: New Directions for Designing Interactive Systems. Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, 2000. ISBN 0201379376

External links


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