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Silvers Summit -- PCs and Ease of Use from HP and Microsoft

Demos dazzle when done right. And a CES/Silvers Summit demo of HP's TouchSmart 'all-in-one' computer (available for the past year) demo'd as an appealing product for boomers and seniors -- starting at $1299.99 on HP's store. Although, the experience of owning one may still benefit from a Geek Squad-like visit for setting it up -- for those who get dizzy when faced with a box full of components. But it is beautiful and appears wonderfully accessible, with its wireless and stowed keyboard, no mouse required, 22 inch touch screen, and has a built in TV tuner so it can double as a digital TV -- a major advantage in my opinion for those who live alone.

See the video on right to hear Michael Takemura, Director of HP's Accessibility Program Office talk about the various products he was demo'ing at SilverSummit including the TouchSmart, which had been pre-loaded with QualiLife browser software -- browsing the internet without a mouse. (As an aside, The TouchSmart PC is also mentioned in a blog by Big Screen Live, which layers a an even more senior-friendly screen user experience with the touch capability.)

Perhaps the cutest product was a mini notebook PC for those boomers and seniors that travel back and forth for weeks at a time visiting their far-flungrelatives -- and want to take something with them. weighs 2.2 pounds, good keyboard, with a price that 'starts' at $349.99, although the recommended configuration costs $424.99 (more screen real estate an actual 60 gb hard drive, versus an 8gb flash drive.)

[A minor digression -- if the configuration is recommended, then why offer the $349.99 'not-recommended, given the small price differential? The HP store website can and probably does generate numerous questions from seniors.]

Michael also showed the Presto printing mailbox (a sleek HP-manufactured device) that enables sending of e-mail messages and pictures, configured to be sent at specific time to individuals who do not have a PC.

Along with Michael Takemura at Silvers Summit, Microsoft's Daniel Hubbell, 'Technical Evangelist' for the Accessible Technology Group at Microsoft, demo'd Microsoft Vista's new Ease of Use Access Center, with a magnifier, text-to-speech, pointer-enabled on-screen keyboard and high contrast lighting. Combine that with Microsoft's Guide for Aging Computer Users (which identifies the features in various Microsoft products, and then my absolute and charming favorite -- the cartoon-based Ten Tips for the Awkward Age of Computing.

As we all know, the PC opens up a doorway to the Internet, photo sharing, e-mail, chatting and all kinds of wonderful ways to reduce isolation and feel part of the world outside the home. That's the good part. It can also be a landmine for seniors of gotcha and gizmo bafflement and frustration that lends a mission to technical support call centers. Silvers Summit demos and the above product set made me feel more hopeful about ease of use for seniors and PC-based connections.

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