The kitchen laptop computer had an unfortunate encounter with a full mug of tea. As it cost $499 about 1.5 years ago, it can probably be regarded as a write-off. Rather than providing retraining and a 709 ride for household members, I was thinking it might be nice to redesign the installation to expose only a monitor and keyboard, with a brick underneath a desktop. One of the uses of this laptop was Skype video chat. So I went shopping for monitors at hp.com and dell.com and found that none of the nicer monitors, e.g., 27″, include webcams. I would think that nearly everyone who has a home PC would want to the option of using it for videoconferencing. I would think that nearly everyone who buys a nicer monitor would want to avoid clipping an afterthought webcam onto the top of the monitor. So how come it is nearly impossible to buy a monitor with built-in webcam, microphone, and maybe even speakers? A competitive market is not supposed to result in 20 different vendors all selling identical products, is it?
In the laptop world, it is almost impossible to buy a machine without a webcam. Similarly in the all-in-one PC world, both Macintosh and Windows; they all have webcams to support videoconferencing.
My one theory: the standard monitor interface is the DVI cable, which cannot support both the pixels coming up and the USB traffic going back. I don’t think this problem is insurmountable (and I’m not even sure that I’m right about what the extra pins in DVI can do), however, as it is possible to buy a bundled DVI and USB cable. Also, a lot of monitors, including the four-year-old Dell 30″ monitor I’m using right now, have USB ports.
[Update: After drying out for 8 hours, the Toshiba laptop booted up Windows Vista, ripped a CD from its optical drive, pulled Web pages from the Internet with Google Chrome, etc. The keyboard is kind of mushy, but I’m hoping it will revive. If not, I guess I can raise the laptop up on a phone book (more ergonomic anyway) and attach a USB keyboard. I’m somewhat amazed that a $499 computer can handle a full mug of near-boiling tea; hardware engineers are a lot smarter than software engineers!]