Sunday, March 09, 2008

Wireless PowerPoint presenters are all the rage right now, with one staff member after another buying one of these handy little devices for themselves. They're fun to use in lectures as we can untether ourselves from our mouse or keyboard and interact eyeball-to-eyeball with our audience, or at least get as close as our microphone cord will let us, without having to run back and click a button every time we need to advance our slides. When I braved the crowds at the IT Show today, that was one item on my shopping list.

The Logitech one I had my eye on, unfortunately was not on display. But I found an iSmart one, a totally brand new model that looked a lot sleeker than any other I've seen before. It was slightly longer and fatter than a fountain pen with the control buttons all within easy reach of the thumb. It had the standard advance-back buttons, in-unit USB receiver storage, a laser pointer and a couple of additional features. It functioned as a remote mouse using an in-built joystick and it also had a 128Mb internal memory for storing ppt files so there's no need to lug around a separate portable hard drive unit.

A couple of quick phone calls later and I had two more orders (from Jane and Jon) to add to mine. And then it all went horribly wrong.

The first unit I tested worked fine, but the second, third and fourth units all refused to communicate with the demo tablet PC at all. No one could get the cursor to move with the remote joystick at all. What took the cake was when the increasingly flustered vendor tried out the fifth unit, the cursor on the OTHER demo laptop moved instead. By this time, June was tugging my sleeve and quite audibly suggesting that we "go have lunch first."

I'm curious to discover the cause of this unbelievable cascade failure. Since each remote has its unique receiver, could there have been some mix-up in the packing of the units? I kinda' felt bad for the vendor. While I'm quite used to experiencing such monumental embarrassments on a regular basis, most lesser mortals might actually take it to heart.

These things don't generally occur at a product fair like this, so there's only two explanations that I'll accept: 1) Murphy strikes again, and/or 2) gremlins. Shoulda' remembered to lock them up before I left the house this morning. Net result: no sale.

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