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Innovation Fuels Passion in Next-Gen PC Design Competition


Designers go beyond the beige box to dream up groundbreaking new PC designs that enable people to pursue their passions.

or industrial design student Avery Holleman, the inspiration for his award-winning entry in this year’s Microsoft-sponsored Next-Gen PC Design Competition struck late one evening as he chewed over prospective form factors for his design concept.

“When I started the Next-Gen PC Design project, I laid out every idea I had about current and future technology and how it could influence the design of the PC,” recounts Holleman, a senior studying industrial design at California State University, Long Beach. “From there I put together several conceptual models, including one that used wireless connections to separate the interface from the PC.”

“I had an idea about a system where the user would be able to interact with any number of interfaces connected to the same network.”

“I felt I had good ideas. But they needed a package.”

While contemplating a square he’d drawn out as the display for his device, the form it should take suddenly took shape before his eyes. “I realized it looked like a napkin.”

“That moment the idea came together,” he recalls. “What if all of the technology I had been thinking about was packed into a napkin or into many napkins, and they worked together like my original idea? That became the Napkin PC.”

In popular imagination, the humble napkin is, of course, much more than an absorbent piece of tissue for dabbing one’s mouth between the main courses of a restaurant meal. It’s an impromptu idea pad for sketching out business plans, design blueprints and other creative endeavors over strategic dinnertime conversations. Holleman knew he was onto something that would resonate widely with creative professionals.

“I loved the idea because everyone knows about napkin sketches, so I knew that it would be easy to immediately connect with the concept.”

One person it struck a chord with was Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates, who knows a thing or two about business plans. In addition to being awarded first place by the Next-Gen PC Design Competition’s distinguished panel of expert judges, drawn from the ranks of leading international industrial designers, Holleman’s Napkin PC concept also earned the distinction of winning the Chairman’s Award, handpicked by Gates. Holleman received $20,000 in prize money for both accolades.

Now in its fourth year, the Next-Gen PC Design Competition, endorsed by the Industrial Designers Society of America (IDSA) and the International Council of Societies of Industrial Design (ICSID), throws down the gauntlet to budding industrial designers and seasoned professionals working in the field worldwide to apply their ingenuity, design prowess and creative flair and vision to the task of not merely give existing computing form factors a superficial makeover, but fundamentally rethinking the PC as we know it from the ground up.

For Microsoft, the competition affords an invaluable opportunity to identify fresh design talent and foster dialog and collaboration between design professionals and the PC industry – interaction that is increasingly important amid the emergence of user experience as a key driver of technology adoption.

This year’s competition issued an open call to entrants to dream up futuristic PC designs that give a new lease of life to people’s passions, such as travelling, music or photography. Contestants were challenged to come up with groundbreaking designs, not only featuring eye-catching aesthetics, but melding cutting-edge hardware with the latest software to empower people to follow their passions.


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