These days there are all kinds of furniture product for you
to put your computer on, or in. Every pine store now has a
range of desks and cabinets - some OK, some outstandingly grim -
that do the job. But good quality design is hard to come
And if you've found something that looks OK, once you put
your PC on top any sense of coherent design usually flies out
the window. For a start, most PCs are plain ugly.
And for seconds, you've probably also got an array of kit (box,
big fat monitor, printer, scanner) and an unfathomable spaghetti
of wires joining them all together. But does it have to be
Style on the outside, technology on the inside. This is
the motto of PowerDesk, a company producing "intelligent
furniture" for the office and the home office.
David Gilbert, Managing Director of PowerDesk International,
almost literally stumbled across the idea when setting up
computers in the office of his furniture company in the
mid-nineties. "I fell off the back of a desk trying to sort out
the wires at the back", he told Flexibility, at the 2003
Flexible Working Solutions Conference. "And being a cabinet
maker, I knew all about the wasted space at the back of desks,
behind the drawers. So I thought, 'Why not put the
computer inside the desk?'" And so the PowerDesk concept
Instead of having a separate PC tower, the idea was that
everything would be built into the structure of the desk, saving
room and avoiding the need for lots of external cabling. Thus
was born the first integrated desk computer. David had the
advantage of being both a manufacturer of quality furniture and
a computer enthusiast doing his own software development,
enabling him to invent an "interdisciplinary" product.
||There are a variety of styles available -
the Classic range (see below), including Georgian and
Regency designs, and modern styles (as illustrated in the
home office example, left).
All have a simple elegance, and aim to provide the use with
an uncluttered workspace with a flat monitor, concealed
hardware and a keyboard that slides away when not in use.
The PCs can also be upgrade - and perhaps
this is easier to do than with a normal PC. The
surface of the desk can be unlocked and swings open, like an
old-fashioned school desk, allowing access to the innards -
no fumbling around with screws here.
The desks are also
customisable - from minor modifications to the standard
models at the customer's request, to completely bespoke
solutions. Examples of such bespoke solutions provided to
clients include reception desks with integrated PCs, and a
boardroom desk including a dozen built-in computers.
Who's buying them?
||The desks are becoming
particularly popular with hotels, and with large
organisations in both the public and private sector, from
banks on the one hand to libraries on the other.
include Hilton, DeVere Marriot and Mandarin Oriental hotels.
The home office market is also growing - and for
corporate flexible workers may prove to be ideal, offering
both security and physical protection.
Prices start from about £3k - which is a bit more than you'd
pay if you buy something on special offer from PC World and
stick it on a flat-pack desk from MFI. But given that
you'd be paying upward of £2k for a decent quality desk, the
pricing seems appropriate if you prefer to go a little upmarket.
At Flexibility we think this is a concept with legs,
as they say. With more people working from home and for
longer, a good home office environment is important. And
as well as the hotels and financial institutions, we can see
applications for building in computing to the design of
modernised public institutions, such as law courts and council
chambers. And wouldn't our legislators be more efficient
and look more professional if they worked at desks like these,
rather than waving around those tatty bits of paper as they
slump on those anti-ergonomic leather benches?
|In the quest for ever greater computing power,
design is something that is often viewed very narrowly - simple
variations on a very "boxy" theme.
Here we profile the
innovative approach of PowerDesk and the products, who claim to
"offer the stylish solution to modern living, by harnessing the
cabinet-maker's art with state-of-the-art technology".
The innards of the computer are neatly tucked
away, but accessible for maintenance and upgrade