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Epson Puts PCs On Walls, Lets You Work There

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Here's a wild but great idea: an on-the-wall, 8-foot projected version of your PC's desktop that you control like a giant iPad. Coool!

Projectors these days have become commodities. Makers such as Optoma, Dell (DELL) and Samsung now make zillions of imaging devices, with the "news" being all about trivial stuff such as what's cheaper, brighter and smaller. So when a new idea shows up in business projectors, I pay attention. About a month ago, the Epson BrightLink 450Wi interactive projector (starting at $630) came to the shop. I have been tinkering with it ever since.

The Epson BrightLink 450Wi interactive projector is a business tool that is actually fun to use.

Interactive projectors, sometimes called interactive whiteboards or Smart Boards after the Canadian firm that makes a popular model, take your computer's desktop screen, project it onto a wall and let you control it as you would a touch-based PC.

And while the 450Wi isn't quite presentation perfection, it is a solid step forward for business collaboration and imaging.

WHAT YOU GET The 450Wi is, quite literally, a 96-inch version of your PC, tossed up on just about any wall.

The BrightLink's value proposition is simple: It takes the video output of your business PC and projects a really big image of that content onto a nearby surface. Then, through the use of a battery-operated pointer, it allows for full control of that PC -- opening files, drawing, whatever -- by touching the pen to the projected image on the wall. Want to move a file around on your desktop? Walk over to it -- remember, your desktop is now bigger than you are -- tap on it and drag it across the wall. And once installed (more on that in the second) the BrightLink renders traditional, projectable content such as PowerPoint presentations pretty much obsolete. Why show a presentation when you can show your work? Spreadsheets, Word files and even emails are now presentation-ready. The tool also supports a powerful whiteboard that lets you draw and doodle ideas from scratch.

In all, working on my giant desktop was the most fun I have had in the office is quite some time.

Thinking -- and working -- big for sure released the collaborative juices.

WHAT YOU DON'T GET Plug-and-play, the BrightLink is not.

For an interactive projector, setting up the BrightLink is easy. But by normal projector standards, it is a big job. You must securely mount a bracket that usually hangs from a ceiling. Then install the projector on that bracket. Then run not one, but three, cables to it: power, a video connector and a USB cable. Then install software, calibrate the projector and install pens and remotes. It's by no means impossible, but setup takes a full afternoon -- and some techno chops; most small shops will be better off hiring a pro.

Also, the unit only works in a single room, so there is no moving it around once installed. And all that drives up the cost.

BOTTOM LINE If you believe, as I do, that power corrupts and PowerPoint corrupts absolutely, the BrightLink is for you. For less than $1,000, you send a clear message to your team that presentation is nothing and content is everything.

Seriously, if your business can't have a cool meeting with this type of communications ammo, you have far deeper problems than which projector you use.

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Jonathan Blum is an independent technology writer and analyst living in Westchester, N.Y. He has written for The Associated Press and Popular Science and appeared on Fox News and The WB.

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