I just bumped into HP's Agile Computing intitiative, which they apparently started (or announced) in 2002. It's an interesting perspective, a beginning, of creating systems of smart objects, rather than individual smart objects. I'm pretty much convinced that people's changing relationships to technology and the possibilities offered by the power of new technolgies, are going to necessitate a rethinking of design from single object to object system. HP's initiative seems to be a technological platform for this, and their Cooltown project seems to be an attempt at creating applications for this. I really agree with the core idea, which is articulated well by Jim Rowson:
We are proposing with the agile model that appliances be designed to be single-purpose in an ergonomic sense (it should be simple and natural to use and fit with the constraints of the human form) but general-purpose in an application sense.
And although there seems to be some amount of confusion (PDF) around the "agile computing" term and what it means in practice, it's clear that the idea of computation as being a generic service that the user is supposed to know what to do with (the old "buy an electric motor and make attachments for it" model) is going away. The new model, a reaction to people's animist expectations for technology, is to create interactive, mutually-aware systems of task-focused devices (much like how blenders, vacuum cleaners and drill presses replaced electric motor attachments).
Hell, while we're on the a's in the term-coining game, I'll coin mine: I hearby define any group of mutually-aware computational devices as being an animist system. ;-)