I was quite surprised to see that Microsoft had come up with the idea of a “family-aware clock” with a hand for each member of the family that points at their location. See, I remember reading about that clock before – there’s one in the Weasley’s house, remember?
It had nine golden hands, and each of them was engraved with one of the Weasley family’s names. There were no numerals around the face, but descriptions of where each family member might be. “Home,” “school,” and “work” were there, but there was also “travelling,” “lost,” “hospital,” “prison,” and, in the position where the number twelve would be on a normal clock, “mortal peril.” (The Goblet of Fire, Chapter ten)
I wonder whether publishing an idea in a book gives J. K. Rowling legal rights to the idea? Though clearly the Weasley’s clock uses magic rather than location data from mobile phones to plot the wherabouts of the family. This is the kind of ambient device I’d be happy to own. Imagine how calm you’d feel when your child had been gone a little too long but you could see at a glance that she wasn’t in mortal peril?
I read about the clock at Textually.org, where there was a link to a Harry-Potter-ignorant article. A search quickly found plenty of Harry Potter fans surprised at Microsoft’s not mentioning the rather obvious source of their idea. Seeing how the Microsoft version has even copied the design of the movie clock, I’m going to assume the journalist misrepresented this rather than that Microsoft would actually claim to have come up with the idea independently.