"A New York-based company developing fuel cells for consumer electronics devices says it has started commercial production of a fuel cell-based recharger for Microsoft. Medis Technologies produced the first Microsoft-branded rechargers on Friday, according to its chief executive, Robert Lifton. "It's the first commercial sale for our company and we believe the first commercial sale in quantity for the industry," he said. Fuel cells produce electricity through a chemical reaction, typically involving methanol, although Medis says its devices use a proprietary alkaline fuel. One day researchers hope to fit fuel cells inside products like mobile phones and music players, enabling the devices to be recharged in much the same way a lighter is replenished with a squirt of fuel. Fuel cells aren't yet small enough to be integrated inside products, however, so their first use is coming as rechargers offering the ability to replenish a dead battery when the user is away from an electrical socket. The product Medis is supplying to Microsoft is just such a device."
Well, we've been hearing about them for years, and now it seems fuel cells may be closer than ever to realization. With Microsoft buying an undisclosed amount of fuel cell chargers from Medis, a fuel cell Zune charger seems like a logical application. I could also see them charging pocket PCs and even Xbox controllers. However, I have one problem with fuel cells: If the airlines won't even let me on board with a cigarette lighter, what are the odds they'd let me on with a fuel cell? Pretty slim. I also really wouldn't enjoy refilling it with methanol when necessary. To use another lighter analogy, there's a reason why disposable lighters outsell refillable ones 20 to 1: People don't want to refill them. They want to use 'em up and throw 'em away, adding needless mass to our landfills. So while fuel cells may seem like a godsend to some, they seem like more trouble than they're worth to others. I'd much rather carry a rechargeable battery charger or use some foresight and keep my stuff charged. But that's just me. ;-)