TUESDAY, DECEMBER 21, 2004
Five for '05
The end of the year isn't quite here yet, but so many of you will be checking out for the remainder of it, that this will be my last column for 2004. I'm about to check out just like you!
But as I look at the year ahead, I think that about five technologies will break out in 2005 (probably more, but I'm in love with the wordplay).
- Windows Media Center will kick some ass. It's too good an idea not to. The more I play with Media Center PCs, the more I realize this is the way to go when it comes to manipulating TV. The world already knows Windows, so this embraces and extends that base. Cable companies will continue to capture a lot of DVR market, too, but for the more aggressive home entertainment buff, Media Center will grow up in 2005.
- Cars will become tech toys. We still don't quite think of them as tech products yet, even though they are rapidly getting saturated in it. There are more than 40 digital technologies you can touch and play with in cars today--not counting arcane stuff such as fuel injection, ABS, SRS, and that sort of thing. Watch for the car marketers to lean hard on technology in their message next year.
- Convergence will simmer down. We've seen a lot of really cool merged devices: the Treo, Pocket PCs, Archos media jukeboxes, and so on. But I think we're at an apex. In this case, it's that same old apex where the tech-savvy people have all bought one, and the rest of the world stays away in droves. I'm not saying it's right, but it's just reality that a highly converged gadget has to climb two formidable mountains:
- consumer fear that one part of it will get obsolete before the rest, and
- reaching enough people who are in the market for all of those functions at the same time.
- Hot spots won't be. At least as we currently think of them, the hot spot won't be very hot in 2005. Having to walk somewhere and stand there while computing is counterproductive. Next year, we'll see hot spots merge like beads of mercury, becoming wide swaths of hot spottage. It's the only way to attract normal people, not just the tech nuts who actually will synchronize a Starbucks run with their e-mail duties and coffee-break schedule to tie all three together.
- Spam, viruses, and phishing will kill us. Sorry to say, I don't see the end of this. And while I don't predict the end of the Internet or any such nonsense, I do think we'll be walking around next year with so many levels and vendors of protection software slapped on our connections that it will rob us of a lot of the spontaneity that makes network communication seem like magic. And that's a shame.
So with that, I leave you for the year and hope that 2004 has been technically interesting, though fraught with few bum steers, and that we were helpful in sorting things out so that you could concentrate on real life.
TalkBack | Read all comments MONDAY, DECEMBER 20, 2004
You, the iPod star
Ever wanted to be one of those shadow figures in the iPod ads, trancing out, whipping your head from side to side with a limber neck musculature that's possible only thanks to underground club drugs? Built upon that desire (for the iPod shadow-figure look, not the club drugs) is a site called ipodmyphoto.com
I'd say it's a cottage industry, but it's not that big. This virtual team of three graphic designers based in Vancouver, Rhode Island, and Washington, D.C., take any photo you send them and make it look like an iPod ad
I sent them one of my stock CNET pictures for iPodification. Thanks to the rather improbable pose, it's pretty funny. Reminiscent of I Dream of Jeannie,
in fact. Disturbing.
Sure, any number of you Photoshop jockeys out there could do this yourselves and save $20, but why? For most of us, it's worth 20 bucks to save hours of screwing around with gamma, hue shifts, masks, saturation filters, and who knows what else to make a picture look like an iPod ad. It's like figuring out the Colonel's secret recipe: You could do it, but why? For a few bucks, he'll handle the perfect seasoning of the carcass of a brutalized bird and you can focus on what you
do for a living.
After you get your iPodified image, you can do what you want with it, such as having it screened on a coffee mug or a T-shirt (ipodmyphoto.com says it offers such gifts, but I'm damned if I can find them on the site). You'll have a hit holiday gift that is emblematic of our times, a big hoot, and, once Apple's lawyers draft that inevitable cease and desist order, a rare collectible.
TalkBack | Read all comments Don't toss your stamps just yet
This has been the year of media decency complaints: Americans are up in arms about Opie & Anthony, Janet Jackson, Bubba the Love Sponge, Married by America, Howard Stern, and all the other media personalities that aren't interesting enough to make a living doing anything except the cheaply outrageous. (I played in that arena for 10 years, and I can vouch for it being easy money.)
Unfortunately, the "outraged Americans" in this case may be just a few hundred people, members of the Parents Television Council
. Online trade mag MediaWeek has an interesting piece
about how this group has done a masterful job of motivating its members in an onslaught of Internet-based bitching to the FCC. It may have been well-crafted Internet technology--and not actual widespread concern--that drove the increase in complaints about broadcast decency from 350 gripes in 2001 all the way up to 240,000 complaints in 2003.
Now, I don't come at this situation with the strident one-sided view that typifies most issues today. I think there is
a whole bunch of garbage out there, with more on the way as broadcasters compete with unregulated sources such as the Internet and satellite radio. But I also hate to see lobbying groups like the PTC make a sham of Internet-delivered feedback. We have not yet arrived at a time when e-mail and Web-form feedback to your government is taken quite seriously--and at this rate, we may never. The powers that be are already suspicious that Internet input is too easy to post, too easy to game. And when MediaWeek uncovers stories like this, it confirms those fears big time. Thanks, PTC.
Like spam-free e-mail, I fear that we've already lost this one. It's so easy to generate a 10,000-click response about an issue, so much harder to get 10,000 letters written, signed, stamped, and mailed. Those who regulate and govern know this. So hang onto your stamps. When it really matters, use one.
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