Consumer driven innovation: What a wonderful world …

As I look at personal technology in the past decade or less, something jumped out at me and most probably you see it also. The rate at which technology is evolving is phenomenal and simply amazing. We live in wonderful times. However, its usually a general feeling that I am sure we all have, but here I tried to sit down and kind of analyze it from my personal perspective. In this blog I will look at the following tech areas that in my mind has amazed me to no ends: TVs, gaming, smart phones and tablets.

As you will see, each of these areas have had accelerated innovation due to the consumers and we should kind of feel proud to be part of the generation thats driving this revolution and probably the ones that started it.

I will start with my personal experience with TVs. I decided to purchase a flat screen TV 4 years back. At the time, I had to choose between plasma and LCD and after doing my research, I found plasma to better suit my needs and I got that. 4 years later, I am trying to get a second TV for my home theater and when I looked, the choices have completely changed – LCD, LED, OLED, 3D, HD, Smart TV, Google TV…. Are you kidding me???? It s just been 4 years !!!!! It took 55-60 years for the industry to move from commercial CRT TV to LCD and another 15 years for LCD TVs to get mainstream. And now we have moved on to 3-4 completely different tech in 4 years???? Wow!!!!

The CRT TV - a monument. This is what my 1st TV looked like. Wikipedia already talks about the demise of CRT in 2000.

This is probably what my next TV is going to look like. 0.11 inch thick !!!

Next up, Gaming. I fondly remember my first video game.

My first video game

It was a small Nintendo hand held with Mickey Mouse trying to put out the fire. It had a small keypad to control the game. And the video game parlors I went to (Wonderland in Patna) had big games with similar controllers. Next came the generation of ATari games with the same type of controller, and for next 20-25 years, the controllers with direction pad and action keys stuck on all leading game consoles including the PS2s, DS, PSPs XBoxs and PS3.

But then came the iphone and the Wii, the game changers – literally. iPhone allowed you to control the game by tilting your phone and Wii had wireless controllers that let you more realistically interact with the game. I was planning to buy the Wii and I kept putting it off. Now, after a year, when I finally made the decision to buy a gaming console, voila – I have 3 choices – Wii, PS3 Move and XBox Kinect !!!!! Are you kidding me ? With no changes for almost 30 years, we go from a keypad to motion based to wireless controllers to NO controllers in 3-4 years????? Wow !!!!!!

Modern Day Game
Controllers – Wireless and controller less !!!

Next, the cellphones/smartphones. If you have read my blog, you know I was an early adapter and I got an HP ipaq, the smart without the phone, 6 years back. I was probably the only one in the office with that class of device. I then got the HTC 8525 phone and again I was one of the few with a smartphone in my circle. Then,came iPhone and rest as they say is History. 4 years after it’s launch, iPhone is one of the many many smart phones that’s available in the market and almost everyone I know has a smartphone. That was fast !!!!!

1st Cell Phone

iPhone4

Lastly, the Tablets. For almost 35 years, a few tablet PCs were released in the commercial market without much fanfare and all of them died a slow death. And then came the phenomenon called the iPad. A year after it’s launch, there will probably be 50 models of tablet computers that will available in the market with the cheapest one costing you $100 !!!!! 50 models ???? In 1 year??? You have to have to be kidding me.

Capt. Picard using the PADD in Star Trek: TNG , predicted
to happen in the 24th century
My son
with the iPad, the day it was launched in April, 2010.

And I am pretty sure, similar stories can be told about various techs (e.g CPUs & memory – remember 15 MHz and 500 MB hard disks? Cameras etc). So what happened ? We happened. In the 1960s and therein, most of the innovations that happened in the tech industry had to be funded by the government, mostly in the defense lab. There was never a consumer base big enough which would adapt to a new technology and thus it never made fiscal sense to innovate in the consumer space. Defense was where the money was and most of the tech developed there became the Country’s strategic asset and took a long time to reach the consumers.

Contrast this to today where the consumer base has evolved to such an extent that a relatively new technology like an iPad sold more than 10 million units in less than 1 year !!! 10 Million early adopters??? We have come a long way and in all the examples above, it was the success of the products (LCDs or Wii or iphone or iPad) among consumers that drove the innovation and is going to be the driver for future. Of course, the advancement in hardware technologies plays a big part, but at the end of the day, its the consumers who are driving that too.

So expect great things to emerge in near future and be thankful for this Wonderful World for the gadget lovers …..

 

Advertisements

Why I stopped Blogging… Or Did I ?

I started blogging in the winter of 2009 and the reason for starting that was a combination of the fact that I had some free time and I was passionate about couple of things in life – family and gadgets !!!! And of course, I felt that I had something to share on the topic. Another reason was the desire to record my experiences for future nostalgia 🙂

However, I almost completely stopped blogging in Jan of 2010. So what happened? Well, I used to have the free time to blog during my commute hours (I was taking the bus to office). So, of course, when I started driving to office, the blog entries dried up since its a bit tough to drive and type 🙂

So, here I was feeling a bit guilty about not blogging but then realized that I was actually blogging all along and probably so have you without realising. Back in Oct 2008, Wired ran a post on how traditional blogging is being replaced by social/micro blogging. And of course, I then realised that’s what happened when I stopped writing my blog entries. In the past year, my facebook wall has approximately 150 entries with multiple photos and videos to boot. I have been social blogging without realising it. In the same period, I had approx. 60 twitter entries (I am not that big a twitter fan). So, I have also been micro blogging a bit and not realized that either.

Thus facebook and twitter has been filling my need to express my experiences and thoughts with a close-knit audience as well as maintaining a pretty good record of the precious moments in life. It filled the need that was previously filled by the blog entries.

However, one major flaw or quality (depends on how you look at it) of social/micro blogging is how it mirrors the fast pace of our lives. Traditional blogs represent a more thoughtful reflection of the life we live and moments / things we enjoy. On the other hand, Social / micro blog is  most often a quick judgement on many things with perhaps little thought / reflection or explanation, which is a sad parallel to the lives we live today. This is  perhaps one of the reasons that I will try and write traditional blogs more often again. Lets hope I don’t get lost again in the hustle and bustle we call life today.

Apple Ipad: The ultimate review

Now that Krish has preempted me with his amazing  ipad review, I finally needed to get this in. On that note, here is the review of the magical device. If you followed my blog upto April of last year, you already know that I quite accurately predicted the advent of this device and it’s characteristics and its name. I pre ordered the iPad and received it the day it was launched and the world would never be same again …..

When Steve Jobs introduced the device, he said that this was a magical device. And he got a lot of flak for his hyperbolism. But he was right (Here I am, protecting him again :)). If you know Clarke’s third law of prediction – Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.. I would thus argue that the iPad is a sufficiently advanced piece of tech to be almost magical.

Back in Jan, 2010, I would have been called too too futuristic or crazy, if I would have told you that there would be a small tablet like device on which you can watch movies, listen to songs, browse the web, do all your email and get all your calendars, read all the newspapers ( which have embedded slide shows and videos) , watch TV, create sketches, create and show presentations, do excel and word,  play interactive games and listen to nursery rhymes for my kid and read rich multimedia books and magazines,  remotely control your TV, Mac, PC or remotely control a flying barracuda helicopter or your car…….

But that device did come into being and as I have used it over the period of last 8 months, I have been astonished again and again with its magic. The device is so versatile and I have utilized it for so many things that I can’t list out all of it. But, here is a rundown of the major things that I use it for:

  • Read my morning newspaper on it (There are apps for USA Today, NYT, WSJ, NDTV and a ton more)
  • Carry all my office documents on it. Yes, as my colleagues will tell you, I have gone virtually paper free. For a while I was keeping count, and I saved 6500 pages of printouts in the first 2 months of it’s use.
  • Create and give presentations on it. The Keynote app is very decent and the iPad connects to a projector for big screen presentations.
  • Take all my notes on it. You can maintain a notebook (I use an excellent app called Penultimate) and the document management app ( Goodreader) let’s you write on documents.
  • Get my mail and calendar – it’s hooked up to my work email as well as gmail/ yahoo/ hotmail.
  • Watch Movies n TV on it. You have Youtube, iTunes, Netflix and Hulu Plus on it. What else do you need?
  • Listen to radio (Pandora, last.fm, NPR, hutke radio etc.)
  • There is bunch of interactive, learning kids apps n books that Krish simply loves.
  • There are very nice games on it. My personal favorites are FIFA, NFS, Avatar, Warchess, Angry Birds, Scrabble and Tiger Woods. But there are bunch more, probably a few thousand more….
  • There are many apps that lets you remotely control other devices. The remote app let’s me control my apple tv, then there is vnc for my iMac n rdp for my PC.
  • Read books n comics on it !!!!! This is just an amazing device for reading comic books.
  • Write blogs, like the one I am writing right now.

And I could go on and on and on. There are > 50,000 apps just for the ipad and growing by few thousands every day . The possibilities are endless.

So, what’s unique about this device? I will admit that there were other devices out there before this which could do some of the things that this does. But this is truly the first one which could do so many things and could do it so well and is so portable, almost like a book. True to The Apple spirit, this device is  true PERSONAL technology accessory. The interface / software is simply gorgeous and a pleasure to use. Also, the fact that you could easily take it anywhere with you means that you are freed from the shackles of the desk.

The ipad is so ahead of it’s times, that other companies will not be coming out with a viable competing product even after an year since its launch and in today’s tech world, that is an eon. And as per this report, in all  probability, we won’t see any comparable product for sometime to come.

We have had tablets before. But there was never a one that was packaged so right in terms of content, form and price. The iPad has started a new generation of devices that will soon flood the market. In due course, there might be viable alternatives, but this is where it all started, with a little bit of magic….