Tag Archives: Technology

Five things I’m thinking about right now

Following on from Matt, Alice, Ben and Dan

1. Computing is heading towards a new, simplified era.

I’ve written about this before, but fundamentally: we’re on the cusp of a revolution in simplicity. Easy to use touch interfaces are the final piece of the jigsaw, and will devices easier to use than ever before.

2. The most important thing about the iPad is the battery life.

Yes, it’s a lovely screen and runs great apps and its easy to use. But none of this would matter if it didn’t also have the ability to be thrown in a bag at the start of the day and not plugged in again till the end. Not having to consider power makes a massive difference in how usable a device is. It’s the one thing about the iPad that really lifts it from cool toy to essential.

3. When it comes to broadband, speed is less important than always-on.

Yes, it’s great to have 50Mbits/sec pipes into your home. But it’s much, much more of a game-changer when you have 1Mbits/sec on a mobile device that you carry everywhere. Ubiquity trumps speed.

4. In five years time, not using your own name is going to look as old-fashioned as an AOL-style handle now.

Hundreds of millions of users have got used to the idea that they use their own name online, via Facebook. It hasn’t hurt.

5. “The hobbyists” are losing control… and they won’t like it.

Up until now, computing and technology’s culture has been largely determined by a group I call “the hobbyists”. Traditions like anonymity and the primacy of code have been part of the unwritten law of the Internet. That era is dying, and “the hobbyists” don’t like it. Expect culture clashes between this old Internet and the new one.

Over to you…

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The era of simplified computing

I’m currently trying to get some thoughts down on the contrasting approaches of Google and Apple to the future of technology. There’s a whole host of stuff buzzing around my mind: are they yet another instalment of the conflict between Apollo and Dionysus? Do they represent yet another clash between C. P. Snow’s “two cultures”? And what is it about both of them that provokes loyalty and hatred in equal measure?

While writing, though, I’ve come to see that we’re entering a new era of computing, one where the paradigms and expectations of the world of the PC won’t give us much guidance. This new era is all about simplified computing, technologies where what’s important is the ability to sit down, get something done, and put down the device. Fast, simple, and most of all requiring as little knowledge about the underlying technology.

Google’s approach to this is to “put it in the cloud”. The only thing you need to do is be able to run a web browser, and the ultimate expression of that is ChromeOS, where there is very little the hardware does except run a web browser.

Apple’s approach is to keep the physical expression of the hardware as simple as possible, to remove options, to pare back the software so that you can only do a limited number of things, all of them “Apple approved”. Of course, the “limited number of things” currently runs to around 200,000 different applications, and you can still access HTML/JavaScript-based web applications too… but you get the idea.

Despite the scare stories, this era of simplified computing doesn’t mean an end to “freedom”. You’re still going to be able to buy computers which let you hack around and do stuff, just as you might have a new car which still lets you dig around under the bonnet. But the people who value the ability to just press the button and get something done will have devices that do exactly that.

One last thought: In all of my thinking about this, I have yet to find a scenario which requires Google to lose in order for Apple to win, or vice versa. The “war” between to two of them is, to my mind, not a war at all – they compete, but both of them are leaders and both of them will end up vastly-bigger companies.

Marketing Week Live goes all iPhone AR crazy

I’m pretty skeptical about augmented reality applications in general, but there are some occasions when I think they’re actually quite useful. Events, for example, are a particular case where AR makes sense. The location is relatively small, but there’s usually a large amount of information surrounding particular areas within the event – seminars, press releases, and so on.

Add in an audience which actually needs to get to grips with the technology of communications, and it’s obvious why next week’s Marketing Week Live 2010 has an AR iPhone app associated with it. And judging from the pictures I’ve seen of it, it looks pretty good.

There’s the usual AR features: hold the phone up, and the app layers useful information on top of it (I’m hoping this information includes the location of bars and toilets, which are the kinds of things that journalists are always after). Perhaps more useful, though, is the image recognition function: point the app at the logo of a company on a stand, and it will recognise the company and list information that’s relevant, including the option to book a meeting with them if they’re taking meetings.

The app was put together by Yuza Mobile, and it looks like a nice piece of work, balancing out the obvious need for an app that’s a bit of a showcase for marketers of what AR can do with stuff that’s useful for people attending the show.

I’m going to be along at the show at some point (and if you’re going to be there, give me a shout) so I’ll probably be running around taking pictures of people pointing their iPhones at logos and swearing about the data connections being swamped. But kudos to MWL2010 for creating something that looks both interesting from a technology perspective and actually useful to its audience.

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Why the CrunchPad mattered (to bozos)

John Biggs at TechCrunch writes a self-serving blog post on “Why the CrunchPad mattered“:

“Think about what happened: if we reduce this to its component parts you have some dudes in California who talked to some dudes in Singapore and who agreed to work together on a piece of hardware. I’ve seen the prototypes and the thing worked and worked well. Most hardware manufacturers can barely take each others meetings let alone coordinate a massive project while separated by a culture and an ocean.”

Yes, John. But “most hardware manufacturers” actually manage to ship products. Even the shitty ones tend to have a strike rate that’s better than zero. As some guy who’s made a product or two once said, “real artists ship“. Making a prototype and getting some publicity is what guys in garden sheds do.

(Incidentally, this story is currently lurking in the technology section of the Washington Post, thanks to the WaPo‘s “partnership” with TechCrunch. Isn’t it great to see self-serving promotional “news” on the site of one of the world’s best-regarded newspapers?)

(Photo by @Photo)

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