Tuesday, October 19, 2010

I'm Avoiding the Future

The future is here, and I'm not on board yet. We're very close to reaching a point where all communications and media will be hyper-portable. Books, movies, periodicals and TV will all be delivered to the same handheld, tablet-type device as the Internet, email, social media and phonecalls. In fact, I believe you can do nearly all of that right now using an iPad. Books, movies, newspapers and magazines are natively supported on the iPad, as are the Internet-based communications of email and Facebook-type sites. Apple specifically disallows regular phone calls, probably so as not to compete with their own iPhone device, however I think you could probably Skype over an iPad (though I don't know that for a fact). Even if you can't yet, it's only a matter of time.

I was a somewhat early-adopter of the ultra-lightweight notebook and tablet technology. I had a Toshiba 7200 back in 2000 or so that featured a detachable "base," so you could take your monitor and keyboard and leave everything else behind. It was a logical progression to a design that allowed that same monitor to twist around and turn the whole unit into a tablet. I was using one of those by 2005 and absolutely loved it. I loved the portability, I loved being able to look up info on the spot while sitting in a meeting. I loved being able to chomp through my email whenever I was stuck somewhere just standing around. The "tablet" never really, truly caught on, but once Apple's glitz and their rabid, die-hard, slavish fans got involved, it was a whole different story. Computing is heading in a super-portable direction.

And you'd think I'd be fully on board. A few things are different for me, however. For one, I don't currently need portability. I'm home most of the time, and when I'm not home I'm usually not someplace that I want or need to be accessing the global network. But, more importantly, I can see the pace of change rushing along and I'm not ready to dive into those turgid waters.

To digress a moment, my family's first VCR was a Betamax. My dad had done his research and concluded (correctly) that Beta was a superior format to VHS, because the picture quality was better. And isn't that the most important thing for TV viewing? Well, no. To most people, it was more important to be able to record a LOT than to record it well, and that was the benefit of the VHS standard. The inferior product won, because it actually was superior in the one area that people wanted. You could record more on a VHS tape than on a Betamax tape. Buh-bye Betamax.

It wasn't a huge hardship for my family or anything, but it taught me an important lesson about the marketplace and about new technology. I was way behind the curve on my switch from cassette tapes to CDs, too. Likewise, I have stuck with regular DVDs in favor or Blue-Rays, because I don't have confidence that Blue-Ray discs aren't soon going to be replaced by something newer and different. I think the e-readers are going to change a lot in the next few years, and that ultimately there won't be separate devices like an e-reader, an internet tablet and a phone. At some point, you'll just have one device for all three (the phone will mostly be an earpiece, but you'll just use it to answer calls. It'll probably have a clock on it, too, since a lot of people seem to like to use their cell phones as watches.).

I'll likely be a while before I have the money for a new device and also feel the need for one. Hopefully by that time the convergence will be complete and there will be One Device to Rule them All. Until then, I'm avoiding the future - it can proceed without me.

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