Monthly Archives: January 2011

Brief Thought…

In light of me turning 30 this week…

And while conventional wisdom may offer the dubious claim that your teenage years and early 20s are the “best of your life,” woe be onto to them who confuse one chapter of their life for the whole of it, for they will be doomed to repeat it in a series of cycles whose returns are ever-diminishing, and thus hold themselves back from telling any other story.

In the end, adulthood isn’t a single decision you make, but a long series of decisions you make every day for the rest of your life. And the best reason to grow up isn’t because it is expected or required, but because it means moving forwards. Because while it may also involve incredibly tedious things like mortgages and car payments, growing up is a natural function of seeking a life that is more dynamic than static, of choosing ambition and hope over avoidance and fear, of wanting to know who you’re going to be and not just who you were, even if that takes you away from the things you used to love.

Past Predictions (from 5 years ago)…

With the news that Plastic is shutting down next month, I went through my list of comments and found this gem. Not bad.

2006 Technology Predictions:

1. Mac computers will see a surge in sales as models switch to Intel processors. This is in part due to the ability to run Windows applications easily from Mac OS with only a little performance hit. Customers who ordered their new Macs will be disappointed by the wait times for their new hardware to arrive, but The Steve’s RDF will make it all better. Apple’s shares split as they hit 100 towards the end of the year. [This just about happened! AAPL was between $85-90, though the shares still haven't split]

2. Web 2.0 hype will fade towards the end of the year, however the underlying technology will still hang around and provide neat new innovations. [Web 2.0 hype ended as soon as Apple introduced the iPhone in January 2007, but AJAX and all the useful Javascript frameworks we take for granted today came out 2006]

3. TiVo will have a comeback as they fight for fair-use (not having to buy the same content in DVD, UMD and iPod video just to have it in all those places) and unveil a new Hi-Def TiVo with new integrated features like Podcasting, IPTV (certain codecs — perhaps MPEG 4 AVC/H264), chat and games (better integration than we see in HME now). [TiVo never fought much for fair-use, but we did get an HD TiVo in September 2006 – and features like Podcasting did come to the HD and SD units)

4. HDTV penetration continues — Cheap CRT RPTVs dominate the low end of the market, while DLPs take over the mainstream and plasmas and LCDs fight over the high end 50″+ thin-and-flat segment. 1080P becomes standard for TVs> 50″ and 720P below 50″, even through there is no source material at 1080P. [This sort of happened, DLPs had their time in 2005-2007 before flat screens really came to dominate the market]

5. MS Vista debuts at the end of the year to mixed reviews. We waited 5 years for this? With all the main “innovative” features ripped out, all we end up with is XP Release 2 (from the users perspective). However the architecture underneath is more solid and stable, and the successor to Vista is announced and might actually contian most, if not all the missing features. [HAH! I was soooo right about Vista being a disappointment, and Windows 7 actually being the refined, complete Vista]

6. Google continues its dominance. Products like GMail start to exit beta and feature more ads. Some products like Orkut are put out to pasture. [Orkut might still be alive but no one in the US uses it, it got taken over by rowdy Brazilians]

7. PS3 Delayed to summer, however Nintendo’s Revolution is the hit of the fall, at only $250 and the ability to play the entire back catalog of first-party Nintendo games (Mario, Zelda, Metroid, etc) for the NES, SNES, N64 and GC available on-demand via a download for all but GC (GC discs will play in the Revolution). For $25/mo you can play unlimited games. I’m not sure about this part: first-party Sega games along with some third party games for the Master System, Genesis and 32X are available as well. (woooo Phantasy Star!) [The PS3 was delayed until the fall, longer than I had expected, and the Nintendo Wii has sold the most units out of it, the 360, and PS3; also I have played Phantasy Star on the Wii and lost a lot of time to it]

Future Visions Pt.1

As CES goes on in town this weekend, seeing all the new products and technologies introduced gives me a few ideas on what might be possible in 10 or 15 years. I’ll cover a few of those ideas here over the next few days.

Idea 1: The idea of a personal car is outmoded

One of the bigger announcements at CES is Ford’s all-electric Focus. While this is good for now, the future of transportation isn’t limited to just personal vehicles.

Imagine Sunday night in the year 2030. You’ve got plans laid out for work this week. You get up each day at to be at work by 7, and you leave work at 5 at night. You share your weeks calendar with the AUTOMAT car scheduling system allowing them to know what time you have to be at work, any errands you have to run, and even suggesting you stop by the flower shop for your wife since your anniversary is Thursday.

The massive computers that run the system tell you what time a car will be by your house to pick you up in the morning each day. Yes, the car will pick you up. Using an advanced version of Google’s self-driving car technology, the cars will be able to autonomously drive you around the city, including from their nightly storage and recharge areas (possibly mall or supermarket parking lots) to your home. Think of it like car sharing on steriods. You can even get a discount for carpooling with friends and co-workers.

So what could cars look like if they’re going to be almost crash-proof and typically carrying only one occupant? Far lighter and cheaper than they can be made today. This, compounded with advanced battery technologies, will allow cars to drive hundreds of miles all day at higher speeds without having to pause for a recharge.

You could even sign your children up at age 8. No more needing to take your kids to soccer practice, since they can take themselves in one of these vehicles. They’ll have their own smartphone to control when they need to be picked up if practice ends early.

As cars become more connected, monitoring the cars performance and their occupants will become trivial. Computer systems could easily pinpoint malfunctioning cars before they break down and direct them to service or have replacement cars to your location quickly. The system could even notify you if you accidentally leave your gym bag or cell phone in the car. The vehicle would also have a self-defense system – it could determine if a human driven car was at fault in an accident, or capture the license plate of someone who may have hit the car in the parking lot.

Out of town trips? No big deal. Larger vehicles with cargo space for luggage are also available. Higher speeds would also be available on the highway to get you to your destination faster. Long day trips or multiple day trips might require users to swap cars (or stop to swap batteries) if they want to drive uninterrupted to their destination without stopping overnight at a hotel to sleep.

Larger societal implications

  • Reductions in number of auto fatalities. There still might be many caused by outside circumstances – pedestrians and cyclists jumping out in front of cars without looking, human driven cars, etc.
  • Taxi drivers and chauffeurs are put out of work – no one needs a human to drive a car anymore
  • Auto body and car repair shops see massive reductions in the amount of work they have due to fewer moving parts and more proactive maintenance schedules
  • Increased mobility for kids – ages 8 to 16 can now get around without relying on their parents (though safeguards in the system will be set to require parent permission to reserve a car)
  • Reduced number of cars produced every year because of vehicle sharing – how does this impact manufacturing?
  • Less differentiation between car manufacturers – people still might want to spend the money to reserve a Lexus or BMW but most of the safety concerns of larger and more expensive vehicles will have gone by the wayside
  • Increased patronage of bars – if you don’t worry about driving drunk, you can drink more ;)

So thats really just the first idea I’ve had taking up room in my head as I’ve read all the news pouring out of CES. Hopefully I can put together a few more articles the next few days.

Verizon iPhone almost here…

Verizon Press Conference at 11AM ET/8AM PT. I’m surprised Apple isn’t announcing it, but then again what is there to announce? To the consumer, the Verizon iPhone will function the same as on AT&T. No new features are being added. If anything, the big news might be on Verizon’s side – if they’ve upgraded their network to CDMA rev B to allow for simultaneous data+voice, along with carrier bonding to allow faster top speeds (from 1.3 to 4.9Mb/s).