When the Microsoft Kinect launched in November, allowing gamers to play video games with only the movement of their bodies, everyone wondered if it would catch on. Now with more than 10 million units sold, it clearly has.
Last night, I was sitting in my living room thinking about what I should watch, and I decided to browse Netflix. But rather than fire up my Apple TV or turn my PlayStation 3 on, I simply clicked over to it from the apps marketplace available through my HDTV. I then started sifting through its library of content.
My favorite piece of artwork of all time was at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City. It’s also my favorite museum, and this piece probably cinched it. I was walking through the exhibit halls, when I happened to bump into an older woman. I said “excuse me” without making eye contact, and I kept perusing the art. Then I noticed a bench in the middle of the room. It was too far to be a seat for pondering the wall hangings, but it was clearly meant for observation. So, I sat down. I watched the crowd. It took me a few minutes to notice that the old woman was still standing there, where I had bumped into her. She was slightly hunched, perhaps in her seventies. She carried a shopping bag, and was wrapped in average clothes for a cold New York day. But the most interesting thing about her was that she was not real.
I was reading through Chris Davies’ column on giving gadget advice, and I thought I would add my perspective. I used to be a gadget reviewer. The first product I ever reviewed was the Sony D-EJ01 anniversary edition Discman. A Discman, for you young ‘uns, was a large music player that played compact discs. A compact disc? It’s like a record, um, or a DVD, err . . . it’s a single-use MP3 made out of plastic. I know it sounds silly. We were silly in the 90s.
For generations, we have spent our days and nights in the living room being entertained.
Once upon a time, we had books to read. Then, we were able to turn on a radio and hear some music and shows. Televisions launched to provide us with even more enjoyment. And now, we have computers, tablets, and smartphones that afford us even more opportunities to sit back, relax, and allow entertainment to wash over us.
When we were married, my ex-wife and I had a rule. No watching mutual TV shows without the other. After years together, raising a toddler, managing a strict budget, television shows became an easy, reliable escape for the two of us. We didn’t watch exorbitant amounts of television. Usually less than an hour a night. But we did not have much time to spare every night, so that hour of TV time was something we both nurtured.
If one touchscreen is good, how great must two be? Tapping into the same part of the brain that screams how geekily-cool Star Trek tablet props are, the allure of a double-display smartphone or computer isn’t new, but neither has it been done right. That’s not stopped various new attempts, however, Acer’s twin-14-inch Iconia Touchbook notebook for one, or the imminent Sprint Kyocera Echo phone for another. Double-vision each may offer, but the manufacturers responsible are still showing serious myopia in how they’re delivering on the twin-touch dream.
Over the past year, I’ve been slowly but surely upgrading the equipment in my living room. I’ve decided that I spend enough time there to justify getting a new television, a new surround sound set-up, and all the devices I can pack into the room to enhance my entertainment experience.
Recently, someone asked me what I’ve learned during the upgrade. They wanted to know what I would have done differently and which decision I made that I believed was best.
“I think I’m having a Gene Amdahl moment” Andy Rubin opened his Android openness piece with, referring to the ex-IBM engineer’s notorious “fear, uncertainty and doubt” quote that has matured into a catch-all term shorthand for using disinformation to build doubt around your competitors. To be fair there’s plenty of confusion to go around: claims attributed to OHA partners that Google was prioritizing only those who would kow-tow to its UI demands, attempting to block devices that switched out its own search for that of Microsoft’s Bing, and limiting code access to a cabal of favorites.
Serious allegations when you’ve built your platform on the promise of open access and flexibility. As we pointed out last week, there are several good reasons why Google would benefit from clamping down – at least a little – in the name of anti-fragmentation, but Rubin is keen to validate Android’s free-spirited ethos. Nonetheless, there are holes where we’d like to see facts.
There’s an awful moment after I tell someone what I do for a living when you can see the cogs churning behind their eyes. “Oh,” they say, nodding in a way that suggests they’ve suddenly realized they don’t have to spend five quid on a gadget magazine, “I need a new phone/laptop/tablet/washer-dryer actually… what do you recommend?”
When I suggested to my ex-wife that I might rent a storage space to house some of the stuff I wanted to take with me, she voiced concern.
“That’s how the hoarders always start out.”
Neither of us watches the hoarder TV shows that have cropped up, but she’s seen enough Oprah to have an idea of how the problem begins. At first I started to protest.
Google’s projects seem to inevitably fall into one of two camps: either they’re runaway successes, like Gmail or Chrome, or dismal failures, like Wave. Teetering on the edge right now is Google TV, the company’s push for the living room which launched with a bang last year, maintained just enough momentum to reach the holidays, and then fell well short of the CES 2011 splash we’d expected. Call it a reboot, call it a refresh or call it a desperate resuscitation, Google TV is in dire need of some retuning.