There are lots of lovely tech developments to look out for, according to The Guardian’s 2003 Survival Guide . Shame then, that a lot of the piece is complete bollocks. Let’s burst a few bubbles, shall we?
Three-G, Schmee-G. At the start of 2001, I had a company with a very nice 3G-leaning app under development. We were told that 3G would be rolled out in the third quarter, “well in time for Christmas”. Then they actually ran some trials, and found that if you roamed from one aerial’s catchment area to another, your connection would drop. Bit of a problem, that, for a technology with “always on” as a major selling point.
Things have got better since then, but the whole house of cards still isn’t stable. Witness Orange’s recent withdrawal from Sweden, where they can’t yet make it work, it’s too expensive, and the government won’t budge on a firm launch date.
Hutchison might just make their new UK network “Three” work before the year’s out, but the announced tariffs are firmly squared at business use, and they won’t even be trying to attract consumers just yet. So for us plebs, who knows when we’ll get 3G. And even when it’s available, market penetration is going to take more than a little while, and we get back to the old chicken-and-egg situation – until there’s a market, making content pay is hard, so relatively little gets produced.
I have a sinking feeling that 3G won’t fly until 2005 at the earliest, and if it’s hyped before that, and before it’s mature, then it’ll go the same way that WAP went, and 2.5G seems to be heading – the reality won’t match the marketing, and people will get bored.
Someone, please prove me wrong.
Two things are wrong with this picture. Firstly, serious games players want serious games machines, not a bolt-on to their increasingly over-featured phones. Convergence, especially for convergence’s sake, is rarely actually a good thing (anyone remember the last time they heard the “TV and computers will converge” chestnut that was all the rage in 1999? Thought not.)
Besides, J2ME, the version of Java built for phones, sucks the big one, as an ex-mobile-developer friend of mine will quite happily tell you. It has basic important things missing. Sprite handling is awful, and most crucially if you’re doing whizz-bang games with collision detection, there’s no implementation of floating-point numbers. Building very basic clones of “Space Invaders” is hard enough. I’m really not going to hold my breath for an enjoyable version of “Tomb Raider”.
“Once again, it will be the year of Bluetooth”. Something tells me it’s a while since Victor Keegan picked up a Carphone Warehouse brochure. Very little mobile hardware has bluetooth built in, still. The most aggressive promoters of it are Ericsson, and even their latest offerings are thin on bluetooth.
There are also problems with the pickup range of some devices. Ericsson’s headset for its current line of bluetooth phones (basically, the T39 and T68) has trouble working if you keep your phone any further from your head than your breast pocket, which is hardly a triumph of technological convenience.
Bluetooth is a great idea for true Personal Area Networking, where your various devices can talk to each other, and the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts. If bluetooth were being added to a wide range of products, it would be wonderful. The slightly suspect idea of camera phones (which, I think, will work, if only because people love novelty) could be junked in favour of proper digi-cams with built-in bluetooth. Take a proper photo with a proper device, and bluetooth it to your photo messaging service.
But Nokia, for one, seem to have a pathological fear of putting it in their handsets, and without market coverage, bluetooth is just another technological dinosaur waiting for the meteorite of apathy to strike it stone dead.
Microcontent and MyLifeBits
Both non-ideas masquerading under shiny new buzzwords. The world of blogs (in itself a meaningless word, but I don’t want this rant to become recursive) has generated so many meaningless phrases in the past year that I fear deeply for the English language, which seems doomed to become awash in verbiage. Especially since the OED now seem to deem a 6-month-old word worthy for inclusion in the dictionary.
Microcontent will die a death, except for perhaps one or two sub-genres of apps (RSS browsers being the only one I can think of), if nothing else because I already have 5 apps open at the very start of a working day, and I don’t need ten different ways of accessing the same web, thank you very much.
As for Microsoft MyLifeBits, I smell another Microsoft Bob . The project description seems to suggest a version of Outlook with a few extra data management features, which I could run with as an idea, if I’d ever seen anyone use Outlook’s existing organisational features properly to keep track of what they’re doing. It’s a noble idea, but like so many noble ideas, seems doomed to end up festering unused in the dark corners of a million hard drives.
Pah. This gets its own very special rant later. Although for starters, see my comments on meaningless phrases above.
Blogs as Newsgroups
I’ve been tired of this ridiculous fallacy for quite some time. Blogs are fundamentally different to newsgroups, because whilst usenet centralises discussion over a distributed network, blogs fragment discussion over a fragmented network.
Even when there is linkage between blogs and their discussions on a topic, you’re still following a tangled morass of threads and subthreads. Admittedly, RSS browsers with a serious amount of cleverness built in might be able to make more sense of this. Maybe. And on the flipside of the coin, following threads on Usenet isn’t always a picnic.
But usenet is nicely indexed by google, it’s redundant and distributed, and not that vulnerable to attack. Now imagine what happens when the blog hosting 1/3 of a very interesting discussion gets shut down for defamation. Or failure to pay bandwidth costs. Or gets hit by a Distributed Denial of Service attack. You have a conversation with big holes in it.
Even if all these problems could be overcome, why on earth should anyone bother making blogdom like usenet? We, um, already have usenet.
Momentary fads do not the future of technology make. Every online group I know of got tired of its 10th “hey wow, look what googlism says about me” discussion 3 months ago.
Despite its popularity, there are fairly serious cracks starting to appear in google’s methodology, as witnessed by increasingly sophisticated spam attacks, and the company’s ever-more aggressive monthly rejiggings of its indexes. Meanwhile, other technologies look increasingly promising. Both the newly Yahoo!-bought Inktomi, and upstart newcomer Alltheweb are developing some very nice systems at present, which may well give the incumbent champion a run for its money, much as Google did to Altavista when it first appeared in beta back in 1998.
All of which is to say, I wouldn’t set too much stock by people’s (shudder) “Googleshare”.
AA Words Clog (to)
If anyone can translate this into English, please let me know.
Moblogging, AmI, Whuffie
Hurrah. Yet more inherrently pointless terms to add to my already-corpulent mother tongue. Of all these, only “Moblogging” says anything new whatsoever. And again, I’m slightly tempted to ask what the point of all this is. Blogging photos in real-time from a bar? While you’re drunk, and your editorial sensibilities about what should appear on a website are non-existent? Please, could you just save it for 12 hours till you get home, sleep it off, and realise that 20 blurred pictures of your unattractive friends don’t really add to anyone’s life experience?
I can see the point of “blogging” a big news story reasonably instantly. But that’s about it. And people have been doing it for years. It’s called Journalism. In this case, Amateur Journalism. I might even let you call it Gonzo Journalism if you’re good boys and girls, and don’t start striding around thinking you’re Hunter S Thompson. But “Moblogging”? You sound like an idiot.