Opinions, Comments and a Little Personal Ranting

Where does the Industry Think it is Taking Us?


  • opinion
  • electronic entertainment industry
  • technology
  • software
  • hardware

Fecha

06/02/2013

Autor

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In this particular article I am using the term Industry rather loosely, I guess the true target of the rant is the electronic entertainment Industry and the Computing hardware industry as well but the question, and the analysis, applies to just about any Industry.

January is gone and February is quietly and speedily moving ahead. News are coming and going, they pop in and out of websites faster than we can pick their pace or read the "catchy" titles that usually have little to nothing to do with the content. Sometimes I wonder how anyone can learn anything through them unless actually knowing what to look for or paying constant, permanent attention. It's not that I do, it just so happens that sometimes I can. And what I see is starting to turn rather scary, or maybe I am seeing it wrong.

I was browsing on the latest about games, hardware and the Industry that wraps them. A peek at Joystiq, another at ArsTechnica, a change of perspective from Games.on.net, another one from Fudzilla and RockPaperShotgun. The latest news appearing and disappearing, novelty becoming history in a minute, or sixty. Small pieces showing themselves for too little, a big picture impossible to be grasped. The same questions in my mind going over and over, collecting facts, firing neurons, linking connections, things overlapping. And as I was reading the comments on the latest Surface Pro article something went click.

I have always considered the whole Digital Tablet and iPad fad --move?-- rather strange and unappealing. They are cool and very attractive as gadgets but I can't figure out a good use to them, a reason strong enough to make me part from whatever amount of money they cost. I do admit that much of the reason is the way I use technology, not just to consume content but to create it and to play the latest video games. But whatever my reservations they still seem to be the thing of the moment to the point that Microsoft has decided they need to be a part of it rather than stand on the lines watching.

So there came Windows 8 to prepare the momentum and then the Surface RT to test the grounds and now the Surface Pro as the final move. But, put together, what is the general idea, where is the evolution path pointing to? I see none. Why does the Industry believe we, as consumers, need more of the same, or something slightly different, or something that combines two things into one without doing any of them properly? Do we blame them or should we start pointing to ourselves?

And then, while browsing around, I read another strange news: the rumour has it that the next Xbox will be always online, require online authentication, prevent the installation/play of second hand games. What!? Has no one been listening, has no one been paying attention here? Why do businesses believe that they need to trap their customers to insure their loyalty? Why do they need to count on it in the first place? Have they lost so much faith in themselves that they can't trust us into trusting them? What happen to 'do your best and let them decide'?

Not too long ago the move seemed to point toward opening things up, to allow the user/consumer to figure out what he/she wants and needs and pick the best option. To allow freedom of choice. Well, now that freedom gets walled and boxed by whatever business traps us first. That choice restricted to whatever they want to offer us following whatever they think we need.

I don't want more devices whose functionality overlaps, I don't want to carry around more and more stuff --accessories, peripherals, chargers-- just because companies can't sit together and think of a standard without them wanting it to be their own. Whatever happened to the concept of combination and aggregation? Why can't my Smartphone link to a bigger screen and act like a tablet? Why can't it get docked and become a laptop? Why can't it redirect processing requests it can't handle to a home-cloud or just a Cloud?

The technology is out there, we have more CPU and GPU power than we should rationally need. More screen real state that is practical for anything but specific tasks such as video editing or gaming (and on the latter it's reaching the point of getting artificially stretched). Why do I need a Smartphone interface on my camera when I already carry a Smartphone in my pocket; why can't they interact, complement, aggregate each other?

There is an incredible level of sad absurdity in the way the Industry is managing the supposed evolution of technology. Or should we say the consumerization of it? There are incredible possibilities that are simply not being explored and they have been presented from every angle in films, books, tales, graphic novels and even personal dreams.

The relevant factor being "sellability" (which in turn encloses "disposability") rather than practicality, usefulness and functionality. I mean, everyone who has been around knows how sturdy things were half a century or so ago (even up to the 1980's early 1990's). Many could even be fixed at home with spare parts from the store, now it is cheaper to buy something new and forget about fixing it yourself.

I realize that openness can become complicated, that standardized is not usually the way to go but I doubt that what we have, the way we are going, is even right. Either the Industry is missing something somewhere or us, as consumers, have really blown up something, somewhere. I still can't believe we are playing stupid with the simplest of things, we are in the XXIst century and we still need to deal with different chargers for every electronic device we have --proprietary ones at that.

We are living in the wild future of hundreds if not thousands of novels from less than a decade ago and we still can't handle properly --from out of the box-- a DVD player, TV and Cable Channels through one controller!. I don't mean to ask where my flying car or my jet-pack are, but I certainly wish that having a computerized home didn't mean having every single device outfitted with enough electronic brains to make the most advanced Space Shuttle turn red in envy. I don't need, I don't want a monitor on my fridge, an LCD screen on my washing machine, an always online option for my toaster. Has someone, everyone lost it? Or have I --become so naive?

If I may be allowed to go slightly deeper in this. Since Smarphones with good cameras are said to be starting to replace point-n-click plain cameras the idea to keep the later alive has been outfitting them with much of the functionality of the former. Come on! Do we really need a camera that can upload pictures to Instagram or Facebook? (security, any one? overlapping functionality? any bells?). How about... docking the Smartphone onto the camera to transfer the pictures, or taking out the SD disk and putting it into the Smartphone? Or transfer it wirelessly? Do we need yet another redundant device with equivalent functionality? I have seen a few ideas for docking devices that make even better cameras out of a Smartphone, why not follow that line instead?

Electronic components can be assembled almost as if they were Lego pieces and they --tend to--- work perfectly, making the whole so much more than the parts. Why can't the Industry follow the example and allow devices to complement, expand and aggregate on each other's functionality instead of offering us stuff that overlaps but never truly does what we would like the way we would like it done --or the way it should, at least.

It's not as if we lack the imagination for it, or the technical know-how, or the crazy creative minds to come up with it. Films have shown it, Sci-Fi novels have talked about it over and over since before computers even existed. There are many devices that could, and should, work together rather than do almost the same but not quite (everybody and every profession has its favourites). We are missing so much in terms of the practicality, the functionality, the simplicity of the obvious just because they want us to buy as many devices as possible (as often as possible). There has to be a better way.

The interesting thing, the sad thing, the dangerous thing, is that going as they are, they --the Industry-- are risking hitting a very hard wall, one that someone, somewhere will certainly jump over and change everything from one blink to the next (for the better I hope, when it happens). And their current not so quite ways will suddenly become the subject of study of how things should have been done just a few months down the line.

I know, I understand and I can grasp the overall whatever of why they do it, why they act that way, why they need to. But that doesn't make it right, more so that wherever they think they are taking us, is certainly not the way many --most?-- want to go to. I would say it's time to shut up, stop and think for a moment, one long enough to realize what the next instant should be like, not how it needs to be just because, but how we want it, so it can be... right.


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