Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Future living among 4 screens

I’m no futurologist and have no crystal ball to see what will happen in future. However, as a person who like to pay attention to home-tech news, and thought about my own ‘lifestyle’ lately, I recently somehow find time guessing what kind of info-tech lifestyle that we may live in future. Light bulbs just go ‘brink-brink’ in the back of my mind that I would like to share my thought with you all. I predict that we (urban folks) will maneuver most of our needs in our daily life among 4 screens in not too far away future (a decade?!)

Before I go into details, I’ve to emphasize that it is all coming from my head. If any of my ideas are similar to whatever have been raised by others, it is purely by coincident. What I come up with is just my logical guess of developments that are currently going on around us. And I would say that some of the things that I’m going to say below are already happening. I’m just going along with the trends and guess what the next steps will be and summarize them for my own record.

Screen 1 – Smartphone
Well, it is nothing new. Some of us are already living it now, and I believe that we are still at the early stage of adoption. Majority of current mobile phone users are still using ‘non’ smartphones, I would say that their transition or migration to smartphone will continue and will accelerate in next 5 years when the technology became matured, standards and platforms will be consolidated. As many folks have already predicted, and I agree as well that IPhone, Blackberry, and Android will be winners. Palm Pre, Window Mobile, Symbian (e.g. Nokia) will be losers. The market just can’t support that many platforms. As IPhone has already shown that smartphone are not necessary difficult to use. I’m sure most people would have no problem adopting such multi-purpose device as an essential tool in their daily life. There are also other losers with the ongoing rapid development of smartphones. Namely, other single-purpose device makers that make GPS navigators, MP3 players, etc, as smartphones can perform those functions that make those single purpose devices obsolete. It doesn’t mean that they will all die out; some of them will survive and even prosper in niche markets. The key is be able to produce their products in such a customized, specialized and professional way that smartphones find it not cost effective to match in quality. For example, cameras, i.e. DSLR will still prosper, we still will buy good camera if we really wanna take great pictures.

Smartphones, in terms of their size will pretty much stay the same as what they are currently. Yes, technically, they can be even lighter and thinner. However, would you want your phone to be as light and thin as a credit card? I’m sure that they can be made, like integrated with a watch or something. Nevertheless, it is just not comfortable to be used. Therefore, I would predict that most of the enhancements will come from the software, the appl markets, data transmission capacity and storage. There are only so much hardware things that are made sense to be twitted on the smartphones. At the end of the day, I don’t think smartphone will work as a can-opener. It will only be a Swiss Army knife of data-services, not being part of a real Swiss Army knife. In term of usage, the smartphones are mostly used on the road, and fitted in our pocket. Besides using for communication (audio, video, text on web), entertainment (video, music, games), netvigation (GPS, maps), and various reference (dictionaries, etc), it can replace our wallet, scan our fingerprint or iris to verify our identity, and use as a remote control for ‘things’ (such as garage door, air-conditioner, etc)

Screen 2 – Tablet
This is built on the recent popular adoption and development of multi-touch technology. Yes, Apple is building one and many PC makers are jumping on this bandwagon. I think the size of the Tablet will be most likely having screen size of 8’’ by 11’’ or less. It will be light and thin, probably go down to the thickness of 5 credit cards ultimately. It will most likely be similar to the rumored Apple tablet. There shouldn’t be a physical keyboard, but with a virtual keyboard. It will come with built-in speakers, microphone, sensors and camera. It will similar to smartphone that is relatively durable to sustain drops. Also, it will have great battery life. It will be used both on the road and homebound.

On the road, it will have many overlapped functions as the smartphones. However, the difference is the physical size. Yes, it can be made really small, but being large in A4 size is to its advantage. It will be used as note & drawer pad, presentation device, ebook reader and document manager. Through this device, we will get access to books, magazines, video, music, our own data mart, and document libraries, etc. I think business and education will make use of this device as well.

On the home front, this device will be additionally performing the function of remote control to manage our home, electronic devices (e.g. remote controls, CCTV monitor), and as e-photo album or alarm clock with a stand on the table. We will use it to manage our home-finance, grocery lists, and all sort of domestic services.

Screen 3 – Large LED Screen
I would say that it will be the huge thing of around 37” to 50” or above right in the middle of our living room. I don’t wanna call it a TV, because it is definitely more than that, it is not a monitor neither. I would picture it as the huge iMac that can do all in one. It will be the central of entertainment and data processing in each home. We would use it to watch TV, movies, listen to music, using internet, and play games. It will be a further development from today’s most advanced TV. It will have most PC functions built in. It will have camera for video conferencing, and have built-in sensor to detect movements. Keyboard as an input tool would be optional. The control device won’t be like the current remote control with 100 buttons. It can be controlled by the tablet that I mentioned above as everything at home will be interconnected. Also, I would say, besides a keyboard which is for some serious typing, the most common control would be something like a Wiimote! You swing and wave it with a button or two to netivgate most functions: to watch TV, or using it as a mouse. This large screen device will have hard disk to do recording of hi-depth materials, or simply making use of Cloud to stream stuff as video on demand (VOD).

There will be some other accessories for this large screen device. As I would think that game console will no longer exist in future. Cos, technically, what a game console can do that a PC can’t do? So, to some points in future, for environment reason or else, consumers would voice out the objection of excessive hardware. The bottom-line is that gamers want to play games, would happy to do that without the big ass cube next to the monitor. So, if Apple’s AppStore is any clue, content is king! Therefore, what the big screen would need are game-complimentary devices, like remote game control devices. I.e. just refer to anything that Nintendo’s Wii has now. People will be playing games with sensor on the large screen device and their remotes. That’s it. Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo will sell games services. I’m not sure how that will work out with game publishing companies and ISP. Cos, without the game console, Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo can actually be bypassed!

Screen 4 – PC
I did think about whether this screen #4 is needed, as I’m not sure if PC would still be as vital to us in future as today. Cos, tablet would be able to handle most of daily needs, gamers would enjoy playing games on big screen. PC here is anything with size between tablet and large screen device. However, come to think about certain privacy needs, sometimes students or professional would like to do something on their own in a corner at home for tasks involve serious data editing. Then, a laptop/PC/iMac or whatever would still have a place at home. What it will serve is probably any leftover data/information needs that won’t be primarily served by the 3 screens that I mentioned above.

At the end of the day, I would say that besides those 4 screens and their accessories, the only thing that is needed on the home front is a router for routing data among those 4 screens. Of course, everything will be wireless.

Therefore, I can foresee that future homes will be more spacious than current’s. At least, I can see that bookshelves, CD/DVD racks, machine racks will all be gone. Unless, you want to keep some old antique data media for sentimental reason, otherwise, the 4 screens would serve the purposes to provide contents on demand. I believe that the new generation who are born in post-iPhone release time (i.e. 2007) would easily adapt the lifestyles with the 4 screens that I mentioned above. For them, physical books, CDs/DVDs, books/magazine in paper form are for old people.

For a society wise, library services will still exist in cyberspace. Libraries will become ‘museums for books’. Newsstands, CD/DVD stores and most bookstores will be gone. Cinema will still exist for the irreplaceable reason of being with a large group of people to enjoy a movie experience, though the large screen at home will have perfect Dolby/THX and 3D displays. The entertainment industry would have to find way to adapt the change of technology in order to make money. But don’t worry that ball games and live concerts will still prosper. They won’t be replaced, cos I don’t care how good 3D or 4D technology would be, human beings can still tell the difference of being with other real human beings to enjoy certain events than with a bunch of avatars.

Let’s see how much my predictions is gonna be right in future.

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