Thursday, January 3, 2013

My views on few tech in 2013

I'm no prophet, so I'm not trying to make predictions here, though I may still sprinkle my own views with time factor in the following. I came across a news article on web regarding whether certain tech products will come out in 2013 or not. So it just somehow got me thinking and I wanna share my thoughts here.

Apple TV vs Samsung TV

Samsung is said to release a SDK (or just the device) for its new 'revolutionary' TV technology in coming CES. It is not known what exactly it is gonna be. I think it is more to do with hardware design than software. Maybe the dimension of the TV would be dramatically changed from 16:9 to 9:16?! or the rumor flexible screen technology that allows the TV to be as thin as a cardboard that can be stuck on the wall, or it can be rolled up like the projector screen. Who know? Nonetheless, as it is said, content is always king. Hardware is nice and important at the first glance. I did get impressed by the thinnest of their TV last year when I first saw their 55" or 60" TV which was as thin as an old iPhone with a smooth metallic back. But, a TV is still a TV, particularly for a large one, it is a thing that you install at home and don't move it often. So, the form factor won't have much change in terms of impact on day-to-day use. Certainly, a brisk screen with great audio are nice. However, unless you are in showroom to compare a TV among other TVs, you don't notice the difference if you just have one at home. So, that's why the most important factor is actually how we interact with the TV.

I'm quite anxious to see what the new way that the late Steve Jobs had come up with before his death for the 'unicorn' product in Apple - the real Apple TV set. My guess is that its user interface and functions  should already been done. It should be largely in line with the existing functions or feel of iPad, iPhone and existing Apple TV box. Cuz, familiarity is the key to regular customers. Unsurprisingly, the TV will be part of the Apple ecosystem naturally in terms of getting new and sharing existing contents among devices. I'm not sure if it will have Siri or it will come with something similar to the Kinect technology to control the TV, but it must be very intuitive that it will take no time to learn how to use it. As we all know that Steve Jobs hated user manual. So, I won't surprise that the operation method of the TV would have no surprise to us, since it may just use what has already been used in other Mac or i devices. Furthermore, I think prototypes of the TV were made, testings were done and all that.

I think what's holding up the whole thing are the content providers and the actual logistics of manufacturing. The latter via Sharp should be easier, but the tricky part is to get as much as content on it during the first launch of the product. Apple is right to hold up the release of this product unless it can make a bang on the market. If a normal viewer of the Apple TV in the U.S. can't see at least as much as what they can see on their existing TV at the launch of the product, it is just not justified to make them pay a premium to get the Apple TV. Anyway, I hope Apple can sort things out quickly before some of technologies that they apply to the prototypes become old compare to what Samsung and LG can offer right now.

I think 'if' both Samsung and Apple will release their new TV this year. Samsung will sell more, but Apple will have a greater spotlight. But, the fact is that if Apple can't get all the content it wants for its TV, Samsung's comparable smart TV won't get that neither, cuz the content providers are mostly American after all. I doubt they would carve in for a Korean company over an American one in terms of content deal. Of course, what I'm talking about is for the U.S. market. The bottom line is that in spite of the large size of the pie, the tech-savvy of customers and great tech infrastructure of some countries, the battle of Google and Apple on TV will still be fought on American soil at the start. They are both American companies after all.

Facebook/Amazon Phones
Both companies have all the right and money to make their own phone. Many of their users/customers may also buy and use them because they are new and the initial incentives that they may offer. However, I don't see them to win for the long term. It is because winning a mobile phone would need to have an ecosystem with tightly integrated hardware, software (OS), services and apps for the long haul. Amazon and Facebook may be good in some of them, but Android and iOS are just too dominant in the market right now that even Microsoft has a tough time to strike for a meaningful number three. What make Facebook or Amazon any better than Microsoft even if they try? They can and will certainly try, but I just don't see them can provide meaningful competition and let alone winning it in the long haul.

Google Glasses
I'm talking about the glass that come with voice, visual with augmented reality (AR), internet browsing, etc that Google already showed in various tech shows last year. Whether Google will really release this product for real is now a more than a rumor. I don't have any doubt that Google will make this product available for retail customers in near future, but I really doubt that will become a widely popular consumer product that people will ditch their smartphones and opt for. Certainly, it will become a nice niche products that some professions (like spy, cops, army, etc) will love it, and it will be an useful product in some occasions (like rescue mission, or exploration), but it is just not gonna be something most regular people would consider as smartphone replacement. 

Generally speaking, more people like to see things without glasses than with glasses. It may have to do with beauty factor as well as comfort. That's also the same reason why 3D TV will never have the consumer adoption as existing TV as long as viewers have to put the damn 3D glasses on. Namely, naked eye 3D TV is the end game! For glasses wearing people, even they have no choice but sticking in a comfortable armchair in the dark to view movies with the 3D glasses on top of their own glasses, it is not necessary they will buy Google Glasses as well, cuz it is beyond silly to wear 2 pair of glasses walking around like a dork on the street! No matter how cool the glasses are supposed to be advertised to be, it is just not gonna happen!

Furthermore, one of the main attraction of Google Glasses is to be able to browse AR around. But, I just don't see AR is commonly found around. It may be a matter of catch22, the more Google Glasses around, more AR will be installed and vice versa. However, would somebody has ever mentioned to Google that seeing AR around could actually be a matter of nuisance! Hearing sound is unavoidable, it is matter of evolution. We have to hear all sounds to keep us alert of any danger in our environment. Nowadays, we can filter some sounds with some hearing aids. But visually, we actually can somehow naturally choose to focus on one thing and ignore the rest. AR will be like visual noise that distract our attention when we try to focus and it sometimes would become a safety issue. Then, we may demand further enhanced technology for us to 'filter' out unwanted AR, that would be kinda messy! 

The next iPhone and...
A recent rumor is that the next iPhone is being tested. I'm not surprised at all. Whether it is gonna be  named 5S or 6, it wouldn't really matter. I think the current form factor is fine. Apple is being seduced to produce bigger screen iPhones like Samsung does. I think Apple will stick to its current form factor at least for next generation or until it can find a way to make sure the change of form factor will not affect the viewing quality of its apps and the manual comfort in operation. Overall, I doubt there will be dramatic changes for iPhone in the next few years as well, other than those predictable incremental upgrade of speed, internal power, battery life, weight/thickness, camera power, and perhaps the addition of functions like NFC. Once Apple make the iPhone to come with a silly variety of colors, that means this product is matured.
The other rumor is that Apple is working on iWatch or some kinds of wearable computer. I think they are possible, but I really doubt such things would become the next blockbuster product like iPad or iPhone. I would guess iWatch will be somewhat like the last generation of square -shaped iPod Nano which was custom-ed by some 3rd party companies with a watch belt to make the device wearable. Some people found that cool, but what is the actual usage of an iWatch then, I can't help to ask? As a watch, a camera, a phone, a browser and all of the above? I think the fundamental problem is that it is just not comfortable to operate/view/use a device that tied to our wrist for a reasonable period of time that comparable to how long we normally use an iPhone for. Cuz, with the device on the wrist, we automatically lost one hand to use it, and the viewing angle of a watch is just not that comfortable, compared to have the device lying on our palms. Regarding the so-called 'wearable computer', I really can't think of its actual functions neither. The operation part of that computer may be better, cuz we may have a greater surface area to work with. For example, if the form factor is like a long coat, buttons could be in our pocket, or at arm length on the thigh area. However, how will we view the operating results? screen on the body is just not for us but for other people to see. Unless the wearable computer is targeted for performance artists, advertisers, or  someone who has heavy duty on delivering visual communication, otherwise, I can't see what such computer is for.

Well, that's all for this time.


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