Four Crucial Technology Landmarks in 2010

Last year a COLLIDE Magazine article once again raised in important question: “It’s 2010? Where’s my Jetpack?”. This look back at technology in 2010 starts with a similar question.

Where’s my XBOX720?

The PlayStation was released in the US in 1995. The PS2 and XBOX were released in 2000-01, and were followed by the XBOX360 and PS3 in ‘05-06. So where’s the next generation of consoles? There’s a simple answer: they’re not coming. The seventh generation of gaming consoles was built for growth, using software updates to make them more efficient and to add new features.

Instead of a new generation of thumb-straining consoles, Microsoft and Sony have followed Nintendo’s lead into motion-based gaming with the Kinect and the Move. These technologies are opening up a ton of new possibilities for the industry’s new target market: casual gamers. So even though there’s no new generation of consoles, there’s still a new generation of gaming.

TV without the TV Set

For the last few years, netbooks – those 10-inch laptops you could pickup for under $300 – were making a place for themselves in the market. They seemed like something that was here to stay. Then a few things happened to knock them off their path, and create a new market for home entertainment (presented in no particular order):

  • The iPad: Everything your netbook does, but cooler.
  • The $350 full-size laptop: When you look at a 10-inch screen for $300, and a 15-inch for $350, you suddenly realize that it’s tiny. It’s like you couldn’t see it before, but now it’s there, and you can’t not think about it.
  • Netflix, Hulu, and streaming TV: They’ve been around for a couple of years, but 2010 was the watershed year, when it suddenly wasn’t odd to watch TV on your computer.
  • Falling LCD prices: In November of 2008 I bought an LCD TV for $400. In 2007 that TV cost $600, and today it costs $279. When you put that together with free streaming TV on your PC, you get…
  • Streamed TV and Movies in the living room: the XBOX360 offered Netflix streaming to your TV first, but now all three consoles, a number of set top boxes, Blu-Ray players, and Net-enabled TV’s have followed suit. Apple and Google have even entered the game (with the creatively named ‘AppleTV’ and ‘GoogleTV’, respectively).

It’s no surprise that no one wants a netbook anymore. It’s also no surprise that cable companies started acting shady.

Comcast, Verizon, and the FCC

With the growth of streaming services, cable companies worry that Netflix and Hulu will hurt the cable TV market. To calm themselves they made a deal to charge a middle-man extra to “transmit Internet online movies and other content to Comcast’s customers who request such content.”

This is just the kind of thing that Verizon teamed up with Google to prevent. In a much misunderstood proposal (at the end of this Wired article), they propose rules which would guarantee a free and open internet, while creating a second network which providers could use to serve premium content for a fee.

The Federal Communications Commission is trying to run the show as industry players negotiate these situations, but they (and the rest of the country) seem to still be confused about whether they have any authority over the internet. Don’t worry, though – eventually, someone will do something, and half the crowd will get mad.

Apple v. Google

No, they haven’t gone to court – not yet anyway. The massive and opposing philosophies of these two giants are like the Blu-Ray/HD-DVD format wars, except this fight is for mind-share, rather than market-share.

Apple’s philosophy is simple: make it sleek, make it sexy, make it work, and don’t let anyone screw it up. They push a closed system where everything is designed together, built together, and approved together. The two results of this philosophy are that a) every product is seemless, and b) they have total control.

Google’s philosophy is equally simple: make it open, make it flexible, and make sure anyone can change it. They endorse free (as in beer AND as in choice) in as many ways as possible. They help design parts – parts that you can use together, mix and match, or use toward your own project. They have no control, and they don’t seem to want it.

Consider the respective app stores: Steve Jobs taking a strict ‘no porn’ stance, and pointing out the presence of a ‘porn store for Android.’ Is Google making a statement in favor of porn by not having a similar ban? Not really, it’s just their philosophy: open means open, even when it’s controversial. The same philosophy has the iPad competing with an untold number of variations, from Samsung’s GalaxyTab and the Dell Streak, to the VelocityMicro Cruz Reader.

Now consider that Android has 26% of the market, while the iPhone has 25%. While the iPhone’s share is made up of 4 iterations of the same (stellar) product, there are dozens of Android devices, each with a different set of features (and problems); manufacturers even have the ability to make Android look and work however they please. Their competitiveness shows how torn we are about which is better. It will be interesting to see if one of these philosophies pulls ahead this year.

So that’s the wrap up. I know a lot more happened this year (Boxee, 4G, LED TVs, wireless broadband), but I couldn’t possibly get to it all. What do you think about what’s here, and what important things did I leave out?

About Charles Jones
  • http://electexiles.wordpress.com/ Drew Dixon

    Great list. I think its probably not as big a player as motion control gaming so I don’t blame you for leaving it out, but I think cloud gaming has massive potential. If you read that and you have no idea what I am talking about, go check out onlive: http://www.onlive.com/service/cloudgaming

    Basically the idea is that you can play games instantly on your computer whether or not you have the hardware to play them. What often keeps people from exploring the world of PC gaming (which right now is graphically superior to console gaming for the reasons Rich mentioned above) is hardware–its always changing and always forcing people who want to keep up to either buy a new system or upgrade to the latest type of RAM and a better video card. Onlive allows you to play high end games on really just about any computer with a decent to good internet connection because the game is actually being hosted on a server rather than on your computer.

    If you are still confused that means you don’t have to download anything to your computer to play these games except for a the onlive launcher which is just a few megabytes. I have tried it out and its really pretty amazing. You can demo many of the games for free and its actually graphically impressive and I personally cannot tell that it is any less responsive than playing games I downloaded.

    Anyway, I don’t think Onlive is a major player yet because they don’t quite have the games yet (but that is changing) to make a big splash but when they do look out because this technology could really change the gaming world.

  • http://electexiles.wordpress.com/ Drew Dixon

    Another development in the gaming world is that 2010 might just have been the year when being a gamer became the norm. What do I mean by that? For a long time being a “gamer” carried with it a bit of a stigma–gamers are mostly either young boys or weird adults who haven’t grown up yet. I am not sure when that changed exactly, but by 2010 that is clearly not the case, in fact I would venture to say that 2010 marks an age where its far more uncommon not to be a gamer.

    If you play Farmville or any other social network game, you are a gamer. If you play anything on Kinect, Wii, or DS you are a gamer. If you have a smartphone and play Angry Birds or even Words with Friends, you are a gamer. Whether you recognize it or not if you are reading this, chances are you are a gamer! I suggest getting used to this, embracing it and investigating this new world you are a part of–doing so can only mean this relatively young medium might see some much needed growth and development!

  • http://www.christandpopculture.com/ Richard Clark

    Crap! I should clarify that this wasn’t written by me. I forgot to change the author name. Sorry Charles!

  • http://spoonfulofhahne.com Seth T. Hahne

    Honestly, I still don’t see motion in consoles as being a big deal. The junior higher I was would have been jaw-dropped and mind-blown, but I’m guessing the fate of Kinnect will be along the lines of the Wii. Something whose novelty draws people in, until the novelty wears off and the limitations become manifest. And then, like the Wii, games gather dust. (Until you get it out to stream some Netflix.)

    It’s like Beatles Rockband. We had some great times with it. Friends coming over and having six-player festivals. But we don’t do that anymore. Maybe occasionally. Rarely.

    The Kinect, in my prediction, is like the Furby. Flash in the pan. Then back to business as normal.

    Don’t get me wrong. I’d like to see the product mature and become something extraordinary. I just don’t think we will.
    __________________

    Quibble on NetFlix timeline: Roku began streaming Netflix to televisions in May 2008 and Xbox began doing the same in Nov 2008.

  • http://pos51.org/ Charles Jones

    No problem, Rich.

    Seth, I might agree with you about the Kinect if the launch games – most of which are party games or complicated additions to traditional games (like Harry Potter) – were the only thing coming. But it’s easier to see a future for it when looking at Forza Motorsports 4.

    I think the Wii’s major problems were the low-end graphics and the fact that their target market was kids and families. Sony and Microsoft have opened up that novelty to bring in casual gamers, but it looks like they’re also going to include ‘hardcore’ gamers as well. It will be interesting to see just how good Forza is, and if it ends up being one-of-a-kind, or just the beginning.