The next big Thing: Has Technology hit its ceiling?

Dear and respected readers,

It has been quite a while since I last wrote a note on technology. To those who are not so adept at technological jargon, I am pleased to say that this time around I will not be focusing much at all on what there is to tech. In fact, I would like to take a step back from my own standpoint and try to look at this arena with how an average consumer or prosumer would in their daily lives. When I last wrote a tech article, Windows 8 was just on the brink of being released, and the iPhone 5 was nowhere;Much of what we would call “flagship” devices were not in existance, both from HTC and Samsung. Since then, the Galaxy S III has skyrocketed to become something of an iPhone in the Android world, and Windows 8 reached somewhat of a flop with people and satisfaction. I must note that here, “average” is not meant to be used as a demeaning term. It simply denotes the needs of a person who is a tech enthusiast, to one who uses technology daily but have lives outside of it. (just ask a computer programmer geek what he does all day. It’s a sad life. Just kidding.) To us tech enthusiasts, it is very hard to see the perspective of people who don’t care if their phones run single or dual cores, or if it has 1 gigabytes of ram or 512. This even baffles me, for I see a lot of my friends who use their single 1 GHz phones with android 2.3 Gingerbread happily, and internally part of me just shutters ever imagining that to be my phone.

From all this, I am beginning to see an interesting pattern emerge. I have pondered the question of where technology is headed, and concluded that integration of products and a clear sign of a “connected anywhere” mentality is prevailing among people today. By this definition, I say “connected anywhere” in the standard that not only will 4G data networks help expand cheaper smartphone usage, but also the ability for a person to access all their data from a friend’s house, or another location. This applies to even when they do not have their own personal products on hand. I would consider this to be an evolution, but not a revolution. In a sense, blogs were an evolution as well, which lead to social networks such as twitter. Similarly, newsgroups and other online “groups” became Facebook, though with more privacy.

Now let’s take a step back and see from an average consumer’s point of view what could be considered a revolution. Touch screens is an obvious one here, and so are the expansion of mobile data networks. Both of these occurred in the mid 2000s, almost at the same time. Apple lead the touch screen revolution, while Verizon set up the first 3G data network in the US. Voice recognition is becoming a slow revolution, however it has the limitation of not allowing privacy to those who use it. In addition to hearing people yammering on buses into their phones or sometimes in libraries, we now get to listen to them do the same with voice commands. In short, the amount of privacy offered by this is a lot less than touch, and yet at the same time, touch gestures are not a natural way of interacting with any object.

When examining technology products which have been recently released, the new features are all too predictable. A better resolution camera, better processing speeds, perhaps faster connectivity… Samsung recently introduced a new “smart scrolling” feature in the Galaxy S IV, however I fear that depending on the accuracy of this technology it might only frustrate users. Apple’s iPhone interface has not changed much in the last 3 years, besides a notification center. Google’s Android has only received major polish, with a few redesigns.

People have also shown that change is not in their best interest, especially if it involves a radically different software interface redesign. This is demonstrated with Windows 8. There are reports of some who are now swiping at their regular non-touch screens, because they might use both a touch and non-touch Windows 8 device. The new start screen and metro apps only seem to confuse many, and I haven’t even touched on how Windows 8 RT and Pro can cause many to return their devices to the store – all because one version (RT) can’t run regular windows apps. In short, it’s a chaos right now.

In conclusion, I want to ask a major question here. Have we hit a ceiling in technological revolutions? I know a lot of readers might be at defense with what I have said here. “no we haven’t! There’s a new mind reading technology that’s coming! Or one where you can use your body as a touch screen!” (for the record, I do not ever want the ladder of these near me, even if it becomes the trend.) Sure these are in the pipeline, but consider the utility of how much would people want to use these with respect to privacy. Also, 70-80% of technological advancements never make it to market, or if they do, it is a very slow process. Websites like kickstarter do help in putting more ideas in fruition, especially if it’s a popular one.
Of course, there is a nice advantage to this. We will most likely see technology become more cheap and not as lackluster as it was in the past. Take a look at a recently announced trio of phones, called the Blu Play. These run for anywhere between $229 and 299 off contract, and offer quad core processing and cutting edge Android to the masses. Currently, smartphones unlocked run from $350-800, so for the first time, people will be able to buy good phones for the same pricing as they could if it were on contract. Thus I do think that we will see the fall of contracts in the next 3-5 years, especially if productions go so low-cost for mid-range phones. The Galaxy S IV features octa (8!) cores, a 13 megapixel camera, but do people need all of those top-of-the-line technologies just to accomplish daily tasks? A person isn’t going to go to their T-mobile store and go, “wow! 8 core processors! That can deliver me with such good benchmarks and I can finally rip dvds on my phone!” Instead, people see mainly pricing, and if the phone looks aesthetic and easy to carry. Unless some company decides to come up with a revolutionary piece of tech, chances are with technology having hit a ceiling for a while, with advancements only being made in specs and battery life. However, maybe this isn’t such a bad thing. Sure, I love to look ahead to the “next big thing”, and get excited at any press conference. It’s nice knowing that tomorrow I will be able to talk of a new awesome technology that is revolutionary. Yet in the past 1-2 years, none of that has happened, at least ever since tablets “revolutionized” the computing market. It’s ok. Having cheaper alternatives and more of a connected future will ensure a stable technological market.

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