Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Future of Technology

Recently, I have been thinking a lot about how technology has progressed so rapidly in the past few years. This leads me to think about how fast it will progress in the coming future. The trend I have observed, is that people prefer to carry fewer things with them. Google has been pushing Google Wallet for payments via NFC, while Apple is working on Passbook for a similar purpose. This would enable people to ditch their credit cards for their phones. Already, wallets are getting thinner with preferences towards plastic over cash. Soon enough, IDs will also be securely stored on your cell phone, so you don't need to carry a physical ID card.
People would like to leave behind their home and car keys so they can have lighter pockets. There are many door locks in the market which can open with a smartphone. As for cars, Viper and other manufacturers have come up with solutions to unlock and start your car from your smartphone.
At the end of the day, all you are left with is a smartphone in your pocket, which can help you do everything. How cool would it be if you didn't even need to carry that smartphone? Then you would not need to worry about forgetting anything at home when you are headed out the door in the morning.
I think eventually we will be able to do that. With the push of cloud computing, it should be fairly easy to access all of the same data which is on your smartphone from any other device or a terminal. But then you are restrained by the accessibility of a terminal. Since the terminal's only function is to verify your identity, and access all the data from the cloud, it only needs to be a dumb terminal. All it would need is a touchscreen (just like on your phone) for you to be able to interact with it. With time, these touchscreens are getting so cheap, they should be easily integrated on all glass surfaces. This touchscreen would verify your identity via a fingerprint, iris scan, or some other biometric scan which is secure. If you take a cab, the passenger window can turn into a touchscreen. If you are standing at the bus stop, the glass enclosure can become a touchscreen. While you are riding the bus or train, the window can become a touchscreen. Eventually, there is a possibility of making hard surfaces touchscreens. This way, everywhere you go, you have access to your smartphone capabilities.
As far as the digital interactivity goes, the touchscreens can fulfill that. We would still require microphones and speakers to enable phone calls. It would be possible to install a microphone with every touchscreen interface. As for the speakers, there has been a lot of development in omni-directional speakers. These speakers transmit sound in a specific direction, like a laser. With these speakers also enabled in every touchscreen, there would be a possibility of having a private conversation while standing in public, just like we do right now!
I don't know how long these technologies will converge together and this future will be possible or even if it ever will happen. But I sure hope it does, and it happens soon. Those would be some exciting times to live in!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Apple's downfall imminent?

With the recent release of iPhone 5, in my opinion, it is becoming apparent that Apple is really missing Steve Jobs. Within one year of his passing, I have noticed a drastic change in the company's direction. Although I am not a big fan of Apple products, because I tend to look more towards the technical specifications of a product. Now I have realized that the majority of their customers like the look and feel of the product more than anything! This was their main selling point.

As a techie, I would be surprised when people kept ogling over a phone, which had substandard technology as opposed to many other phones in the market. Apparently they were just looking at things like how smooth the curves were or how smooth it felt to touch. Within the last year it is becoming more and more apparent that the credit for all of it went to Steve Jobs. His attention to detail really made Apple products stand out. From the iMac to the iPad, it has always been about how it looks.
The "new" iPhone 5

The new release of the iPhone 5, shows how much the company's success relied on Steve Jobs! It is nothing more than a taller version of the iPhone 4S. Would Steve Jobs let them release such an unfinished product? Hard to say, but I personally doubt it. He would have made sure that it is a big change from the previous iteration, and he would have marketed it as such.

The fiasco over the Apple Maps has just added to my doubts of Apple's survival without Steve Jobs. As a perfectionist, he would have never let them release such an unfinished product. Add to it, that Tim Cook had to come forward and apologize over the debacle. Going to the extreme of suggesting users to use competitor's products, was unimaginable during Jobs' tenure.

Recently, Leo Laporte on his This Week in Tech show, recognized that even the Maps icon was faulty! It suggests that you jump off a bridge to get on to a freeway. Yes, it is being too nit picky, but wasn't that what Jobs did? In Isaacsons' biography of Jobs, he mentions how in the middle of the night he called one of his designers to fix the gradient of an icon! As a perfectionist, would he have missed such a glaring error?

Despite all those mishaps by Apple, the iPhone 5 still sold millions of devices and broke some sales records. The question is: was it because it was marketed right, or was it because of Apple's history of making really good looking phones? If it's the latter, the consumers will eventually wear down and start looking elsewhere. A company cannot rely on its past performance to cover for current flaws for a long time. If this is how Apple continues to "innovate", it might be able to get away with it for another year or two, but eventually it will fail! Hopefully Tim Cook is able to replicate perfectionism of Jobs, or they won't have anything to stand out from the crowd.

Yes, even Steve Jobs made mistakes. His biggest being the antenna issue, where he famously said that the consumers were holding it wrong! He might have been a perfectionist, but he was not perfect. What was great about him, was that he was able to sell the next iteration of the iPhone without anyone pointing out the flaws of the previous one!