Couple Short of A Sixpack

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A lot of HDTVs are being returned by Joe (and Josephine) Sixpacks out there, and seeing why illustrates the real-world market is really like.

Yes, there are factors like hyperoptimal lighting and program sources, but this article shows that it’s more than “the picture doesn’t look like the one in the store,” or the favorite “OMG, I just spent $5,000 on a TV set.”

Among other things:

  • People buy HDTVs without having or getting HDTV service.
  • If you think that’s dumb, about two-thirds of households with HDTV think they’re watching HDTV when they aren’t.
  • Many apparently buy EDTVs because they’re cheaper and think they’re getting HDTV when they’re not.
  • “When Comcast asked its customers if you get access by plugging in a cable, “40 percent said they didn’t know.

    Now consider that the vast majority of home computers purchased in the world (and it’s probably not a whole lot better on the business side) are being bought by people who don’t know whether they’re watching HDTV or not, or quite possibly even haven’t figured out yet that cable TV comes through a cable.

    And you wonder why everyone isn’t using Linux?

    To pursuade an audience to do anything, you must first persuade them that they need your product. The computer industry has pretty much done that.

    The second step, however, as your product stops being exotic and becomes an everyday household item, is to then give them your product in forms that they want. This is something the computer industry is not very good at doing. When that’s the case, you’d better make sure that your customers have nowhere else to go, and that the computer industry has been very good at doing.

    The computer industry has been drifting towards the realm of consumer electronics anyway. Now it’s being pushed in that direction by that industry.

    However, it faces a new double whammy. First, as the HDTV stats above indicate, people don’t just desire effortless use from their devices, they demand it. Those watching regular TV and thinking it’s HDTV probably believe that asking their cable company for an HDTV signal is like asking the electricity company for power. That’s their job.

    Second, the computer industry will no longer be competing against itself in this new realm. Their real competition will be against the Sonys and Toshibas and (especially) Samsungs of the world, for whom bringing dumbed-down high tech is a way of life.

    Ten years from now, it’s hard to see how the computer the average person uses is going to look like anything Wintel would be inclined to come up with. There’s too much corporate culture, too many vested interests, too much geekiness wrapped up into the heart and soul of these companies for them to kill their old selves and be reborn, just like IBM couldn’t bring itself to suicide its mainframe industry and culture in favor of the PC.

    Oh, there will be PCs around ten years from now, just like there are mainframes today. There just will be a lot fewer than there are today, congregated in niche areas where people really need (and can pay for) immense firepower.

    It’s quite possible we’ll see what I’ll call the “gaming workstation” for those in their twenties and thirties who have plenty of disposable income to focus on them.

    But ten years from now, the typical computer used by the typical person will be in a cellphone, and built into a TV set and some little recording box and probably a couple other items we can’t even imagine today.

    They’ll take all kinds of forms. Some (probably most) will have dedicated hardware meant to handle just a few functions. Others will be more general purpose, but major in one particular function. Others will be like today’s PDAs on steroids and in cellphones. And they’ll all be a lot easier to use than what we have today, they’ll be dirt cheap so people can have a lot of different ones to do different things, and nobody’s going to know who makes the chips, these will be Samsungs or Sonys or Somebody Elses.

    Can companies like Intel and Microsoft and HP adopt to this new world? I doubt it.

    It’s understandable why somebody like Bill Gates might have a problem reinventing himself, one gets fixed in one’s way as one gets older.

    What I find a lot more disconcerting are people who I know are young, sometimes even under twenty, who seem as rigid and “what is must be what it will be” as Mr. Gates might end up proving to be.

    Just what are these people going to do the rest of their lives when they’re twenty-eight or thirty wben this happens?

    All technologies start off geeky. Automobiles, radios, TVs, you name it, they all required some (and sometimes quite considerable) effort and skill to initially use.

    Eventually, though, to become universally accepted, all these technologies had to become a lot easier to use, and when they did, the skills needed to operate the early versions became as obsolete as the devices. Who needed a crystal radio whiz in 1950?

    And this is a good thing, because it means less effort from everyone, even the crystal radio whizzes.

    In other words, the geeky users are always the pioneers in any new consumer field, but they always give way to the (relatively speaking) dummies simply because there’s a lot more dummies with a lot more money than there are geeks.

    Obviously, if somebody’s major involvement with computing is playing Doom 3, the changes I’m talking about will have little if any real impact on his or her life.

    But for those who plan to make a life out of computing, one way or the other, and think PCs are forever, well, there’s a bunch of mainframe COBOL programmers out there who thought exactly the same when they were young, too, and COBOL gigs are hard to find these days.

    Whatever the future brings, it won’t be more of the same. The only constant in life is change, and when you stop changing, you start dying. Stay open and stay flexible.


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