Choosing a Technology

I still hear people say, “It’s about time I learn how to use xxxx”. You can replace the “xxxx” with almost any technologies now a days. From SMS (text messaging) to Instant Messaging (IM), doing word processing on a computer to downloading HD (High Definition) movies from the Internet, video chatting to voice over IP (V0IP).

In many cases these people would clarify their statements with something like, “I really don’t know how xxxx works”. That is usually their reasons for not using the technology in question.

I believe a technology is ready for “prime time”; general consumption, when it is easy enough to use, such that people do not need to know how it works, but understand what it can do for them.

The latter is what I believe technologist or versatilist like myself is specialized in. Especially in terms of aspiring technologies that has yet to reach the pervasiveness I described above.

Technology should always be thought of as serving a business objective or solution. In very rare cases does technology dictates the business model or objectives.

Apple Inc. for one has captured this essence of technology perfectly through its products; may it be hardware or software. Their computer operating system (Mac OS) and personal computer (“Apple” and then “Macintosh”) are my computing tools of choice for the past 25+ years.

Technology companies out there should stop pushing technologies, which are not ready for prime time, down consumers’ throats.

In recent years, many such technologies existed:

  • 3G (third generation) mobile telephone. This technology and mobile phones were at least 3 years ahead of its time when mobile phone carriers were pushing the 3G phones onto consumers. Of course, now 3 years later much of European Union (EU) countries and Asia are 3G capable.
  • HD (High Definition) TV was another technology waiting for content when it was shown at CES 10 years ago, and then made widely available 3 – 4 years ago. In this case the United States, source of majority of the English TV content, took the lead in generating HD content for the massive adoption in the past 2 years. Now there are almost just as many HD channels as SD (Standard Definition) channels in the United States. Unfortunately, the rest of the world are still playing catch up with China only recently finalized their national HD standards.
  • Windows OS (operating system), until Windows Vista, was really a technical tool designed more for geeks and technophiles. Especially when we speak of the software Microsoft produced for these operating systems and the Mac OS. Microsoft Office is a very power suite of software, but for the untrained user, they are only able to use the tip of the iceberg of these tools’ capabilities.
  • Another Microsoft OS, the Microsoft “Windows Mobile”, is a bloated operating system that majority of the devices and software manufacture would not be able to take advantage of, hence, the consumers who purchase these devices are under utilizing. Majority of the consumers who purchase a Windows Mobile device; PDA (Personal Digital Assistant), has three simple requirements:
    1. Make telephone calls.
    2. Keep their business and personal contact details organized.
    3. Keep track of their business and personal appointments.

    From this set of consumers a small percentage also have the following requirements:

    1. Take photos for sending to friends via email (307,200 pixels or less). Because of the size of the average photo size requirements, a camera with less than 1M pixel resolution is sufficient.
    2. Read emails from their personal account (normally POP type), and if the device is subsidized by their employer also read corporate emails (either Microsoft Exchange, POP, IMAP or Blackberry type).

    From this smaller set of consumers a small percentage may find the following requirements necessary:

    1. They want to listen to music in MP3 format (with an average quality of 128kbps sampling rate). This quality means that the average 3 minutes song is about 2.8MB (Mega Bytes) in size.
    2. They may want to keep track of where they are via GPS and GPS software.

    Finally a very very few people wants to edit MS Office documents and/or presentations on these devices.

    As most of my readers can agree, they fall into the first set of consumers, and may be less than half of that falls into the 2nd set.

    Therefore, I believe using the Microsoft Windows Mobile OS for a PDA is like using an aircraft carrier to cross a river when a simple row boat is sufficient.

Doing the above in many cases will cause the technology in question to have a very slow up take and in some cases risk of being discontinued before their time.

Over the past decades many great and arguably superior technologies had seen such demise:

Now in the past 6 months and the next 12 months to come we may see Blu-ray and HD DVD having the same fate.

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