The Demise of Gadgets?

Posted on February 27, 2010


The fuss is finally about the iPad is finally dying down, the Amazon Kindle is struggling to gain a foothold in a market it created (as far as the general public is concerned at least) and the Nexus One (the ‘one true Googlephone’) still hasn’t lived up to the hype in sales. Is this it? This is the best three of the largest technology companies in the world could come up with?

Don’t get me wrong, they all seem like very nice pieces of kit but is there anything new about any of them? The iPad is, essentially, an iPod Touch that’s too big to be truly portable but lacks the keyboard and multi-tasking to compete with netbooks. Combined with Apple’s issues over the control of its’ portable devices I struggle to find any reason to want one, I’d much rather have one of these Touch Books if anyone is feeling generous.

The Kindle, along with all other e-readers, suffers from the availability of free books from the likes of Project Gutenburg that can be read on almost any device, the high pricing of the Amazon e-books compared to a physical book and the utter convenience and ubiquity of real books. I have no intention of giving up on physical books for a single device than can carry all the books in my library but also lose all of those books in one fell swoop. Furthermore, I like books and I like book shopping, particularly in second hand bookshops or charity shops. Scanning the shelves for interesting titles, authors or even covers* is much easier and more satisfying than staring at a screen trying to navigate the latest online shop (has anyone found a way of truly browsing on Amazon? I can find specific items I want or look at Amazon’s recommendations but my tastes are much harder to define than ‘fantasy’ or ‘sci-fi’ or books by authors I’ve read before).

And so onto the Nexus One. This I like. If I was to buy a smartphone phone it would be something running Android and as the only device with the latest version this would be high on the list. However, it’s nothing jaw-droppingly amazing or new. The Motorola Droid is getting similar rave reviews and it seems like every day there’s another Android phone announced (plus the new Windows Phone 7 Series or whatever it’s name is although that’s a different story).

It’s recently been revealed that Apple are sitting on a cash pile of $40 billion and all they could do was a large iPod Touch? Given the marketing hype around it (which I find it hard to believe Apple didn’t want/encourage) I can’t imagine there’s any other new products on the horizon yet. I imagine Google and Amazon have similar cash reserves and yet…this is it. Let’s see somebody try something different, it might fail but with that much money and all those experts surely there are some risks worth taking for the prestige of being the first with something completely new?

The only vaguely interesting consumer electronics announcement I’ve seen recently came from the usually lumbering behemoth that is Microsoft. Of all people they seem to have announced a phone OS that won’t be just a copycat with shiny, round corner icons but it’ll be at least 6 months until anyone really knows whether it’ll work.

Hopefully I’m wrong and somebody is about to launch a product that will be brand new and actually generate interest based on the product and not just marketing hype. Maybe a small company somewhere is about to burst into the spotlight and take our collective breath away. More likely I fear that we’ll have to make do with evolution rather than revolution and our different gadgets will simply be merged together with little originality added…how very boring.

* Yes, I have been known to judge a book by its cover and, more often than not, it works out well