Tech Trends and Toys - WebReference Update - 021226
WebReference Update: December 26, 2002
This week we survey the latest tech trends and showcase some high- tech gadgets. Moore's law shows no signs of letting up well into 2004, so we'll see smaller, faster, more capable devices for the near future. Wireless will catch on with security firms cashing in on wide open networks. Hybrid devices are evolving. Image stabilization is revolutionizing photography, and is spreading into other optical devices, which are also hybridizing themselves. Finally, self-publishing will eventually overtake conventional reporting as bloggers often report the news first, albeit mainly unedited. We're also seeing peer-reviewed journals coming online, avoiding the long and restrictive process of print publication. Information wants to be free.
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Wi-Fi will spread like kudzu in 2003. Witness the many gathering places adding Wi-Fi (Starbucks, airports, etc.) and hotel chains (Marriott). To help you cut the cord, Peachpit Press has released a new book called "The Wireless Networking Starter Kit." Written by Adam Engst (of TidBITs fame) and Glenn Fleishman (unsolicited pundit) this book is a great introduction to wireless networking and covers the hardware and software you need to start surfing while sipping that expresso double latte.
The Wireless Networking Starter Kit
By Adam Engst and Glenn Fleishman
Peachpit Press, $29.99
With over 70% of wireless networks unprotected, wireless security firms will be popping up in 2003.
Everything electronic is shrinking. With chips getting smaller, and components on a diet, high-tech gizmos seem to shrink inexorably downward. Witness Sony's new digital camera offering:
Cyber-shot U - DSC-U20
Sony's new Cyber-shot U 2MB digital camera is a marvel in miniaturization. Not much larger than a pack of gum this tiny camera packs 2 megabytes of pixels and a sharp 5mm 2.8 fixed lens (equivalent to a 34mm lens in 35mm). There's no viewfinder in the conventional sense, you look into the LCD screen to frame, and no zoom. The salesman I talked to at the local electronics store calls this the "James Bond camera." The size is 3-3/8 x 1-5/8 x 1-3/16 inches and it weighs only 4.2 oz with a battery. Sony's DSC-U10 is about $30 cheaper with 1.3 megapixels.
Roll-up keyboards are also on the way, and organic screens that glow like fireflies will lighten our load.
Rather than carry around multiple devices manufacturers are combining gadgets to create convenient hybrid devices. Sony pioneered combining cameras with laptops and now they've done it with a handheld (CLIE NX70V). Cell phones now double as organizers and web browsers. Binoculars now sport integrated cameras (Pentax) and image stabilization (more on this later).
Witness the Handspring Treo 300. This tiny flip phone packs a Palm Pilot, a blackberry-like keyboard, a cell phone, and a web browser. Check and send your email, browse the web, and it fits in your pocket. $499 and only 5.7 oz.
To shrink things even further, we'll see voice-activated devices.
Canon's pioneering image stabilization for 35mm zoom lenses has revolutionized photography. Canon (and Nikon) image stabilization technology uses tiny accelerometers and movable lens elements to compensate for camera movement to steady your shots. Canon and Nikon claim 2 to 3 stop improvements in hand-holdable shutter speeds using their IS and VR technology.
Their 28-135mm f3.5-5.6 IS lens is the only stabilized wide angle zoom currently available. I bought this lens (and the new Rebel Ti) for my father and his pictures have noticeably improved. This first generation (1998) IS system is great for hand-held shots or on a monopod. Canon's third generation system in their newer IS zooms works on a tripod, and even compensates for mirror slap.
Canon has incorporated similar IS technology into their binoculars, camcorders, and HDTV lenses. The newest stabilized binocular is the diminutive 8x25 IS. The world's smallest image stabilized binocular this 17.3 oz wonder largely eliminates the need for wider fields (although Canon offers a full line of IS binoculars). I tried one, and it really works.
In today's leaner times companies are striving to do more with less. We'll see more emphasis on raising efficiency and productivity in 2003. Witness Human Factors International. Their 85 usability engineers are booked solid through the second quarter of 2003. Small changes in web site usability can mean big changes in conversion rates and user loyalty.
I predict that we'll see a renewed emphasis on speedy response times in 2003. The latest Nielsen//Netratings data shows that broadband penetration is slowing. About 30% of US users have a broadband connection at home. With most users at 56Kbps or less, slower sites will suffer from higher bailout rates, and disgruntled users. I'll have more on this topic in the new year.
Blogging has gone mainstream. For us old-timers blogging is nothing new, but the mainstream media has assigned their writers to create blogs, and their coming online in droves. XML formats like RSS help blogers gather and distribute their content to a wide audience.
Blogging Goes Mainstream
That's it for this Thursday, see you next time.
Newsletter Editor, WebReference.com
aking at jupitermedia dot com
Created: December 26, 2002
Revised: December 26, 2002