8 bits of everyday tech we won't use in a decade
30th Sep 2009 | 09:15
What will be the VCR or Discman of tomorrow?
An end to keyboards, landlines, optical discs
Who'd have thought a decade ago that portable music wouldn't mean a cassette Walkman or Discman? Or that the VCR would be all but obsolete? That nobody would use fax (or even dial-up modems) any more? Or CRT?
An awful lot has changed over the last 10 years, but what technology of today will become redundant over the next decade?
We got our future-gazing hat on and came up with these eight. Don't agree? Let us know in the comments below.
1. Keyboard and mouse
How quaint! The keyboard and mouse you use every day will not exist in ten years, replaced by highly-detailed touch interfaces – think: the iPhone on a big screen – multi-touch systems that support highly complex gestures, such as circling a group of photos, tossing them around, and clicking to remove smudges.
As Jon Peddie, a consumer analyst, notes, "you" will become the interface. The computer will respond to your movements, eye-tracking, head gestures, and -- one day – your very thoughts.
2. Public Wi-Fi
802.11n may have just been ratified (finally), but it's probably too late. WiMax networks that run in major cities will negate the need for a local hotspot.
More importantly, as cities develop smart grids that allow citizens to see their power usage in real-time, electric cars report mileage and traffic info over wireless, and streaming video systems replace telephone networks, a widespread wireless network won't just be an emerging tech idea – it will be a requirement.
3. Landline phone
Pundits have predicted the death of the landline phone for years, but – according to noted analyst Michael Gartenberg – in ten years they won't exist anymore, mostly because smartphones will finally take over.
Companies have already switched almost entirely to IP based telephony, so an analog line to the home will become a distant memory. Jon Peddie says even the cell phone might not exist in ten years, replaced by a personal heads-up display that actually works and doesn't make you feel sick – tied into the cloud, snapping a live stream of photos and videos.
4. Optical discs
It's amazing that current notebooks and desktops come with an optical drive, and that we're still buying Blu-ray discs. Yet, we can't blame Microsoft and Sony.
It's really the pathetic speed of broadband, running only about 3-5Mbps in most areas. In the future, more ubiquitous fiber networks – even in rural areas – will make broadband faster.
Companies such as Akamai and Limelight are figuring out how to route traffic more effectively, and we're relying more and more on web apps. The result: software video distribution networks will finally negate the need for optical discs.
Goodbye to desktop PCs and operating systems
5. Standard game controllers
The Xbox 360 controller you use today will morph into something more radical, a combination of the Nintendo Wiimote with accelerometer sensors, video systems that scan your body movements (ala Microsoft's Project Natal), and various hardware add-ons such as Guitar Hero controllers and nunchucks.
Gaming will change from a singular activity with one controller to group gaming where the console senses who is in the room and lets them control more fluid interfaces.
6. Desktop PCs
All hail the mighty desktop! Your reign is coming to an end. OK, for engineers, developers, video production artists, and gamers, maybe not. For most computer users, the desktop already is dead, according to IDC reports showing that desktop sales have stagnated and netbooks and notebook sales are rising fast.
The reason: Intel and AMD processors and graphics chipsets in notebooks can now compete with desktop equivalents. And, portability is no longer just a market segment – every computer user has realised the benefits.
Gartenberg claims even the notebook has a precarious love affair and will be replaced by an as-yet-unknown information appliance, some kind of morph between a netbook, booklet, smartphone, and notebook.
7. Operating systems
For the hardcore computer science gurus, yes – an OS must always exist to manage memory and core functions. Yet, the bloatware of today will be replaced by an extremely thin OS that maybe doesn't have a name, and certainly is not run by a commercial entity.
Instead, computing will be pervasive, says Peddie, and hard to pin down to just one OS running on an LCD screen. "OSes will vanish and we'll have a monolithic browser that manages everything," he says. "We talk to it, it sees us and recognises our moods, clothes, and those around us to deliver the appropriate information."
One reason blogging, and micro-blogging on Twitter, has become so popular has to do with the one-way nature of web communications. We post our thoughts, people read them.
In ten years, the web will become much more interactive, as proven by services such as Qik.com (where you can stream live photos and video) and Google Wave, which allows you to see what someone is typing. Also, crowd-sourcing will replace the pundits (ahem) and lead to better overall information sharing.
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