Cites & Insights: Crawford at Large
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Libraries · Policy · Technology · Media


Selection from Cites & Insights 12, Number 5: June 2012


The Middle

Forecasts

The difference between forecasts and what I called Futurism in the May 2012 Cites & Insights? Forecasts are specific and short-term, typically for the coming year, which means they can be checked. For this roundup, I’m once again leaving out items that are primarily about ebooks—and most items I’ve flagged “deathwatch,” which deserve their own, even snarkier, roundup.

It takes either courage or hubris to make short-term predictions or forecasts. It takes unusual honesty to go back and review your track record. It takes something else to issue the “you should…” forecasts that some of these are—that is, saying “because I do or believe x, or no longer use y, you should all do the same.”

There’s an odd split in the set of items I have at the moment: The first three are forecasts for 2010 that I missed in 2010 and 2011 roundups. The rest are more contemporary—mostly commentaries on how 2011 worked out or forecasts for 2012.

Some Belated 2010 Forecasts

One of these is from a library source. Two are not. My comments in italics.

Top Tech Trends—ALA Midwinter 2010

This one’s by Jason Griffey, posted January 24, 2010 at Pattern Recognition, and it provides his trends “exactly as written before the panel started.” It’s a cute presentation as he claims 2010 as both “the year of” and “the death of” two specific trends.

·         The Year of the App. “2010 is the year that Apps show up everywhere…small, specialized programs that do one thing in a standalone way are going to be everywhere: every phone, printers, nearly every gadget is going to try and leverage an App Store of some type.” True enough.

·         The Death of the App. “Many of the reasons to program stand-alone Apps disappear when the HTML5 and CSS3 standards become widespread… As an increasing number of web developers become familiar with the power of HTML5, we’ll see a burgeoning of amazing websites that rival the AJAX revolution of the last 2-3 years.” OK, I didn’t buy any apps in 2011 (or in 2009 or 2010)…but somehow I have the sense that they’re still around. Big time.

·         The Year of the eReader. “This year will see the release of no less than a dozen different eReader devices, based around the eInk screen made popular by the Amazon Kindle…” Were there a dozen eInk devices with measurable sales? I suppose if you count all models of the Kindle, the Nook and Sony’s devices separately, there might have been.

·         The Death of the eReader. “Early 2010 is going to be the height of the eReader, and late 2010 will see their decline, as the long-awaited Tablet computing form factor is perfected.” I’m pretty sure this is dead wrong—that devices primarily dedicated to ebook reading continued to grow in sales throughout 2010 and well into 2011, and probably continue to grow.

Video Boxes, ‘Notbooks’ and E-Books to Dominate Gadgets in 2010

That’s from Wired’s Gadget Lab staff, posted January 4, 2010. It begins with a slightly more hopeful beginning than January 2010 maybe deserved:

As the economy sputters back to life, gadget makers are preparing a whole raft of hardware for you to buy in 2010.

Some of it will even be worth purchasing.

Noting that January 2010 was back in the dark ages, when Apple was still rumored to be ready to release the iSlate or iGuide, these are what Wired thought would be the “biggest gadget trends of 2010”:

·         “Historians may look at 2010 as the year that gadget technology finally destroyed the cable companies. And it’s the rise of internet video that is making this happy day possible.” Yes, there were lots more “connected” TVs in 2010, although this passage may be a bit over the top: “We’re calling it: If a TV can’t access the internet directly in 2010, it might as well be sitting next to an exhibit of Neanderthals at the Natural History Museum.” Add to that the Boxee Box, and Wired is convinced that cable was done for. “Unless you like paying exorbitant prices and enjoy terrible service and smarmy service reps, there’s very little reason to keep your cable provider this year.” Except that, for most of us, the only way to get broadband fast enough to handle anything close to high-def quality is to pay even more to the cable company than we would for cable itself. Guess what? Most TV in 2011 and 2012 to date—close to 98% by time, by all accounts—reaches the home through cable or satellite. This one’s dead wrong.

·         The “do-everything device,” as everybody dumps single-function devices like Kindles and adopts things like the PlayStation 3. Oh, and with companies moving to platform solutions so “you can go years between hardware upgrades, as opposed to every six months.” Who other than iFans upgrades their devices every six months? As for iFans…well, Apple sure has stuck with that first iPad ever since it came out in mid-2010, right? Oh, and single-function devices like ebook readers and digital cameras: Gone. Right?

·         A wider variety of low-budget computers ($300 to $500), including netbooks with bigger screens, “smartBooks” that are even smaller than netbooks, of course the flood of ChromebooksMaybe, maybe not. Certainly Chrome notebooks didn’t exactly take off in 2010. Or 2011. Or 2012…

·         “E-book readers get competitive.” And consider the ones worth mentioning: The Plastic Logic Que with its 8.5x11” screen. The eDGe $450 dual-screen device. (The section also discusses color eReaders using Mirasol technology or color eInk. Were those on the market in 2010—or 2011, for that matter?) Yes, e-book readers got competitive. No, those weren’t the players.

·         “You will want a 3-D TV.” With Sony as a leading producer and, oh yes, the first 3D TVs that don’t require glasses. In 2010. Here’s the odd one: The writer in this case nailed it in the final paragraph—not that 3-D TVs haven’t become widespread, but that people weren’t hungering for 3D: “Still, it’s an open question whether people really want to go to the expense and trouble of installing 3-D display systems in their living rooms. Given the high prices and the tradeoffs (glasses, fixed viewing distances), our bet is that any real growth in 3-D televisions is a few years away. For now, we’re sticking with our 2-D televisions.”

·         “Pocket projectors get huge.” Not just standalone “pico projectors” but projectors built into cameras and camcorders, and probably even netbooks and laptops. Somehow this doesn’t seem a major trend in 2010.

I checked a couple of things. As far as I can tell, as many as two million households in the U.S. may have “cut the cable.” Some—like my brother, and like me if I had the antenna tower for it—went back to over-the-air broadcasting. Some with sufficiently high-speed internet may be using that instead. But “destroyed the cable companies”? It is to laugh.

12 Trends to Watch in 2010

That’s Tim Jones’ January 13, 2010 post on DeepLinks summarizing Electronic Frontier Foundation’s trends “we think will play a significant role in shaping online rights in 2010.” It’s an interesting list, and I’m just going to give the topic sentences without much commentary.

Attacks on Cryptography: New Avenues for Intercepting Communications

Books and Newspapers: .TXT is the new .MP3

Global Internet Censorship: The Battle for Legitimacy

Hardware Hacking: Opening Closed Platforms and Devices

Location Privacy: Tracking Beacons in Your Pocket

Net Neutrality: The Rubber Hits The Road

Online Video: Who Controls Your TV?

Congress: Postponed Bad Legislation Returns

Social Networking Privacy: Something’s Got To Give

Three Strikes: Truth and Consequences

Fair Use of Trademarks: Mockery At Risk

Web Browser Privacy: It’s Not Just About Cookies Anymore

The blog does have updates at the end of 2010—but with one post per trend, making it more cumbersome to comment on. Here’s the set of results, including the post above. I’ve omitted some EFF material in the past because URLs weren’t responding properly, but that seems to be fixed. I’d suggest going to the posts themselves. EFF is occasionally extreme for my taste but frequently serves as an effective voice; it’s at least worth seeing what they had to say about these issues.

2011

With one exception, this set of items is looking backwards at predictions—and the one exception could as easily be classed as a Deathwatch item.

NVIDIA’s Project Denver CPU puts the nail in Wintel’s coffin

That’s Jon Stokes’ title for a January 2011 ars technica story. It’s impure speculation: Stokes has taken an NVIDIA mention of a project and built from there to a fairly startling conclusion (if the title isn’t misleading). The project:

The chipmaker did unveil Project Denver, a desktop-caliber ARM processor core that’s aimed squarely at servers and workstations, and will run the ARM port of Windows 8. This is NVIDIA’s first attempt at a real general-purpose microprocessor design that will compete directly with Intel’s desktop and server parts.

Followed by this key sentence (emphasis added):

The company has offered nothing in the way of architectural details, saying only that the project exists and that the company has had a team of crack CPU architects working secretly on it for some time.

This is all about a CES keynote by NVIDIA’s CEO—and his apparent jump from mobile devices to supercomputers to ARM to Windows 8…to Project Denver. Here’s the key paragraph, making it clear that this is a premature or overstated post about language and, really, nothing more:

After it sunk in that NVIDIA will produce a high-performance, desktop- and server-caliber, general-purpose microprocessor core, and that this processor core will power PCs running Windows, most of the picture had clicked into place. As of today, Wintel is officially dead as a relevant idea and a tech buzzword with anything more than historical significance. Sure, not much will change in the x86-based Windows PC market this year, but “Wintel” is really and finally dead as a term worth using and thinking with.

There follows some discussion of gaming consoles and other stuff that might make sense to some of you in the original, leading up to this (followed by a “we’ll keep you posted” paragraph):

If NVIDIA can execute in all three areas—CPU design, GPU design, and SoC system design—then it could potentially make one killer gaming and supercomputing CPU. But this is a very tall order, and a lot of things could go wrong here. Right now, the GPU execution part is the only one where confidence is warranted based on a track record. With the system integration stuff and CPU part, NVIDIA is in uncharted territory. (The Tegra SoC part of NVIDIA’s record isn’t as relevant as you might think, because Denver is a different kettle of fish entirely.)

Let’s see if I get this straight. If NVIDIA can excel in several areas, if Windows 8 really is ported fully to ARM architecture or there’s some other way NVIDIA can do this, then NVIDIA might have a hot item for a small piece of the PC market—”gaming and supercomputing.” Some day.

Therefore, “Wintel”—not, as it turns out, the vast marketplace composed of Windows OS running on Intel CPUs (and, presumably AMD CPUs, which didn’t make “Wintel” meaningless), but the term—is already dead. Gotcha.

No comments.

I did a little searching on ars technica to see how much followup there had been. A May 2011 story shows that NVIDIA’s GPU shipping volumes were down 28% from a year earlier—and GPUs (graphical processing units) are what NVIDIA does. Both Intel and AMD volumes are up in the GPU market. Otherwise, I saw Project Denver mentioned several times as sort of a talisman—”when this happens, it’ll be great.”

So is “Wintel” dead as a term? “A Google search yields X results” is, I know, an utterly useless comment, so noting that such a search limited to the past month yielded about 40,100 results and to the past week about 13,000 doesn’t say the term isn’t dead. After all, given TV and popular literature, the dead and undead can be exceedingly active.

Effects on the Windows marketplace in 2011? Not only “not much” but, as far as I can tell, nothing at all.

The top 5 ed tech developments of 2011 that weren’t

This one’s fairly narrow—”ed tech”—but it’s also interesting as it’s a writer explicitly saying “this didn’t work out the way I thought it would.” Here’s the summary that appears above the December 20, 2011 ZDNet Education story by Christopher Dawson:

If you had asked me in 2010, these technologies would have been a much bigger deal than they were.

[Emphasis in the original.] Before discussing the misfires, Dawson offers an enthusiastic summary of what did happen in 2011 for tech in general:

Android exploded, tablets finally took off in a big way (although the iPad still reigns supreme both for consumers and in ed tech), HTML5 gained some real traction, “social” in all its forms went completely mainstream, Google Apps gained even more legitimacy (along with plenty of other cloud technologies), and the Mac vs. Windows debate was replaced by real market differentiation

Without attempting to critique that paragraph, let’s go on to the five that didn’t, offering Dawson’s headings in bold and my brief notes in regular text:

·         Android: Specifically, the promise of “ultra-cheap tablets for everyone.” Among other things, there’s this: “And those ultra-cheap Android tablets? It turns out that they stink.”

·         Electronic textbooks: More specifically, interactive textbooks running on those cheap Android tablets. Oh, and cheap interactive textbooks (since, presumably, it doesn’t cost a small fortune to make a textbook meaningfully interactive?).

·         PCoIP: Basically, “complete PCs” living on blade servers with students using thin clients. “While there have been successful deployments, they have generally been isolated case studies and not the real time-, energy-, maintenance-, and/or money-saving ventures they should and could have been.”

·         BYOD: “Bring your own device”—the idea that schools should achieve “1:1 computing” by telling students to bring their own notebooks or equivalent. Dawson’s commentary here makes me wonder about his definition of “very workable.” He admits that parents may not have the funds to buy their kids notebooks and that robust backends with no security issues may not be free, but that leads to saying it’s “a very workable idea that just hasn’t worked yet.”

·         Tech-centric pedagogy: Not just using technology to enhance learning, but making technology the center of teaching. Why is this inherently a good idea? You got me.

Dawson is (wait for it) a consultant on “educational technology and web-based systems” who’s also the marketing VB for a “virtual classroom and learning network SaaS provider.” This is another one with, apparently, no comments at all. What I miss: Any sense that some of Dawson’s “it didn’t happen” might be worth reconsidering, not just being disappointed about.

Tech’s biggest misfires of 2011

This one, on the other hand, isn’t an admission of bad forecasts (and maybe doesn’t belong here at all). It’s a celebration/snarkfest of “delays, false starts, security breeches [sic] and straight up technological turf outs” written by Bryan Heater and posted at engadget on December 29, 2011. (Assuming that Heater isn’t talking about bulletproof pants, I’m siccing rather than simply correcting to “breaches” because, dammit, engadget claims to be a professional operation, not just some semiliterate blogger.)

The list? The failed AT&T/T-Mobile merger; the widespread use of Carrier IQ “diagnostic” software on mobile devices; Cisco’s shutting down Flip; the continued (at that point) absence of the longest-running vaporware, Duke Nukem Forever; Fusion Garage and its new, ahem, wonder tablets, the Grid10 and Grid4, which were apparently as successful as the JooJoo (remember the JooJoo? No?); the HTC Thunderball because of lousy battery life; the nonexistent iPhone 5; Jawbone’s Up wristband; the Kobo Vox ereader; the Kno dual-screen tablet; Netflix Qwikster; Nintendo’s 3DS Circle Pad Pro; the Notion Ink Adam, yet another tablet disappointment; PlayStation Network’s problems; Research in Motion in general; and HP’s webOS.

It’s quite a list and you may find the one-paragraph write-ups (with links) interesting—and this time, there are comments. 923 of them before they were closed (apparently after very little time, since in early May 2012 the newest comment is labeled “4 months ago,” presumably within a week or two of the story’s posting). I did not attempt to read all of them. The first is hard to argue with: “The iPhone 5 was more the fault of publications like Engadget, rather than Apple themselves.” A long discussion follows…I gave up after 100 additional comments before reaching the end of it.

Thursday Threads: Looking Backwards and Looking Forwards

This December 29, 2011 item by Peter Murray, the Disruptive Library Technology Jester, bridges the end of this section and the start of the next section. It’s all links, to be sure, and looking backwards, I’m just going to note one of them, Jenn Webb’s “Five things we learned about publishing in 2011,” posted December 28, 2011 at O’Reilly Radar. The five?

·         Amazon is, indeed, a disruptive publishing competitor: Amazon seems to want it all—not just sales but the whole shebang. Examples include the expanding toolkit for self-publishing through Amazon, but also AmazonEncore (called Amazon’s “flagship imprint”; AmazonCrossing (translations of foreign-language books); Seth Godin’s Domino Project; and Montlake Romance, an Amazon romance imprint. Then there’s the Kindle Owner’s Lending Library and more emphasis on Kindle Singles.

·         Publishers aren’t necessary to publishing: More authors have figured that out—but, in fact, for many authors that’s not entirely true (I, for one, benefit enormously from the editing, packaging and publicity capabilities of good publishers). She says self-publishing is “becoming more mainstream”; I wonder how broadly that’s true, but it’s a point. (Worth noting: CreateSpace, one of the two significant no-fee publish-on-demand operations, is an Amazon division.)

·         Readers sure do like ebooks: And I certainly like the lead for this discussion, even if it’s sicworthy: “There good news is that people are still reading…”

·         HTML5 is an important publishing technology: It’s supported in EPUB3 and sort-of in Kindle Format 8.

·         DRM is full of unintended consequences: You think? Maybe here it’s worth quoting the final sentence, after Webb notes that DRM doesn’t stop piracy and isn’t really well supported by statistics: “But it does give publishers one thing: a longer length of rope with which to hang themselves.”

I frequently feel discussions of publishers should be prefaced with “the Big 6 publishers” but maybe this group goes a little beyond that.

Peter Murray lists the five and says we can add a sixth: “The relationship between libraries and publishers is no longer a passive one.” It’s still mostly passive, but that may be changing.

2012

Now we’re firmly in the realm of forecasts—and we’ll start by picking up Murray’s two lists of 2012 forecasts. one from Fast Company, one from the UK’s National Endowment for Science Technology and the Arts.

10 Bold Tech Predictions For 2012

That’s “expert blogger” David Lavenda, posting on December 12, 2011 at Fast Company’s “Expert Blog.” These are explicitly flagged as business developments. His boldface predictions; my comments:

·         Social business will take off in 2012, but companies will struggle to adopt. You’ll have to read this one yourself; it strikes me as bafflegab.

·         A significant failure in a popular cloud service will set the cloud movement back. If A then probably B, as it may cause sensible businesses to look closely at the “huge cost savings” Lavenda assures us even small businesses get by losing local control over their computing and data resources.

·         Mobile IT will grow slowly in the enterprise. Very much business-centric, mostly saying businesses really aren’t going to equip all their employees with smartphones and tablets in any great hurry. And why should they? This one doesn’t strike me as bold at all; it strikes me as realistic.

·         Organizations will increase IT infrastructure investments. Note my observation on the previous “bold prediction,” but double it.

·         An iPad tablet alternative will emerge out of the fragmented Android market. I wouldn’t call this bold: more like “nearly inevitable.”

·         Android vs. iOS 2012: “Apple will have to become more flexible in its software distribution model for enterprise software or it will risk making the same Macintosh vs. PC mistake of the 1990s. It is not reasonable for organizations to grant Apple control of application distribution to their internal workforce.” Hard to argue with that—but it’s not a prediction, since Lavenda isn’t saying Apple will increase flexibility.

·         eBooks will dominate. In my opinion, that requires an unusual definition of “dominate,” but I could be wrong. eBooks having more than 50% of total book sales for 2012? If that’s what he’s saying, that is a bold (and, I think, improbable) prediction.

·         Information overload will get much worse. While the discussion is interesting, I don’t buy it. He’s mixing hyperconnectivity with filtering failure. They’re two different things.

·         Consolidation in the social business/enterprise collaboration market. Another purely business discussion.

·         A significant new player will emerge in the social networking space. “Facebook will remain the dominant player for the foreseeable future, but an attractive alternative will emerge in 2012.” Writing in December 2011, that’s not only not bold, it’s simply recognizing reality. The name of that player ends in a plus sign, by the way.

I think I’m with Peter here: He’s less sure that ebooks will “dominate,” “but they will certainly become more prevalent.” Otherwise, I’m starting to feel like making my own Bold Predictions (after looking at the third, fourth, fifth and tenth ones above), such as:

·         Pigs will continue to fly only as cargo within airplanes.

·         Threats of public library closures will greatly outnumber actual library closures, but the threats will get much more press than the less negative outcomes.

·         Tens of thousands of infographics will appear that use lots of space to say very little, and that frequently in a misleading manner. (Infographics are to statistical clarity as PowerPoint and Prezi are to oratory.)

12 predictions for 2012

This one—a set of 12 discussions from a central page—is tough because it’s from the UK and situations may be different there. Still, it’s worth a few notes. These are stated as “predictions for the year ahead spanning the tech, retail and entertainment industries as well as business and the public sector.” I’m not giving all of them, just a few that seem noteworthy beyond the UK.

·         Innovation for frugality. Because it’s likely that a number of nations will either have little to no economic growth or actually suffer contraction in 2012, there should be both more innovations that allow people to do things cheaper—and more “frugal innovation” coming out of places with small budgets. (I wonder about the assertion that “extravagance is inevitable” in well-funded operations like CERN: Is that universally true?)

·         Raspberry Pi and the rise of the cheap computer. The claim here is that we all (or at least many of us, specifically kids) will start programming again—like back in the days of cheapo TV-based computers running BASIC. The discussion gets away from the Raspberry Pi itself and makes a broader claim: “the rise of the cheap, programmable computer is my prediction for 2012.” I’d be astonished if this proves to be true in any broad sense.

·         Massively connected. The Internet of Things finally takes off. The writer here thinks everything’s in place for this to “get everywhere in 2012.” I’m not holding my breath.

·         Your mobile wallet. A “this time for sure!” prediction—and, indeed, that’s the content: “We’ve been promised a wallet in our phones for years, but 2012 will be the year that it breaks through.” The writer enthuses over the fact that every transaction done using a Near Field Communication chip in a phone “becomes an opportunity to exchange data and trigger an application.” Which means it becomes yet another way that your current location and information about you become part of a datanet. Clearly this is entirely desirable to the writer; maybe not so much for some of the rest of us.

That’s four out of 12. A few of the others are very much UK-centric, and there are some I just don’t feel the need to comment on.

Anticipating 2012

A library-specific list from Gavia Libraria (the library loon), posted December 21, 2011. The mysterious loon admits that she’s been unable to predict things “that in hindsight were obviously coming” but wants to do some predictions anyway. She groups things into four categories—and I like what I read well enough to mostly just quote her (noting that the blog has a CC BY license, all the more amusing because the only attribution you can give is to Gavia Libraria, the library loon). I’m leaving out areas that seem (to me) outside C&I’s scope; you really should read the whole post. Where I have comments, they’re in [brackets].

Likely flashpoints

A really big Big Deal will finally explode noisily. Small Big Deals are already crumbling, but they just aren’t enough to create an academe-wide furor. Twenty-eleven did produce three big-enough near-misses, however: Access Copyright in Canada, RLUK taking on Elsevier and Wiley, then backing down, and poor desperate Purdue’s last-minute one-year deal with Elsevier…. [Seems likely. Will 2012 be the year?]

Maria Pallante will do something exceedingly stupid and horrible. The signals sent by the US’s new Register of Copyrights are terrifying, especially for academic libraries. You thought SOPA was bad? Pallante could be worse, because one can’t filibuster the woman to stop her. Likely initiatives include bad orphan-works policy, an entirely unhelpful “section 108 revision,” and an Access-Copyright–like compulsory licensing scheme. {I wish I could disagree here, but so far Pallante seems to be another copyright maximalist.]

Grinding slow, but exceeding fine

PLoS will continue its growth. If there’s a smarter group of people in this business than PLoS, the Loon doesn’t know who it might be.

Anger at toll-access publishers will continue to gain faculty mindshare. This has been painfully slow in coming, but 2011 saw quite a few more outright philippics, and quite a bit less FUD and apologias from toll-access publishers, than heretofore. It’s not yet time to translate that into major gains for open access… but it’s a necessary start nonetheless. [I think the Loon’s right on all counts—both the overall trend and that 2012 may be too early for major gains in OA. A Whitehouse.gov petition is great, but may not be a major gain as such.]

Hathi Trust will survive and prosper. The Authors Guild’s lawsuits grow increasingly shrill and desperate. They won’t win anything by them. And while the orphan-works snafu was indeed embarrassing, it’s hardly fatal.

Perhapses

One PLoS One imitator announced in 2011 will fold in 2012. The Loon’s nonexistent money is on SAGE Open, but it could be any of them. Predictably, the toll-access-publisher lobby will trumpet this as a major open-access failure, ignoring both the success of PLoS One and the well-above-zero churn rate of toll-access journals. N.b.: 2012 could well be too early, but the Loon would be rather shocked (not necessarily in a bad way, of course) if this didn’t happen by 2015.

The silent war between MLSes and underemployed postdocs for library staff positions will come to a head. The Loon thinks MLSes will ultimately hold their ground, Jeff Trzeciak or no Jeff Trzeciak; this sort of battle has happened before. How ugly the war gets depends in part on how quickly Trzeciak’s institution hands him his head, which would scare other library administrators away from library-labor casualization via postdocs. (No matter when it happens, the Loon’s firm opinion is that it didn’t happen nearly soon enough.) [Meanwhile, JT has moved on…and I’m staying right away from this fight.]

Anything could happen, and probably will

SOPA and its ilk. The Loon prays that the Internet discovers its lobbying spine. It’ll need it. [Given that SOPA’s morphed into CSIPA, I share the Loon’s prayer.]

The eventual lawsuit-driven shape of Google Books. The Loon wouldn’t touch this with her tiniest, most expendable pinfeather. [Ditto—although I’m ready to predict that whatever emerges will have almost nothing to do with the original grandiose “oh, you don’t really need library stacks anymore” perversion of what Google was actually saying.]

Privacy in social media and on mobile devices. Worse and worse… we can certainly expect more scandals and more blunders; what the Loon wouldn’t even try to predict is the reaction thereto, from legislators or the social-media-using public at large. [Nor will I.]

A fine and interesting set of predictions, including the ones I chose to omit. Yes, I know I’m a disagreeable old cuss, but I don’t disagree with everybody.

Ditch these 10 devices in 2012

While I picked this up from the Chicago Tribune, it’s actually written by Deborah Netburn of the Los Angeles Times and it’s the kind of thing that drives me right up the wall—a story that begins by essentially saying that this “create more garbage!” list only makes sense if you want everything to be multifunction. To wit, the introduction:

When researching this list of obsolete technology, we discovered that most of the devices we’ve deemed no longer necessary are actually very useful items that served us better than the smartphone functions that have come to replace them. They helped us navigate strange cities (GPS for the car), easily take video of our children (Flip cam), and transport large files between our home and office computers (flash drive).

So why have they become obsolete? Because they did one thing and one thing only, and a person can carry only so many devices in their coat pockets or purses, no matter how small. And so we suggest that in the coming year you bid a fond farewell to these 10 items, on the off chance that you haven’t trashed them already.

Maybe I should stop right there, scream and turn the page. Pushing people to keep replacing perfectly good technology with newer better hotter and labeling items that might be last year’s version as “obsolete” inclines me to say that, while I don’t believe print newspapers are obsolete, some forms of newspaper “journalism” damn well should be.

So what’s the actual list?

·         Flip cams—she’s talking about the whole cheap, small camcorder category, not just Cisco’s odd decision. Why “obsolete?” Because some smartphones take video.

·         Portable DVD players. Since, y’know, everybody that would use these inexpensive little devices must be carrying a notebook or “one of the increasingly ubiquitous tablets.”

·         Flash drives. Really? Yep. “Thanks to the rise of cloud computing and the ease of sending giant files, the 2-inch flash drive has come to seem almost clunky.” So you should throw all your flash drives in the garbage, on the “off chance that you haven’t trashed them already.”

·         GPS devices for your car. You see, “we’ve always got our iPhone on, and it’s always charged”—and since “we” clearly means everybody, then all other GPS devices are obsolete.

·         Small digital cameras. Again, we all have smartphones, so anything short of a professional-grade digital camera is worthless trash.

·         Fax machines. Well, OK, maybe this one. (Or maybe not: I’ve had to activate the fax portion of my multifunction printer at least once this year, for good reasons.)

·         Netbooks. We all have tablets now, so there’s no room for netbooks.

·         CD players. Because they take up more space than MP3 files and “don’t have the cachet of vinyl.” Dead, dead, dead.

·         Voice recorders. Now, if she’d said “virtually all modern MP3 players are also voice recorders” I might be more sympathetic, but nope: The ubiquitous smartphone that everybody already owns makes everything else obsolete.

·         PDAs. OK, I’ll give her two out of ten. And go scream again.

This is the kind of writing that gives journalism and consumerism bad names. You photographers out there: How many of you feel that your smartphone is a full, complete, adequate replacement for your best non-professional-grade digital camera? I’m guessing it’s not everybody.

The last two—or the last two dozen?

The last two items I’ve tagged for this discussion are Richard Watson’s December 31, 2011 “New Trends for 2012 (a compilation)” at What’s Next: Top Trends and John Lang’s December 27, 2011 “Experts Predictions for 2012 in Technology, Business, and Economics” at The Proverbial Lone Wolf Librarian’s Weblog.

Except that neither of these is a standalone set of predictions. The first offers ten lists from ten different sources, with links, plus an additional link to “26 words for 2012”; the second is a set of 14 links to articles offering predictions. After looking through more than half of the lists and links, I find that I have forecast fatigue. If you have more endurance than I do, you can click on either of the links above and go to town. This roundup, however, is done.

Cites & Insights: Crawford at Large, Volume 12, Number 5, Whole # 149, ISSN 1534-0937, a journal of libraries, policy, technology and media, is written and produced irregularly by Walt Crawford.

Comments should be sent to waltcrawford@gmail.com. Cites & Insights: Crawford at Large is copyright © 2012 by Walt Crawford: Some rights reserved.

All original material in this work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License.

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