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by Greg Hill
Last update October 15, 2014
Nashville Music City Center, July 17-19, 2014
by FreshBaked Staff, July 17, 2014
NAMM is the National Association of Music Merchants - all of the companies that sell and service anything to enable people to make music. Music merchants are gathering this week in Nashville to see and discuss new products directly with the manufacturers, while also networking with their peers, and attending educational sessions.
Accompanying this serious business is a three-day jam organized by the manufacturers of musical parphernalia to show off their wares and give a lot of new and sponsored artists the chance to impress a powerful audience. The music will be going all night during the show, not that it doesn't always go all night in Nashville anyway.
Most of the instrument manufacturers you have heard of are there: Gibson, Gretsch, Taylor, Alvarez, Ovation, Washburn, Yamaha, etc., along with over 500 other vendors of other musical necessities, publishers, and service providers. Only music merchants and people associated with them, and media members are allowed to attend - it is not open to the public.
Greg Hill, August 28, 2014
Why we will all be wearing WWI-style soft headgear by the 2020's First, it's about time everyone started wearing something on their heads. It was always a good idea, for the practical reason of protection from the elements, and the style motive of just looking good. Now, our electronics-obsessed society has added a third reason - to carry our devices. As far as I know, the "wearables" craze has not hit the head yet, but it will. It is inevitable. More and more people are wearing big ugly headphones, to join the masses sporting in-ear audio equipment. The folks wearing the over-the-ear gear may resort to Dr. Dre so they can pretend they are stylish, but the main reason is always that they sound better. Besides, some people, like myself have never found a pair of in-ears that fit quite right or sounded as good. The new headgear will provide on-ear or over-ear headphones under the flaps or the wearer can stick to earbuds if they prefer. Using modern, lightweight, breathable, and colorful materials, the headgear will be stylish, comfortable and practical. Nike's bright orange with the swoosh logos will be very popular along with less sporty versions from all of the style brands like aereo postale, Ralph Lauren, crocs, Tommy, Coach, etc. you can just see them, can't you? Pockets in the heavier versions could hold your smartphone, which will instantly connect to the earphones and built -in microphone using Bluetooth, of course, even if the smartphone is located in a pocket, purse or hand. Goggles will be attached or accommodated, including standard sun protection, the google glass variety or the more entertaining Oculus Rift style. Fitness electronics will be built into the hat or connected wirelessly. LED lights and light panels will be attached to illuminate the way and provide visibility, possibly along with a solar panel to store energy to power them. Outside speakers can provide entertainment for close friends or generate loud noises for protection. Sewn-in microphones can be used for phone conversations or public announcements on the inside, and omnidirectional versions can be attached on the outside for spying or simple hearing enhancement. Cameras can be attached in any direction for a variety of uses. They can be as small as crossed straps or as big as a motorcycle helmet. Are you beginning to appreciate the value, both practical and fun? Get ready to buy. You will be seeing them soon.
Greg Hill, June 15, 2014
Within businesses, security issues, and their consequences for the general public, saturate the news. With large organizations, even those with substantial budgets, well financed IT/IS departments and resources dedicated to system security, often do not do an appreciably better job than smaller enterprises with fewer resources and either no plan or a largely ineffective one. Most recently eBay and Target are alarming examples, and although those garner the most attention, as destructive both financially and to public peace of mind, the area of greatest concern is largely overlooked. These are the entities Homeland Security defines as Critical Infrastructure, “the backbone of our nation’s economy, security and health.” This paper will examine the threats to which these types of organizations are vulnerable, as well as the common mistakes being made that increase their susceptibility to the risks. Poorly planned and ineffectively implemented security measures may result in unintended consequences such as the loss of productivity and business confidentiality will also be examined. Finally, a template for developing an effective security plan will be included. Download the paper here.
by Greg Hill, April 5, 2014
Due to a personal emergency, I am not able to attend the NABShow in person this year, which presents a great opportunity to see just how much of the show you can really experience as a "virtual attendee". Of course, nothing can replace the thrill of entering the show floor, the face to face contact with like-minded individuals, the fabulous food and drink, the entertainment, and the parties. Well, obviously, virtual attendance is not the way to go if you can be there in person, but since I have no choice, this is the best I can do.
For those who don't know, NAB stands for the National Association of Broadcasters, and the show has been one of the most important events in the year of any company in the broadcasting and entertainment distribution business. When I worked in TV and radio, executives of the stations always attended to see what was new in the industry and participate in the educational sessions, while looking at possible new equipment purchases and shows to fill holes in their schedules. When I moved over to the broadcast software industry, the firm at which I was employed maintained a booth and usually obtained significant business every year. The industry has had at least one paradigm shift in the past decade or two, expanding the horizons of everyone involved, and changing the show to today's version, best described by the NABShow proprietors themselves:
CES and NAB have a lot of overlapping areas, but CES targets electronic devices, mainly television screens and SmartPhones, while NAB is primarily about delivering content (audio and video programs). Interestingly, both mega shows are including more and more content creation exhibitors as time goes on, mainly due to the democratization of the production industry, which has expanded the sources of creation from a few networks and studios to anyone with a SmartPhone.
by Greg Hill, December 26, 2013
The ultimate solution for the Television Industry, of course would be to incorporate all of the features of a Smart TV in one box, controllable by voice commands or a single ubiquitous device, such as a remote control or a Smartphone. Unfortunately, the logistics of accomplishing this feat are out of reach today unless the consumer is willing to accept a severely limited entertainment environment. With screens becoming thinner and lighter, it is very difficult to install amplifiers, speakers, disk players, and the other assorted circuitry inside the screen chassis to provide high quality sound and accommodate all of the content sources most users demand.
The concept of the Smart TV must be broader than that of the Smartphone. Smartphones are viewed as stand-alone devices, though they require a large amount of supporting technology, most of which is out of sight (cell towers, network, and infrastructure). However, to enhance the output of a smartphone, devices must be attached, such as amplifiers, speakers, headphones, screens, etc. Most content processed by a Smartphone is acquired through its built-in data networking capability. Smart TVs require a much more sophisticated and divergent array of content sources, as well as experience-enhancing equipment. If these devices cannot be controlled through the television, the smart concept is largely lost.
The solution for this problem will require collaboration among all of the manufacturers of Smart TVs and peripherals. Agreed-upon standards for the control and connection of all audio and video devices must be created; similar to how the personal computer industry cooperates using the “Plug and Play” standard. It is unlikely that something like this will occur spontaneously in the consumer electronics arena, because it would require some companies to voluntarily give up sales and revenue, and would require all companies in the marketplace to reengineer their product offerings, some at great expense.
So, what is a practical solution? There are actually several solutions that the industry appears to be moving toward:
1. The dominant vendor approach. This is the least likely, but it still might happen. If one vendor comes up with a Smart TV solution that eliminates all of the problems touched on above, customers could vote with their dollars and force all other manufacturers to make compatible devices in order to survive. This could also be named the Apple iPhone model.
2. The “Internet of Things” (IoT) model could solve most of the integration problems. This model is implemented by making all of the components identifiable and controllable from the internet. If all entertainment devices supported standard functions controlled by a simple web interface, a user could set up or generate automatically, a web page with links to all of the devices in the entertainment center. Then, each device could be turned on or off and controlled using an Internet capable device such as a Smartphone, tablet, or laptop and the components could theoretically communicate and control one another enabling the concept of a single multi-faceted smart device.
3. An industry group could be formed to decide on formal standards that would allow content and enhancement vendors to build components that can be seamlessly integrated into any manufacturer’s Smart TV. This group or another would also be necessary to publish standards for software developers to build and distribute apps that would work on all member manufacturers’ devices. One such group actually exists today, called the Smart TV Alliance, which publishes a Software Development Kit (SDK) and a roadmap for a Joint App Store. The group boasts members from the world's largest TV manufacturers including LG, Panasonic, Toshiba, TP Vision (Philips), and others.
4. A corporation outside of the entertainment product business could design a framework that is adapted by manufacturers of Smart TVs and peripherals that would achieve the integration and connectivity necessary for the Smart TV experience. Google seems to be going down this path currently, as evidenced by Sony’s newest introduction of the Bravia Smart Stick that only plugs into Sony televisions, but interacts with Google services to provide applications and Internet content (See Bravia press release below).
Even though the speed-to-market of new products seems to have drastically increased in the last 5 years, it still may be a while before any of the solutions above will be realized by the average consumer. So, if you want Smart TV, you are left to your own devices, which may be good in some ways, because a single vendor solution may not provide a complete solution, even if your budget is unlimited. The Smart TV Alliance may be the key here, because if they introduce a App Store concept with a standard software development platform, the resulting apps may enable anyone to cobble together the exact Smart TV setup that they envision. TV Manufacturers are adding capabilities to their screens that will make it easier to build an audio-video network. Samsung, for example has announced that 2014 models will include voice command capability and will connect to some appliances, while also extending its HomeSync service to more Android devices while centralizing digital file storage on one terabyte cloud spaces.
So, the best solution today is like anything else:
· Define your requirements – if you don’t have a clear idea of what you want, you will be seduced in to overspending and overreaching beyond reasonable limits. Being able to display the contents of your refrigerator on your new 4K screen with 4 HD pan and tilt cameras may seem like a good idea when you are on the show floor, but there will certainly be some regret later when you realize you can no longer afford to buy anything to refrigerate. Panning an empty refrigerator is depressing.
· Try to concentrate the intelligence of your Smart TV system into a component that you won’t want to replace every year or two. Grandpa may have kept that 19 inch Admiral for 25 years, but when you see the new 4k sets, you are going to want to pitch your two year old 1080P, along with any apps and interfaces connected to it.
· Don’t try to put too many things on the TV – remember the main thing you will want to do is watch content. If you have to answer the phone with the TV, or are constantly interrupted by alerts from the security cameras, FaceTime requests from friends, or news or sports bulletins, it is going to ruin everyone’s enjoyment. On the other hand, if you live alone, why not run everything through the screen or projector and control the world from your easy chair? Or, get headphones for everyone and put up several screens (or one screen that can be segmented into several at once). Then everyone can have their sound and content at the same time – which is probably the way it will have to be for families in the near future.
Or, you can just wait another five years or so until the industry evolves to the point that it can provide everything you want, and more, in a single appliance. That day will certainly come.
Sony Television News
Sony introduced BRAVIA® Smart Stick with Google services: Sony Electronics announced its next-generation smart TV device, the NSZ-GU1 BRAVIA Smart Stick, making it easier than ever for owners of Sony’s 2013 TV line-up to discover and watch exactly what they want, from TV programming to apps and websites, all on one screen with one easy, voice-
by Communications 09/18/2013
New Sony NSZ-GU1 BRAVIA
Smart Stick Brings Google Search,
Google Play and More in a Slim, Stick-like Form Factor
SAN DIEGO, Sept. 18, 2013 – Sony Electronics today announced its next-generation smart TV device, the NSZ-GU1 BRAVIA Smart Stick, making it easier than ever for owners of Sony’s 2013 TV line-up to discover and watch exactly what they want, from TV programming to apps and websites, all on one screen with one easy, voice-activated remote.
The BRAVIA Smart Stick features a slim form factor, 8GB of on-board storage, and plugs directly into the MHL port on the back of 2013 Sony BRAVIA TVs, with a USB cable to provide its power source. In addition, the BRAVIA Smart Stick comes bundled with Sony’s award-winning , voice-activated remote control, giving viewers a variety of ways to interact and control their entertainment. Priced at $149.99, the BRAVIA Smart Stick is available now at Sony Stores and select retailers nationwide.
“The BRAVIA Smart Stick answers the question, ‘What’s on TV,’ with ‘whatever you want to watch’” said Jamie Marsh, TV marketing manager for Sony Electronics Home Entertainment & Sound Division. “It brings the full power of Google services to your TV. From the apps in the Google Play store to the power of Google search, the BRAVIA Smart Stick integrates seamlessly with Sony’s own BRAVIA apps and navigation to deliver an amazing connected TV viewing experience.”
Search live TV, the internet and apps
Viewers can either type or speak into the included universal remote and enjoy the power of Google search for results from cable/satellite providers, the internet and apps. The BRAVIA Smart Stick also integrates a user’s existing cable or satellite service, so there is no need to switch inputs to enjoy content from either source.
The Chrome™ browser is built for speed, simplicity and efficiency, and features a Flash Media Player, enabling viewers to enjoy endless video content with easy, engaging interactivity.
Out of the box, the BRAVIA Smart Stick is pre-installed with entertainment apps like Netflix®, Pandora®, Amazon Instant Video, Google Play, YouTube and more. Viewers can personalize their TV experience by adding video, music, games, social networking and news apps from the Google Play Store.™
BRAVIA Seamless Control
The BRAVIA Smart Stick’s user interface seamlessly integrates Google and Sony’s own BRAVIA apps, allowing viewers to stay in a single menu to launch any of their apps, including BRAVIA apps like the Internet Video Library.
Additionally, the BRAVIA Smart Stick’s Picture-and-Picture feature allows viewers to surf the web and watch TV at the same time in two independent windows on the television screen, without interfering with one another. Perfect for Fantasy Football, with one screen showing the game and another showing live scoring updates of your fantasy league, it’s also perfect for live tweeting or updating a Facebook® status while watching award shows or other televised events and programming.
Intuitive operation with a remote unlike any other
With a large, clickable touchpad on one side and a QWERTY keyboard on the other, the BRAVIA Smart Stick’s remote control is optimized for ease of use. Additionally, users can simply speak into the remote’s microphone to search content, apps, and the web.
The universal remote controls the TV, all of a user’s apps and even connected set-top boxes, and the clickable touchpad works just like a laptop’s, including one-handed operations like pinch and pull zoom control.
by Greg Hill, October 23, 2013
The majority of vendors at the show this year were selling products pertaining to cloud storage, networking equipment, and security products, which fit into the Expo's theme "Navigating the Cloud". Microsoft was featuring its new Surface 2 tablets and Dell was displaying their point-of-sale server system although the booth staff seemed quite excited about their, as-yet-unannounced tablet line.
There was also a full slate of on-stage lectures and showcases, including an appearance by the Colorado Secretary of State, in support of the Small and Medium Business (SMB) Resource Center, which consisted of several Federal, State, and Local government entities attending the show to help and advise small businesses and start-ups.
The atmosphere was casual and fun without any high-pressure selling, spiced up with cheap food and drink, free swag, frequent $250 value prize drawings, plenty of valuable information, and capped with Happy Hour at closing. All-in-all a worthwhile way to spend a working day.
by Greg Hill, September 23, 2013
The new Surfaces were announced today by Microsoft.
(No pictures from the launch event because Microsoft’s WiFi was too slow!)
Surface Pro 2
· Windows 8.1
· Cooler, quieter, battery lasts 75% longer
· Surface Power Cover available with 2.5 times more battery life
· 2-step kickstand
· 50% faster graphics
· 20% faster CPU (“faster than 95% of laptops in the market now”)
· Docking station available with 3-USB 2.0, 2-USB 3.0, mini HDMI, Ethernet, audio, power, can be used with cover on
· No 3G, 4G, LTE
· Windows RT
· Thinner, faster
· 2 stage kickstand
· New Magnesium color
· 25% more battery life
· USB 3.0
· Comes with full Office Suite
· Back camera improve 5x, front camera even more
· Available 10/22
· No 3G, 4G, LTE
by Greg Hill, September 19, 2013
by Greg Hill, September 13, 2013
|Smartphones are small, portable devices for obvious reasons, and most of the innovation and engineering in them has been developed to overcome those inherent restrictions*. A few years ago, practically no one envisioned all of the things that are now being done on Smartphones.||Televisions are large and usually stationary. Although the current trend is to make the screen as thin as possible, there is still ample room to contain all of the components necessary to make them “smart”.|
|Smartphones have the advantage of standard methods of connection, namely cellular technology, not to mention WiFi and Bluetooth on most models. Their primary reason for existence is, after all communication.||Televisions are made to connect to providers of content, usually through coaxial cable, which does not work well for communication with humans or other devices. Smart TVs will add principally WiFi connectivity, though Bluetooth, wired Ethernet, and other advanced methods will come.|
|In keeping with the communications aspect, Smartphones have very usable user interfaces, in the form of hardware keyboards or the software equivalent appearing on touch-capable screens.||The user interface has usually been the familiar remote control, sending infrared signals to a sensor on the front of the screen. Some remote controls were very sophisticated and could be programmed and even respond to voice commands. In those cases, the remote may have been considered a smart device, in much the same way that a Smartphone can be used to control many televisions and set-top boxes.|
|Smartphone world software platforms are well-known, and in most cases provide a well-defined roadmap for software developers to create application programs (“apps”) that can be validated and distributed to users fairly easily. Smartphone users are familiar with the main platforms: Apple’s iOS, Android, BlackBerry, and Microsoft Windows 8, among others.||Until recently, Smart TV manufacturers each had their own proprietary method of injecting intelligence into the television. The same goes for set-top boxes or other attach-able devices. Although this may be a method of encouraging brand loyalty, it puts a huge burden on every company to keep up with the front-runners in providing features and innovations.|
by Greg Hill, June 1, 2014
Bill Gates was a hard act to follow.
Even with his geeky, uncomfortable style, Mr. Gates had a personal magnetism, and that, coupled with his obvious love for technology, made him a compelling figure.
I watched him give several keynote addresses at COMDEX and CES, and even bumped into him on the show floor and at a couple of Microsoft events. Each time, I came away with a feeling of excitement about Microsoft and their products and felt that being involved with them and investing in the company made me part of a winning team. Then, Gates left, and along came Ballmer.
Steve Ballmer's keynote addresses at CES were dull and uninspired and I got the impression that they reflected his personality and management style, which seemed to be contagious. No matter who appeared with Ballmer, they seemed dull and lifeless as well, as did the products they were pushing. Probably the best decision Ballmer made was to stop doing the keynotes at CES. But like most of his decisions, it was way too late. I sold all but 4 shares of Microsoft stock.
Microsoft reflected its leader’s personality. Under Gates, it was dynamic and decisive, introducing innovative products and aggressively moving forward at full speed. Under Ballmer, Microsoft has become boring, slow, and mean-spirited. Their products seem about as lifeless and unattractive as, well, Mr. Ballmer himself. When Gates was in power, calling product advocates “Evangelists” seemed right. Under Ballmer, it seems like sarcasm.
So, as someone who uses Microsoft products and has supported them almost from the beginning, I say “Why wait, Mr. Ballmer? Why not do something in a reasonable amount of time for a change and get out by the end of 2013 at the latest? We have been ready to move on for years.”
UPDATE: June 1, 2014. It is less than a year later, and lo and behold, Ballmer is not only gone, but he is the new owner of the Los Angeles Clippers NBA basketball team. He has been replaced by Sataya Nadella, the former head of Microsoft's Cloud and Enterprise division. Bill Gates is also gone as Chairman and has been replaced by John W. Thompson, the former CEO of Symantec who led the search for Mr. Nadella. We don't know how this will turn out, but it seems to us that Mr. Ballmer set a pretty low bar for his successor.
Attending industry conferences can open people's eyes to facts that seem obvious, but are much more significant when fully understood. Such was the case with Storage Visions in Las Vegas this past January and digital storage. Everyone in the computer and electronics businesses realizes on a subliminal level, at least, that the availability of cheap, small (in size, not capacity) and fast electronic storage makes the very existence of the industry possible. But when you listen to speakers at Storage Visions recall the history and evolution of storage, you begin to realize that not only does storage make the a lot of things possible, the progress and innovation of the storage industry is making most of the new and incremental technologies in the computer, communication, transportation, and entertainment industries possible. Ultrabooks, tablets, and MP3 players depend on ever faster, smaller, and higher capacity storage devices, as do Smartphones, automobile enhancements, and the digital recording devices that make HD and 3D cinematography possible.
Wouldn’t it be nice if had the same apps on our smart phones, mp3 players, tablets, televisions, set-top boxes, and in fact, everywhere there are apps? Well, we are not close to that dream yet, but at least one step was taken in that direction at the first press conference for the Smart TV initiative. Major TV players LG and Panasonic are members and hopefully all of the major players will eventually come on board. While the group is named for televisions, their stated objective is to eventually include all platforms, moving toward a single Software Development Kit (SDK) that can be used by developers to build apps that will run on multiple brands and platforms. Obviously, this will make it easier for developers to build apps with a chance of attaining a large market, which will draw more of them into creating these kinds of apps. The cycle completes when the availability of killer apps drives the sales of hardware from the groups sponsoring the SDK.
The first SDK is expected in February with updates to come as more companies and technologies come on board.
by Greg Hill, January 8, 2013
The LG Wall of 3D is a big hit on the Show floor. The main entrance is at a complete standstill because everyone coming into the hall is overwhelmed by the massive wall of 3D displays in the LG booth. Once you put on the passive glasses, all sorts of things come flying out of the screen at your face, causing people to duck and back up. I gave up waiting and walked down to the next door. I could have stood there all day watching the video and marveling at the brightness of the colors and the reality of the images. But, I had to get to the VOXX International booth to check out the Car Connect product they featured at their press conference. More on that later. In the meantime, I was interrupted by the gigantic Able Planet
by Greg Hill, January 8, 2013
The opening speeches and press conferences are over and it is time to get to the meat of the matter - the show floor, which opens at 10:00 AM PST today, January 8, 2013. By far the most impressive presentation yesterday was that of Sony at their amusement park-like booth at the back of the main hall. Once again they presented stupefying achievements in the area of TV, notably 4K and OLED big screens, but unpredictably, they also appear to be a serious player in the computer device arena with their new line of notebooks, tablets, and hybrids which also have spectacular displays.
by Greg Hill, December 14, 2012
Here are the "can't miss" items FreshBaked.com will be covering at the International CES conference in January (order does not imply importance):
by Greg Hill, September 7, 2012
Technophiles have had increasingly fallow years in Denver since the economy began to slide. Denver Civic leaders responded by launching an epic technology austerity program. While it might be a stretch to say that the Mile High City has devolved to the stone age, City government's reluctance to provide incentives or encouragement, coupled with a drastic reduction in their own investment and the noted anti-tech stance of the current administration has had a chilling effect on the production of computer and electronics events in the area. The Technology Capitol of Colorado, now more than ever, is located in Boulder, and those of the geeky persuasion are either migrating there or finding themselves commuting in that direction frequently.
Even so, there are actually a couple of exciting events coming to the Denver area in late September and early October. As you can see in the Upcoming Technology Events box at the right, Microsoft is having a Windows 8 rollout event on a Saturday at their headquarters in the Tech Center, and a brand new event is scheduled for a Friday at the Wings Over the Rockies Air and Space Museum in East Denver. These events are far away from downtown, which used to be ground zero for tech events, but we are thankful for anything we can get. Details follow...
Windows 8 Unleashed is sponsored by the Denver Visual Studio User Group and will take place on Saturday, September 29th, 2012 from 8AM to 6PM at Microsoft's Southwest District Office in the Tech Center at 7595 Technology Way, 4th Floor, Denver, CO 80237. This is a hands-on, hackathon style event, so bring a laptop and be sure to download all of the software from the registration site. Lunch and prizes are provided by PDSA, ComponentArt, and O'Reilly.
The Denver Business Technology Expo is presented by the Metro Denver Chamber of Commerce, Latisys, and Colorado Technology Partners. Vendors include the Ablaze Group, Microsoft, Cisco, Dell, Comcast, Fortinet, Security Pursuit, Syntes Language Group, and CoBiz Financial. Hours are 9AM to 6PM Friday, October 12th, at Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum , 7711 East Academy Boulevard, Denver, CO 80230-6929.
By Greg Hill, August 25th, 2012
Even though there have been significant advances in consumer electronics products in the past few years, it doesn’t seem as if they are advancing fast enough. We can only guess at the reasons that consumers can’t buy the products that they yearn for, but aren’t available yet. In fact, there is probably only one reason: profits. The “incremental evolution” business model has proven to be very profitable for electronics manufacturers and marketers in the past, so they appear to be sticking with it. A validation of the assumption that technology in the U.S. is not progressing fast enough is to take a look at other world markets, particularly in Asia. Listening to visitors from Japan and Taiwan, among others, at the CES show last January, the feeling is that if you want to see products that will hit the U.S. market in three to five years, just look at what is available in the Asian marketplace today. While this is true to some extent, there are other forces that affect the U.S. market, so let’s examine them by market segment:
In Japan cell phones have had bar-code readers, digital TV, GPS tracking, credit card functions, video conferencing, near field communication (NFC), and high resolution cameras for years. Some of these features are starting to appear on phones in the U.S., and some will probably never make it due to bandwidth restrictions, legal impediments, or the forces of stifled competition. One item that is widely accepted in Japan will finally achieve critical mass in the U.S., and that is using phones as credit cards, including widespread use of near field communication. Progress has been crippled by the lack of cooperation by retailers and payment providers, but these problems should be resolved sooner rather than later. Strangely, banking and shopping with mobile phones has achieved widespread success in some African nations long before the U.S. Progress may be slow in this country simply because there are so many other well-accepted payment methods available to consumers, resulting in soft demand, coupled with the complexity of creating a system that will work across so many different devices and payment platforms. Early adopters like Starbucks and Target are providing incentives for consumers to pay with their phones, which will ultimately lead to mass adoption by the buying public. You can expect to see combinations of airline frequent flyer points, discounts and other incentive programs that will combine with the convenience of carrying nothing but a mobile device to make this kind of payment a compelling proposition.
As far as technological advancement in cellular technology in the next 5 years, expect it to be incremental rather than generational. If the pattern of the last 30 years stays true, 5GL phones will not be announced until 2020 or so. But the good news is that “real 4GL” and LTE will eventually reach the original goal of Gigabit speeds in the next 5 years. If the vendors start to cooperate, networks will also become more dense and intelligent band seeking technology will combine to provide a more stable and consistent network for all users.
The greatest functional advancement for smart phones will come from improvements in applications. As second and third generation apps become available, they will combine more sophisticated software with more powerful operational frameworks (Android, iOS, etc.) to provide features with and without hardware upgrades. Today’s mobile devices only use a fraction of their capabilities and talented teams of programmers are working around the clock to remedy the situation. As the app market matures and entry becomes more difficult due to the prevailing level of sophistication, expect the prices to increase. The most powerful apps will no longer be free unless they are tied into a sponsor.
The biggest impediment to realizing the dream of having everything needed to function on a personal mobile device is of course, the government. Federal, state and local governments hinder the progress of mobile freedom by requiring citizens to carry documents, like driver’s licenses, while at the same time failing to provide alternate electronic systems due to political considerations, lack of competency, and budget shortfalls. Is there any reason why you should have to carry identification? The technology is available to eliminate such outdated customs, but the government is in no hurry to implement them. With electronic facial, fingerprint, retina recognition, among others, people can be identified to a much greater degree of certainty than a document that can be easily forged. Actually, budget squeezes may serve to accelerate the adoption of electronic systems because they are ultimately much more cost-effective. So, within 5 years, maybe all you will need is a cheap phone to access all of your financial accounts, as well as to identify yourself to the satisfaction of all commercial and governmental entities. At last, you will be able to leave home without your American Express Card, because you will have a virtual version in your mobile device.
For mobile devices without cellular capability, like the iPod for example, Wi-Fi connections will become faster and more available. Advances in technology, if accompanied by vendor cooperation, could make Wi-Fi much more available. 802.11ac/ad, the follow up to 802.11n should be on the downside of its life span in 5 years, being built into all but the leading edge products, which will come equipped with the next generation. For home users, 802.11ac/ad will solve most of the problems associated with the current version, bringing greater dependability, range, and up to 7 gigabit (nominal) speeds. Assuming a faster Internet connection, this could spell the end of buffering and drops during video streaming and downloading. For users of non-cellular devices, it would mean that virtual credit and identification would be available to them with no monthly payment or contract. Beamforming, Passpoint, and Voice-Enterprise Wi-Fi enhancing technologies will make for easier and more stable connections and improve the quality of voice calls.
One more thing – the current Internet will not support the wide scale adaptation of higher speed mobile devices, point-of-purchase electronic payments, HD streaming, and government-sponsored services – it is too slow and unstable. Two things may solve these problems in the next 5 years – the next generation Internet and Cloud services. The next generation internet is largely in place already – faster speeds will become available as soon as there is a way to adequately monetize them (get someone to pay for them – that’s you). Cloud services are nearly the same as a super-fast Internet – they consist of massive storage tied together by communications that are many times faster than the current Internet. So, if you put a database or movie on the cloud from your home, it is instantly available anywhere else in the world. Even if the “last mile” connection is still the current slow Internet, the performance is greatly enhanced.
Summary: Faster, more stable connections, more features standardized across vendors, and greater capabilities through better apps.