Annual 2006 Predictions

Another year is upon us, and it’s time for the deluge of annual predictions. Rather than prolong this any further, here is my outlook for technology in the new year.

  1. I Want My Dual Core. The emergence of a few key technologies (64 bit computing, dual core, SATA, Bluetooth, 802.11 and USB 2.0) makes older computer hardware virtually obsolete. Perhaps even more significantly, many of these technologies are required to take advantage of next generation platforms like Windows Vista, VMWare and PVR tools like MediaCenter and MythTV. Many computer users will find themselves upgrading this year, and the new systems will be much more powerful with significant amounts of RAM and very large hard drives.
  2. Dual Layer DVD+R. Until now the DVD market has been predominantly single-layer DVD+R/DVD-R media. Manufacturing has started to focus on the dual layer derivatives of these formats, so as the year progresses it will become cheaper and easier to get your hands on 8.5 GB of storage in DVD+R/DL media. Higher density optical storage is still a few years out, although starting this year vendors of some high-end systems will start to include higher resolution DVD playback devices in some systems.
  3. Goodbye Broadcast TV. Television technology is experiencing a fundamental paradigm shift as a result of a disruptive technology combined with unrealistic government madates for DTV broadcasts. Now that you can watch many of your favorite shows on the video iPod, this will begin the conversion of television viewing to video-on-demand using a PVR-style device. Many users will simply rely on a video iPod to provide this capability initially, but as they realize the enhanced features of Windows Media Center, TiVo and MythTV they will begin to flock to these platforms. Be prepared to watch A Christmas Story next December using your TiVo and downloading the content from an on-demand service like NetFlix.
  4. USB Thumb Drive Connectivity for Entertainment. As USB portable storage devices continue to gather momentum, this type of device will begin to reach ubiquity with your entertainment hardware Everything from your surround sound receiver to your HDTV and even your car stereo will sport a handy USB plug. Many people can use this with existing USB thumb drive devices, but other portable media systems like the Apple iPod and can be easily adapted to support this kind of connectivity.

Generally the trend seems to be on convergence with specific focus on digitial media storage. While there is work being done with HD-DVD and Blu-Ray devices will start to appear in stores, the consumer has already figured out that they don’t need to store media on a disc in order to enjoy it. As such, they are perfectly content loading multimedia content onto a thumb drive or downloading directly to their PVR. While it can be difficult to protect copyright holders, there are a few companies already demonstrating viable business models so it is only a matter of time before the consumer catches up.

Clearly, higher quality video and audio formats are on the horizon but consumers are willing to accept convergence devices to circumvent planned obsolence. The mass migration to hi-def DVD will be unnecessary as it becomes increasingly possible to access content directly on your PVR or Windows Media Center PC.