In the midst of my daily reading, I came upon an article that posited the need for a new and whiz-bang feature for computers, so that they would be cool again.
As I read the piece, I thought to myself that the Microsoft Kinect is beginning to show the promise of a whiz-bang product, but it is something that will not see wide adoption until such time as the unit gets drivers for the popular operating systems in use today, and also comes down in price – something not likely for a while, until sales slump or Microsoft wants to push it for another purpose, like its use on computers instead of Xboxes. (Of course, it will be couched as something that the brain trust in Redmond thought up spontaneously, with no external stimulus.)
But after thinking about the Kinect, and the other whiz-bang items that have come along, all the long way back to the mouse, I thought that these things helped to expand the market, but the market would have expanded naturally without them.
Computers have, for the masses, become like refrigerators. They are not cool, they are not something to covet because your neighbor has something that says “Alienware” on it. They simply exist to fill a need that has come along, and that, for most people, is it.
Yet each year we see new models of refrigerator, with no new features since the addition of the ice maker and the on-the-door juice dispensers. The models get larger for some people’s needs, and for others, smaller ones are made to allow use in very small places, like dorm rooms, bedrooms, or garages.
There are changes in the exteriors, with new finishes to help hide fingerprints, to help blend into customized kitchens and other environments, or to simply be different. There are advances in the units themselves, with the basic boxes that hold the contents and the refrigeration equipment getting sturdier yet thinner, and overall, lighter for each designated size.
These are refinements, and they are always welcome, but there is nothing so impressive that people will sell, give away, or retire to another place the family ‘fridge, because though the newest ones may be able to notify their owners of a need for milk inside their confines by way of the internet, most people find that idea interesting but not stirring.
So it is now with computers. Many finally realize that for their needs, a dual core CPU and mid-level graphics card is suitable to any task they might wish to address, and they are fine with it.
There is nothing wrong with that, and we probably should stop trying to push people into things they don’t want, until such time as they are convinced of the need for them.
Just as there are people like myself, willing to spend $20K on a pair of speakers for a high end stereo system, there will always be those who will spend $6K on an absolutely killer tricked out computer, which will run rings around the workhorse computers that the masses have.
To each his own, and once the market gets to a point where the push is not quite so great, real interest in something better might arise.
So perhaps the company in Israel that makes the guts of the Kinect can put something similar together, with some drivers that allow new things to be done, at a MSLP of $79.99 and really start something again.
But then again, perhaps not.