A-T Technology Death Pool

Atomic Toasters Technology Death Pool Mid-Year Update

Research in Motion. Kodak. Lightsquared. They are in the Death Pool…and they may be fulfilling a prophecy.

All three of these companies…and their associated technologies…are hanging by a thread. RIM announced a huge loss and many analysts are saying they won’t make it out of this year without collapsing. Kodak, after 123 years in business, filed for bankruptcy protection and is exiting the digital camera and film markets and focusing on digital imaging. Lightsquared, called out by reader Alff, is in bankruptcy. While bankruptcy doesn’t necessarily mean the end of a company, it’s not a good sign.

So what of the technology each of these companies represents?

RIM introduced the world to a new way of doing business. The Blackberry, when introduced, could seamlessly integrate your phone and your work email/calendar system. Blackberry Messenger brought joy to those you used it. No clunky texting. And then they stopped innovating. Today, Android and iOS devices do the exact same thing. With Google Talk and iMessage, you don’t have to burn through those precious txt messages when talking to friends with the same devices. So, when RIM goes, the technology they pioneered will continue to live on. It’s more like the original tree that started a forest dying, but the forest doesn’t even notice.

We’ve discussed the dwindling future of film before. I’m calling film basically dead. In fact, you could argue that it was the death of film that brought down Kodak. Now it’s a zombie company trying to find brains.

Lightsquared was promising to bring 4G LTE to the masses. The were going to set up a network of towers and use satellites to bring highspeed wireless internet to the US. There was a hitch: they were going to use a block of spectrum right near the GPS signal spectrum. Concerns over the high-powered signals from Lightsquared bleeding over and drowning out the lower-powered signals for GPS (which is a national defense asset) moved the FCC to block Lightsquared. With no spectrum to bring their ideas to fruition, Lightsquared is all but done. However, 4G LTE will survive. The delivery method will remain the status quo. In fact, most people will live their entire lives having never known what Lightsquared was or what it would have done.

At this mid-year point, do you have any other technologies that you think are on the brink and could meet their demise this year?

  • OA5599

    <img src="https://lh6.ggpht.com/EzghUxkY1WHm0eRjh6dtZYzPqAMHvAW9KlJl1o1nsw-ro6cn2RLl2tTAG6TmJcqSp6Ap=w705&quot; width=500>

    Standalone general purpose point and shoot cameras are going away in the near future, but not by the end of this year.
    Chevy needs to wait until a quieter moment to pull the plug on the Volt.

    Maybe over-the-ear bluetooth headsets? First, they were toys for rich, important people. Then they were for poseurs. Now they're the membership ID for Club Loser.

    <img src="http://www.smoothharold.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/07/brad-pitt-headset-wired.jpg&quot; width=500>

    • I wish the Bluetooth ear things would all be put in a rocket and launched toward the sun.

      Point & shoot cameras are an interesting one. I can see a scenario where everyone uses their cameraphone. However, I just bought my wife a new P&S camera (Nikon S8200). Why? Even though the camera on my iPhone is amazing…for a phone camera…it's not as good as a P&S camera. It can't zoom worth crap, it's small and flat (no depth of field), and I don't want to run the battery in my phone down taking pictures, then not be able to make a phone call. I mean, it is supposed to be a phone. Right?

      • Number_Six

        The biggest issue with phone cameras is the optics. There is simply no way the tiny lense contained on a telephone can capture the same quality of picture as a 35MM lense – memory is certainly not an issue but electronic enhancement cannot make up for the inability to capture huge chunks of light. Don't quote me on this, but I believe it's an issue that may not be solvable. What is happening, though, is laziness. Twenty years from now people are going to be looking back at tiny, shitty pictures (if they indeed still have them saved at all) and regretting not having lugged their gigantic point-and-shoot around.

        • The Professor

          Precisely. To take a good picture you need good glass, at the very minimum. The cameras on mobile phones are toys.

          • fodder650

            Plus not everyone has a smartphone. I dumped my smartphones to go back to feature phones last year. Sure my feature phones have a camera but they are crap. Even the camera on my HTC Incredible was terrible. There is nothing like a purpose built device to do the job well.

          • IMO phone cameras are getting good enough to take "everyday photos". The biggest benefit is that i always carry it with me, and i can directly upload my picture online and post it here. The only other camera i use regularly besides my N9 phone is an old manual Spotmatic.

            Nokia will also release a phone with 1/1.2" 41MP sensor this year, with oversampling and pixel-binning to produce a default 5MP picture. Apart from the obvious DOF and bokeh "problems" the quality of the pictures is quite remarkable. There's some sample pictures and more details at dpreview, http://www.dpreview.com/news/2012/02/27/Nokia-808

            Here's an engine bay i snapped last week and just uploaded from my phone, bonus internet points for the first one to identyfy the car! Should not be too hard.
            <img src="http://dl.dropbox.com/u/74465213/bilar/12050007.jpg&quot; width="600" img>

          • CaptianNemo2001

            Pantera, Detomaso Pantera.

            I should know since I just took a similar shot at the local Salem Roadster Show about a month or two ago. This guy (The car that I shot) had a NASCAR built 351… totally overkill. totally sick.) I approve.


          • The Professor

            The new Nokia's camera is pretty impressive for a phone. Having Zeiss optics is a big boost, and that big sensor with the processing software seems to yield some pretty impressive photos. I say 'seems to' only because the sample images are from Nokia PR, and they're going to make sure the release pics are fabulous. I can see phone cameras like this replacing point-and-shoot cameras to a large degree. They're easily as good as the ones I can get with my Canon P&S from what I see so far.
            Thanks for telling me about it.

          • That gallery was from when it was first announced, it seems some pre-production reviews have been released already. Here's one with sample pictures. http://www.engadget.com/2012/05/24/nokia-808-pure

            I don't see P&S cameras going extinct but they will at some point be a niche product, like vinyl records or indeed film. Both of which i still use, much less than i used to though. Really cheap P&S cameras will all but disappear at some point, just like cheap film cameras disappeared.

      • OA5599

        I actually saw someone the other day having a conversation on a CORDED headset. Of course, that was at my graveyard-shift visit to Wal Mart I described a couple days ago. And the woman was quite obese, so perhaps she used the cord to find the phone when she couldn't see it clipped below her belly.

        I think we've gone through 4 P&S cameras in the last 6 years. In warranty, there is shipping and downtime to deal with. Out of warranty, a new one is often about the same price as it costs to repair the old one, plus you get the advantage of a fresher battery and perhaps some new features. But now I use the DSLR for any "good" pictures and the phone is adequate for the remaining unexpected shots.

        • I actually saw the corded headsets for iphones for sale at Wal-Mart this week.

        • fodder650

          Both my wife and I use corded headsets actually. I don't have to worry about pairing or if the battery still has a charge in it. It just works plus its just cheap. I paid $3 for a couple headsets not that long ago. My newer, slightly nicer ones, cost me $10.

    • Deartháir

      Sadly I am forced to use these damn things from time to time. Mostly when playing multiplayer online on the PS3, but I will bring it along if I need to take a call while driving. It's also a get-out-of-ticket-free card; if the police pull you over for using your phone here in Alberta, just showing them the headset is usually enough for them to let you go. So even if I almost never use it, I'm glad to have it.

      I do really wish they'd die, though. They just need to be replaced with something better.

    • The last point and shoot camera I bought about 2 years ago for less than $200 (new) is a nice little Pentax. That happens to be waterproof down to 10 feet! Perfect for the beach and the pool, not a bad all around little camera either.

      Toss your smartphone in the pool and let's see how it does.

      • OA5599

        A waterproof/drop-resistant camera was pretty much what I had in mind when I added the qualifier "general purpose" above. Yes, you carry it to the beach when you plan on taking pictures of your daughter playing in the sand, but is that camera with you when your office goes out for lunch and coincidentally there is a celebrity at the next table?

        • My dumb phone has all of 1.3MP, so if there is a camera with me, it is the Pentax is the camera. It drops in the pocket nicely. I carried it pretty much everywhere on vacation. It is my go to camera when I don't want to lug around the Sony DSLR.

  • Number_Six

    One thing that I'm eagerly awaiting is the death of Flash (it's a PITA for some of the stuff I work with), I just don't think it'll happen very quickly.

    • fodder650

      Flash will die the day we all move to IPV6. So, in other words, it will happen but it will be a decade or two.

      • CaptianNemo2001

        IPV6 switch over is already occurring.

  • fodder650

    Lets add GPS units to the death pool. Although I still have mine and I even bought a new one within the last year. Just like a phone a purpose built GPS works better then a phone doing the same thing.

    • I've got a TomTom One on life support. Bought it years ago. Thought about upgrading but with my smartphone having numerous navigation apps, I can't justify the cost of the standalone GPS.

      But it is a PITA when trying to use the phone for navigation and then receiving a phone call. It continues screaming directions in your ear whilst trying to conversate.

      • fodder650

        If you upgrade get one of the ones with lifetime map updates. I have a Tom Tom 1535 sitting next to me that finished its quarterly map updates the other day. It cost $150 which was on the high end for non-motorcycle GPS units these days but it has worked out really well. Add in the the fact that it has a free traffic feature and I wouldn't send it back.

  • We are getting close to loosing optical storage media. More and more computers are loosing the CD/DVD drive in favor of USB/online as a means of saving/transferring data. My only regret will be the cheap cost of the media itself. I have no qualms about giving someone a disc with some music or whatever, but I don't have access to cheap USB drives to give away. Not everyone is fully online all the time or has the cloud figured out, so physical media still has a place.