A quiet revolution has begun in our living rooms. Microsoft and Sony plan to overthrow your A/V receiver, DVD player, and set-top box, and replace them with one of their game consoles. This past spring, both companies unveiled movie download and streaming services that give them new-found credibility in the living room.
Sony's PlayStation 3 and Microsoft's Xbox 360 both provide great game play with stunning graphics and the opportunity to mosh online with other gaming dweebs. But do these devices offer enough to nongamers to serve as the command center of our digital homes? I'm not convinced.
Plasma is dead. Front and rear projection? Fuggeddaboutit. LCD has a few good years left, and then it's sayonara, baby. TV technology's future lies in tiny phosphorescent molecules.
Organic light-emitting diodes--OLEDs--employ a thin layer of organic material that emits light when electricity passes through it. OLED displays need no backlight, so they're ultrathin and flexible. They are also brighter, cheaper to manufacture, and more environmentally friendly than plasma displays or LCDs. Over the next few years, OLED will be coming to a boob tube near you, and later maybe to the walls of your house, or even the windshield of your car.
I didn't attend prep school with the Kennedys or schmooze my way into high society. But these days I'm feeling extremely well connected, thanks to mobile devices like Amazon's Kindle e-book reader and the Dash Express GPS.
What's unique about these gizmos is that they maintain a constant Internet connection, so I don't have to load a browser, wait for a connection, and then hunt down information on a tiny screen. They simply pull down data and present it to me when I ask for it.
In a few years, I believe, all mobile devices will be constantly connected. But I hope that the manufacturers of those devices will take appropriate steps to avoid some of the kinks found in the Dash Express and the Kindle.
Like the iPhone, the Dash Express GPS device automatically logs on when you're near a Wi-Fi hotspot, but it uses a cell connection when you're not. Among other things, this two-way connection transforms your car into a real-time traffic gauge. If you run into a snarl, the unit transmits that data to the Dash servers, which swiftly recalculate how long it will take you and everyone else crawling along that stretch of road to reach your destinations.
In theory, this arrangement provides more-accurate real-time traffic data than the content from MSN Direct or ClearChannel, which depend on road sensors and historical traffic data. But the info is only as good as the number of Dash drivers on the road at one time.