Editorial for November 2006

by | Nov 1, 2006 | Editorial | 0 comments

Welcome to Adobe GoLive 6

Our monthly drawing this time is for a ZVOX audio system – a relatively small, easily placed and simple to connect box which creates spacious sound using audio enhancement. It can replace the mediocre speakers which are built into most consumer electronics such as TV sets, or be used to amplify the signals from your iPod or any other portable audio device. At the end of this month we will draw the name of a lucky Audiophile Audition reader who has Registered Here on our site, and a ZVOX system will be shipped to that person. 

GUEST EDITORIAL:  The CD is Dead… Not!

No more CDs, no more DVDs! It’s all going to be delivered to your home via the Internet! Electronic delivery of your music, video, movies, and more… So much content, so much bandwidth, so much connectivity, so much bull-shit… In this article, Mandy Gratissimo explores the huge gap between hype and reality.

I just loved that bit in the movie ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’, where the technology stuffs up. You know, it’s that bit where the ship’s on-board computer ‘HAL’ (think which letters come after I, B, and M to get the joke) is telling the only remaining human on the mission (who’s locked outside the spaceship) that it has absolutely no intention of letting him back on board. ‘This mission is too important for me to allow you to jeopardise it,’ says HAL softly.

Right now we have maybe 10 million broadband households worldwide. By 2010 it should be 70 million. We’re projected to have a 10x growth in IP-enabled consumer electronics products. As a result, at every press release I go to, company reps keep telling me ‘It’s all about the network baby, a living breathing, self-producing, self-healing wonder that puts everyone in touch with each other.’ (OK, so I paraphrased…)

And is this so difficult to believe? After all, by the end of this year, there will be 945 million mobile phones on the air and by 2009 probably 1.5 billion. We already have tens of millions of people who are downloading music for their phones, iPods or whatever.  We have millions downloading video and TV. ‘The demand is HUUUGGE!’ scream the spruikers.

The CD is Doomed

Because of this, they tell me, home-spinning media storage is doomed: Because all of this stuff, all of this capability, is just too important to be left in the hands of us mere mortals huddling in our homes. Um, I have a message for them: ‘Hold the phone HAL – something is very wrong with your view of the universe.’

There are about 6.5 billion people in the world. Only about 0.25 billion have broadband and maybe two billion have a mobile phone. Sure you’re connected. Sure you have your new LCD screen TV at home. Sure you have your video iPod with a hundred songs on it and last night’s segment of Lost. Sure all of your friends have the latest music/video gadgets. So, obviously – self-evidently – everyone is abandoning silver discs!

Ooops. Time for a reality check. Not only do about 4.5 billion people on your planet not have a mobile phone – let alone one with music, video and ringtone capabilities – two billion of these people have never made a phone call… of any type, not even on a payphone. Five billion people don’t have a TV at all, period.

It is true that digital content is coming to the home – and rapidly – so the potential for online communications, video and audio is growing…dramatically. Broadband connectivity is increasing throughout the world at better than 20 per cent annually (except here in Australia, but I’ll get to that.. ) And broadband is far from being a male testosterone thing. As more homes get broadband capacity, women are taking to the Net in increasing numbers. It is at a point today where the number of women online has surpassed men.

But there is an ugly side also.  Some people have unplugged their Internet connectivity at home and others simply don’t want the hassle the Internet brings to their lives – the phishing, the spam, the endless offers of penis enlargements…  And these aren’t the people who simply can’t afford the connectivity – you know, those who must choose between paying the rent and putting food on the table. They’ll keep buying CDs – and DVDs – because it’s cheap and, above all, it’s easy!

I’m not one of those people.  I go through withdrawal symptoms when I can’t check my email every couple of hours.  I get on the web every single day to find new content, new intelligence, new information in the universe. But there are people who are what futurist Faith Popcorn calls cocooners. They come home to their space station, close the door to the outside world and get their enjoyment from friends and family. There are lots of these people.

OK, so that’s not my family. My kids have their systems in their rooms where they IM, watch IPTV, listen to music and (sometimes) do their schoolwork. My wife’s an email junky.

But we – and you – aren’t the average folks.  Average folks may have one PC they struggle to connect to the printer and the Internet. Their stereo is in one room. Their analogue TV is in another room. They don’t have a set-top box. They like CDs. They like DVDs.

Manufacturers seem to believe that by getting PC prices below a grand and plasma/LCD sets below $2,000 they’re going to ‘grow the market.’  But history shows they’re just selling their new devices to the same market.  Sure the market is growing – slightly – but most of the purchases come from people who are upgrading or adding. People going from two computers to four (and networking while they’re at it). And folks putting a TV in every room.

Even the technologically incompetent Australian government has finally realised that the only way to drive HDTV is with consumer education. If it could do that for PCs as well that market might take off a little faster too, but with the still-mostly-government-owned Telstra pulling the plug on its optical fibre roll-out, most Australians can wave goodbye to broadband for the foreseeable future. And if/when Telstra is completely privatised, Australians living more than 50km from the coast can wave goodbye to broadband forever! And without broadband, you’ll be needing those little silver discs…

Advice For Manufacturers

For any technology to be successful, manufacturers have to get three things right. They need to:

1) Make it ‘must have’ technology for more people
2) Ensure it’s a doddle to install, connect and use
3) Keep Tellywood and the government out of our usage

But for the teens and tweens all the home stuff is a waste. They are never there and they are always switched on. Wireless is their world.

We want a phone that:

1) Reliably connects to the person we are calling
2) Lets us hear them and them to hear us
3) Lets us talk hands-free while driving
4) Lets us read/respond to email
5) Lets us grab a photo of a billboard

Teens and tweens want a phone that:

Will let them access hundreds of TV channels, web sites, videogames, music sites and community connectivity locations. They want podcasts, photo downloads, information/data sites and personal/indie videos to listen to and to watch. They want the one connection number that they can use for everything – business, education, personalised content they can tap into anytime, anywhere, so they can have a feeling of community without even having to be with real people.

The problem is that one ‘do-it-all instrument’ isn’t ever going to cut it, so we’re going to end up with more devices to lug around and then we’ll all have to have multiple phone numbers and multiple IP addresses, and stuff stored everywhere and it’ll all get so confusing that maybe those who have never experienced a PC, a TV show, or a phone call will be the better off for having never turned HAL on.

— Mandy Gratissimo

[Reprinted with permission from Australian Hi-Fi and Home Theatre Technology, Horwitz Publications. Subscriptions online at www.mymagazines.com.au]



General Editorial 

Welcome to the web publication for audio, music and home theater, emphasizing hi-res and surround sound for music! AUDIOPHILE AUDITION began as a weekly national radio series hosted by John Sunier, which aired for 13 1/2 years on up to 200 public radio and commercial stations coast to coast.
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