By the time you read this, you will have seen in the new year – hopefully without headaches of course. In a tech sense, 2018, unfortunately, will bring more of the same only faster, cheaper, better – which also happens to be NASA’s mantra from the early 1990s.

Meanwhile,  GadgetGuy Val Quinn is jetting off to CES (Consumer Electronics Show) in Las Vegas, and we will report on all that is new and exciting – or will it be so?

CES is the global stage for innovation. It is a lofty goal now that the tech world is divided solidly into Windows versus Mac, Android versus iOS, and pretty well nothing else matters.

Please excuse some levity here but I am a fan of Douglas Adams Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, and I asked Marvin, the dour, pessimistic robot, or GPP (Genuine People Personality) to provide his view on CES 2018.

Marvin: “Incredible… it’s even worse than I thought it would be.”

Either Apple’s Steve Jobs was brilliant and so far ahead of his time – yes, he was – or the rest of the world is just plain lazy. Not one smartphone has since beaten Apple’s iconic design and grand plan, yet it too has suffered from a dearth of new thinking in recent years – evolution – not revolution.

Every flagship smartphone has a similar check-list. The real innovation will be in making a smartphone for the masses a.k.a. Henry Ford’s Model T.

Marvin: The first ten million years were the worst. And the second ten million… they were the worst too. The third ten million I didn’t enjoy at all. After that, I went into a bit of a decline.

What is wrong with the world, where are the bold, mad scientists whose whacky ideas stretch the imagination? Last year at CES we saw fewer start-ups than the year before. Will this trend continue?

I am not trying to channel Steve Jobs, but I am sure his iPhone of today would have been more than a phone, camera, media player, GPS, and an advertising server.

Steve would have built a phone that would have been wearable, probably component based, certainly with innovations like fold/roll out screens, and frankly, it would have added more to our lives than to be a vehicle to access Facebook. Steve’s iPhone would have become indispensable, our very raison d’être.

 

Zaphod Beeblebrox: Into the interior of the planet. That is where we have to go. Down into the very depths of time itself where no man has trod these five million years. We are not gonna be great. We are not gonna be amazing. We are gonna be amazingly amazing!

Marvin: Sounds awful.

CES is a massive success – I will not take that away from the Consumer Electronics Association that sweats tears of blood to stage this city-sized annual event.

Marvin: I’ve seen it – its rubbish

But I refuse to be awed by another Bluetooth speaker – except perhaps the Dalek one – that while cosmetically clever needs to do much more to assure its future.

I will not be awed by another wearable until they solve a few fundamental issues like battery life – but not at the expense of functions that could make a difference.

I will not get excited by reviews of Window 10 and Intel Core tablets unless they have something spectacular to offer.

I will not get excited by new AD routers that are faster than we can actually download data.

I may retch if I see another jargon-laden Android/SnapDragon/Quadluminous/ambidextrous/sustainable/big data/social media/cloud-oriented so-called smartphone – unless it does something the others don’t do.

Marvin: [depressed] I’d make a suggestion, but you wouldn’t listen.

Marvin: [even more depressed] No one ever does.

What I want is to gather the best brains – Bill Gates, Larry Page, J.J. Abrams, and Adams, Asimov, Jobs, H.G. Wells etc., via channelling – to name a few. After they bury the hatchet – in each other – and imbibe a few fine wines, they can come up with a roadmap for the Star Trek communicator and turn science fiction into science fact. And where is Dr Who’s bloody sonic screwdriver when you need it?

Having solved all the major mathematical, physical, chemical, biological, sociological, philosophical, etymological, meteorological and psychological problems of the Universe except for his own, three times over, [Marvin] was severely stuck for something to do, and had taken up composing short dolorous ditties of no tone, or indeed tune.

Am I asking too much for the tech giants to stop lusting after the same piece of pie and to bake a new, bigger, better one?

STOP GOING AFTER THE LOW HANGING FRUIT – START THINKING OUTSIDE THE BOX! (Sorry for those overused clichés).

Marvin: I have a million ideas, but they all point to certain death.

To end this tome on a serious note …

I will gladly sacrifice faster, cheaper, better gadgets and gizmos to solve the main impediments to better tech:

  • Privacy remains the single biggest issue as manufacturers and opportunists try to monetise everything. Greed is not good, and your personal data is gold.
  • I do not mind big data used for good. I do mind extreme big data – married to social networks and used for evil. It is not fair that Google can know more about you than you do
  • Availability of fast, affordable, ubiquitous, world-wide broadband must happen
  • Trust needs a big make-over if we are to benefit from the new online, shared and subscription economy
  • And note that it’s not about hardware anymore – not faster, cheaper and better but what we can do with it.

I wish GadgetGuy readers an even better 2018 with the tech we can all get excited about.

Ray Shaw
Managing Editor