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Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Remember when hardware was fun and exciting?

Back in the day - this would be the 90's - InfoWorld, PC Week (now eWeek), PC Magazine and Computer Shopper were huge publications. They had massive hardware reviews, dozens of printers, 10 graphics cards, 8 sound cards, etc. It was a blast to read. The industry was exciting, new hardware was on the way every month. Now they are all electronic only or pamphlets. Printers cost $100 and you can hardly go wrong with any of them, just get what is on sale. Graphics cards are down to two major players with not much excitement around them. Hardly anyone cares about the sound card, use what comes on the motherboard and move along.

To me this is all pretty sad. I still build my own machines. Every time I think I can just do something off the shelf I can never find what I want. I really want a better sound card, I want something above the mid-line graphics card, a SSD drive at least for the boot drive, a big case where I can add things and a power supply I trust to run the whole thing for years to come. I do buy off the shelf machines for relatives, they don't play games or care about the best. By the time you buy an official copy of Windows you can't build one for them at the price you can get from Dell or random Best Buy vendor.

Since magazines don't have new hardware innovations to talk about and there seems to not be much in the way of software innovation either they have been spewing out top ten lists and comparing everything else to Android device X and Apple device Y. It has gotten damn boring. They also keep running "Study shows iPad will be the champ until 20xx". Give me a break, how can you predict any of that? Some of this stuff came out of nowhere and took the world by storm. In 9 years it will be ancient stuff and something new will be kicking it in the tail. Did they predict this same crap for the BlackBerry? You bet someone did. Just filling space so they can publish some article every day. Content has fallen off and most of the news is now just noise. I end up deleting most of the articles the minute they hit an inbox. Even Slash Dot articles have been more "maybe this will happen" or complaining about DRM or a movie review.

I want some excitement in the PC industry. We are not getting it from hardware or software. Both Lion and Windows 8 appear to be nice incremental updates but nothing to wow your socks off. Everyone has a color printer, LCD monitor, plenty of processing power and a big enough HD. Heck I just got a USB 1t HD for backup for all of $70! Terabyte was unheard of in a house a few years back.

My machines at work and home compile my Java and Objective C code in a matter of seconds. My phone beats the power of machines I had not long ago. My Xoom tablet does pretty much anything I need for the web and plays some decent games. I still enjoy playing Wii sports Tennis.

Tablets are cool but they are just what we had in a different form factor and we use our finger instead of a mouse. I am not doing anything that ONLY a tablet could do making it a must have. Sure some games let you tilt it to move your character but I had that on the Wii with its remote. I like it but it is not earth shattering. Most of the time I use the tablet it is just to read content from a website on the couch.

People talk about all the apps available on the Android Market and the Apple App Store. I don't know if you have checked many of them out but most are pretty crappy. You hit a block buster from time to time like Angry Birds or Monsters Ate my Homework but honestly most of the games are fun for just a few minutes. Even those games are just level after level of more of the same. They don't hold your attention for nearly as long as a reasonable Nintendo DS game. Games are not easy to write, they are one of the harder things you can do for any device as you are going to push the limits of the hardware. Stuff is being cranked out but you can tell. Some may be pretty but there is no substance behind it.

Doing a productivity app on a mobile device is also not easy. Typing much on any of them is just not fun. I don't want to do word processing or spreadsheets on my phone. I can stomach them a little bit on my tablet but really I consume data and don't create data on those devices. I can type 100+ WPM on my computer so I go there when I want to create much of anything including graphics. I am not finding must have productivity apps on mobile devices either.

Guess I am going to have to find my excitement elsewhere but I not sure what it will revolve around. Anyone have an idea where that could be?