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Last year, the movie industry raked in more than $40 billion.
What are they doing wrong?
Well, for one thing, most people can’t consume the product — movies — without getting in the car and driving somewhere, to a theater or video store.
Imagine, though, if you could watch any movie, any time, without budging from your sofa, by downloading it. All kinds of companies have been tripping over each other to deliver this movie paradise, including Amazon.com, TiVo, Movielink, Apple, Vudu, Netflix, CinemaNow, Vongo and MovieFlix.
Unfortunately, each service is fatally flawed.
Internet download services offer instant gratification, but most require you to watch on your computer screen, which is nobody’s idea of normal. Set-top boxes like TiVo, Apple TV and Vudu deliver movies to your TV, but erase your rented movies after only 24 hours. DVD-by-mail services like Netflix offer terrific selection, but it takes at least a day to receive the movies.
O.K., first of all, what’s up with the name Chumby?
It seems deliberately calculated to make this $180 appliance sound endearing, as though it’s the spiritual descendant of the Gumby and the Furby.
The Chumby looks endearing, too: it’s small, cute and — to use the technical term — squishy. Except for the 3.5-inch touch screen on the front, the Chumby’s vinyl skin (in black, gray or tan) is padded like a bean bag.
Sooner or later, almost everything goes digital: cameras, camcorders, music players, TV, books, you name it.
So far, though, there’s been no successful electronic version of the input device beloved by reporters, students, lyricists and claims adjusters: good old pen on paper.
Modern tech life teems with longstanding quandaries, questions that never seem to go away. Mac or Windows? Turn off the computer every night or let it sleep? Plasma or L.C.D.?
Fortunately, that last question will soon have an answer. There’s a new TV on the block, and its picture is so amazing, it makes plasma and L.C.D. look like cave drawings.
It’s called organic light emitting diode, or O.L.E.D. This technology has been happily lighting up the screens of certain cellphone and music-player models for a couple of years now, but Sony is the first company to offer it in a TV screen. It’s called the XEL-1, and it’s available only from SonyStyle stores. Its picture is so incredible, Sony should include a jaw cushion.
What do you think: In times of unemployment, rampant foreclosures and imminent recession, would it be tasteless for me to review a home entertainment component that costs $42,000?
Good. I didn’t think so, either.
It’s a piano, actually. A Yamaha grand, 5 feet, 3 inches long. (It comes in longer versions, actually, costing up to $150,000. But one step at a time.)
This instrument, the Disklavier Mark IV, is the first piano in the world with an Internet connection. And since it’s also a digital player piano, all kinds of eyebrow-raising possibilities open up.
Like previous generations of Yamaha’s self-playing pianos, the Mark IV looks like any other grand: a gleaming, polished, stately presence in the living room. The only indications you have that something unusual is going on are the power and Ethernet cords sneaking out from underneath and a two-inch-tall control panel peeking out from beneath the lower-left skirt of the instrument.
Well, this ought to be good.
Last week, Sony released its HDR-TG1, which it calls the world’s smallest full high-definition camcorder. Which is a little odd, because Panasonic just released its HDC-SD9, which it claims is the world’s smallest full hi-def camcorder.
And that must come as something of a shock to Sanyo, which calls its Xacti 1000 the world’s smallest full hi-def camcorder.
It’s not really any surprise that these electronics companies are fighting for the “world’s smallest” title. Camcorder sales have been steadily declining, and the focus groups keep giving the same reason: camcorders are too big, bulky and complex to carry around. Besides, the movie mode on today’s shirt-pocket still cameras does just fine for quick clips.
When you’re a professional gadget reviewer, you see plenty of cellphones, music players, camcorders and computers. But in two weeks, Casio will offer an entirely new device for sale, the first of its kind: a time machine.
Now, the Exilim EX-F1 is not a time machine in the H. G. Wells sense. You can’t climb inside and travel back to high school and undo every humiliating mistake you’ve ever made.
But for a digital camera, the F1 comes pretty close. It does let you freeze time, slow time down and even capture photos of sudden events that you’ve already missed.
How is this possible? Because, for starters, the F1 ($1,000 list price) is the world’s fastest camera.
A typical shirt-pocket camera, if you’re lucky, can snap one photo a second in “burst mode.” A $1,000 semipro model will get you 3 shots a second. But this Casio can snap — are you ready for this? — 60 photos a second. These are not movies; these are full six-megapixel photographs, each with enough resolution for a poster-size print.
If you’ve ever lost important computer files, then you already know about the five stages of grieving: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Moving to the Amish Country.
Even so, only a tiny fraction of today’s computer owners have automatic backup systems in place. The obstacles are known as Cost, Technical Setup and Being Kinda Busy.
The mental and technical obstacles get especially hairy if you have more than one computer, like a laptop, a home machine and a PC at the office. And it’s almost hopeless if these machines are of different types — a Mac here, a PC there — because you may not be able to use the same backup software or service for all of them.
Well, this is a little embarrassing. One of the most significant electronics products of the year slipped into the market, became a mega-hit, changed its industry — and I haven’t reviewed it yet.
Yeah, yeah, O.K., so the glaciers are melting, polar bears are becoming extinct and oceanfront property will soon open up in Philadelphia. But c’mon, people, try to look at the bright side.
Consider this: the new environmental awareness is unleashing a wave of innovation in every category of technology — including portable music and video players.
And how, you may ask, can an iPod wannabe be green?
By being totally self-powered, for one thing. Already, there are two such players: the Media Street eMotion Solar ($160 to $190, capacities from 1 to 4 gigabytes) and the Baylis Eco Media Player ($200 from realgoods.com, 2 gigabytes). Neither needs batteries or power from a cord; they can live completely off the grid.