Commentary

On Technology

By Phil Baker

Great timesavers you've never heard of

I've been using some products over the past several weeks and months that improve productivity, organization and solve real problems. Each of these four products is designed to do just one thing, and all do their tasks well. Products such as these tend to live under the radar and not get the visibility of a new computer, camera or phone, but I think they deserve mention.

Demo unveils new products

Demo (www.demo.com), held earlier this month in Scottsdale, Ariz., allows mostly upstart technology companies to have the opportunity to tell an audience of journalists, analysts, investors and competitors about their new products in just a few minutes. This year's conference had 67 companies presenting to an audience of more than 600. The companies are selected by Chris Shipley, Demo's organizer, from several hundred submissions.

The imaging revolution

The transformation of the photo industry was evident at the Photo Marketing Association's annual trade show held last week in Las Vegas. The PMA show, which in the past has catered to photographic retailers and film processors, now reflects the movement from analog to digital photography, from film to memory chips.

A digital camera for photography enthusiasts

If there were any doubt that conventional film cameras are rapidly being replaced with digital cameras, you need look no further than two recent events: Kodak's announcement to suspend further research and development on conventional film and film cameras, and this past year's digital camera sales figures just released showing 50 million units sold, an increase of 64 percent, while conventional camera sales fell by 10 percent to 57 million units.

Microsoft's new Smartphone

Verizon Wireless recently introduced the Samsung SCH i600, one of the first smart phones using Microsoft's (Nasdaq: MSFT) new Smartphone 2002 operating system. It's priced at a steep $649 for existing customers and $499 with new activation (So much for rewarding your loyal customers!).

Technology in the kitchen

Of all the tech gadgets I've had a chance to use, the one that creates the most interest from visitors to my home is a super automatic cappuccino maker. Few can believe there is a device capable of creating an excellent cup of espresso, latte or cappuccino in about 30 seconds with little more effort than the push of a button.

Sensing a success

Sensor technology promises to be one of the most exciting new developments of this decade. Tiny sensors are being created that can measure and transmit everything from the moisture level of a grape in a vineyard to the age of a can of soup on a supermarket shelf.

An upbeat CES

It was a very upbeat mood at the Consumer Electronic Show this week in Las Vegas. This annual event that showcases what's new and what's hot in consumer electronics reflected several trends: flat-screen TVs that were bigger and more affordable, cell phones that were smaller with new functionality, new digital imaging and music products, and wireless technology to tie it all together.

PC to Mac: Ready to make the switch?

Apple's Macintosh continues to wow the technology world with its innovative, attractively designed hardware, an efficient operating system and its powerful but easy to use applications. In spite of this, its market share languishes below 5 percent. But its fans try to make up for its low market share with an exuberance rarely seen for other products. At the recent opening of an Apple store in Tokyo, 5,000 people stood in a nearly mile-long line and waited patiently in the rain to get in.

A holiday wish for better service

In these days of giving, I'd like to ask the companies that want us as customers to give us some small gifts in 2004. Give us less hassle and aggravation, play fair and respect our time. Make it easier to work with you and simplify our lives. We'll be more likely to do business with you and tell others about our positive experiences.

A Kodak moment

Kodak's profits have suffered over the past decade as the photography business has shifted from film and chemistry-based to electronic imaging. Like other large companies such as Xerox (NYSE: XRX) and my first employer, Polaroid, Kodak (NYSE: EK) has been slow to recognize the inevitable and reinvent itself. It's no easy feat to compete with the new digital camera and color printer technologies after enjoying decades of success selling high-margin chemicals and film processing.

Product predictions for 2004

This is the time of year when all the news pundits make their predictions for 2004. Here are my predictions for consumer technology products that will make an impact in 2004. I'll evaluate the results this time next year to see how I did. The prediction I am most sure of is that we will see many new technology products at lower prices with longer waits for service.

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Phil Baker

Phil Baker is an expert in new product development and market development for large and small companies. He has held senior product development and marketing positions with Apple, Polaroid, Seiko, Proxima, ...

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