Note: This past week the U.S. recording industry filed 261 lawsuits against people it claims have illegally downloaded and distributed copyrighted music, stepping up its attack against online music piracy. The Recording Industry Association of America said the civil suits were filed against individuals, some as young as 12, who had each distributed an average of more than 1,000 copyrighted files.
Our TV is connected to cable and, along with a CD changer and DVD player, are wired so that the sound goes through a receiver and to a five-channel speaker system. There are four different remote controls on the coffee table, one for each. My wife, who has a master's degree in biology, doesn't use any of them. It's just too confusing.
Buying a service or product once meant conducting a simple transaction in which you pay for something and understand what you get in return. Products required minimal support and if they were defective they would be fixed or replaced by the retailer or the manufacturer with minimal hassle. These days, when we buy high-technology products and conduct transactions over the Internet, we face a much less certain outcome with a wide range of policies and support, some bordering on the absurd. While many companies take their responsibilities seriously to provide good product support and to maintain privacy, there are some companies where "consumer beware" is the unspoken but operative policy. In other words companies want our money but are unresponsive to our reasonable expectations.
Since it was launched on Sept. 21, 1999, Google (www.google.com) has become the most popular search engine because it has proven to be so much more effective in providing answers to search requests than previous engines. It is one of the most significant inventions in making the Internet so effective.
The simple mobile phone is undergoing a major transformation and becoming something more akin to a wearable computer. Once just an extension of our home phone, it is now morphing into a device with all sorts of functionality, some of it useful and some playful.
Every once in a while a product comes along that can create the tipping point of a whole new industry.
Five years ago when Steve Iverson was looking for funding for his startup, Streamload (streamload.com), he had an idea, but no funding. With the help of the EmTek Fund, part of the city of San Diego's Community Economic Development Department, he was able to raise $650,000 -- $400,000 from a private angel investor and $250,000 from EmTek. The fact that EmTek agreed to invest in tandem was an incentive for the private investment.
With our economy still trying to recover, a virtual standstill in venture capital investments, and limited access to public markets, what can technology companies do to remain viable and growing?
The ability to have a camera with you at all times has been one of the dreams since the technology's introduction. Kodak introduced smaller and smaller film sizes to allow cameras to be more pocketable. Remember the Instamatic? Minox became famous for developing a spy camera that was so small it could almost disappear in your pocket. The disadvantage of these cameras was that the pictures were not of very good quality.
California may become the second state to require drivers using cell phones to use a hands-free headset. New York was the first. The California law, which passed the state Assembly, needs to be passed by the Senate and then signed into law by the governor. While it would not take effect until 2005 if approved, it seems to me that we all could benefit by using headsets today.
We all admire the stories of how a hard-working entrepreneur overcomes the obstacles, perseveres, brings his invention to market and is rewarded with great success. While we like to think that this is more likely to happen in America than anywhere else, it is becoming more and more difficult for small companies to bring high-technology consumer products to market.
With e-mail considered one of the most useful inventions of recent times, it's been the quest of many mobile travelers to find a way to access their mail when away from home without needing to carry a notebook computer. While there is not yet a perfect solution, there are some devices that have recently been introduced, including a new product, just pre-announced, that comes pretty close.
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