Did You Hear That?

There have been several technology bombs dropped in the past month or so. If you haven’t been paying attention, please allow me to summarize;

1. Amazon introduced a new line of Kindle products, including the very awesome Kindle Fire HD 8.9″ and 7″.

2. Apple introduced both the new iPhone 5 and the iOS 6, both also totally awesome.

I haven’t seen this many bombs since the last time I watched Saturday Night Live (well, those were just really lame jokes and we’re talking metaphorical bombs, but you get my point, I hope). The key here is that a little competition is finally taking place between Apple and Amazon.

While the original Kindle and Kindle Fire were fine products, there were some glaring shortcomings (limited, non-expandable hard drive space, no Bluetooth, etc). The new Kindle Fire HD’s memory is still not expandable, but has been bumped to 16 or 32 GB. Combined with the cloud storage available through the Amazon Prime service, this is very acceptable. The physical size of the 7″ Fire has always appealed to me; add the HD display, increased memory, terrific battery life, and the low price point of $199 or $249, and Amazon has me standing up and paying attention. $299 for the 8.9″ model is even more appealing. If i didn’t already own an iPad (or if I was independently wealthy) you would have to arrest me to keep me from buying one. I was very skeptical of their semi-Android operating system that acted primarily as a pathway to shop at their web site, but in practice this has proved a successful approach. I loath advertisements and the new Fire HD comes with advertisements (you can pay Amazon $15 to turn these off), but I find these unobtrusive and even sometimes helpful. I’m field testing my new 7″ Fire HD during my business trip to England this week. It makes an excellent tool to watch movies & TV shows, listen to music & audiobooks, and view the web.

Have I drunk the cool-aid? Has this Apple fan-boy defected to the other side? Do I ask questions on a blog site that no one can answer? No, no, and probably. The iPhone 5 and iOS 6 introductions that followed Amazon’s big day was just as impressive; I’ve not laid hands on the new iPhone yet, but by all reports it is a thing of beauty. iOS 6 is proving a good update (maps issue aside), and has made the existing iPhone 4S even better.

My point is not that Amazon is beating Apple or the other way around; my point is that the competition is getting closer, and that’s good for all of us tech-heads. The more Apple and Amazon compete, the better the products will get and the lower the price will be.

The next anticipated technology bomb to be dropped is the projected release of the new Apple Mini-iPad. IF this happens, pay particular attention to the price. I bet a friend of mine a soda of his choice that the price of a basic mini-iPad will be less than $250. Actually, I believe it will be $199 or close to it. Why? To compete with both the hardware specs and price point established by Amazon. Did you hear that? To compete with an established product – something Apple has not needed to do for some time – never in the field of tablets.

I think Apple will drop a sizable weapon for mass distribution when it introduces the mini-iPad. Apple will feel the need to compete and when highly successful, very competitive companies like Apple and Amazon compete head to head, we are the ones who win. Stand by, the fuze on that next technological bomb is ticking…..

Do You Really Want to Watch a 3-D Television?

The GERD knows all about seeing in 3-D. He’s been peering through the 3-D lens for almost 30 years (don’t ask. Really, don’t ask. OK, if you must know, it’s a military thing!). Seeing in 3-D is really cool and useful for lots of things. I’ve also watched my share of 3-D movies and while they are cool, I find that it’s not really a comfortable experience. Certainly not something I’d want to do every day. So what about 3-D televisions?

3-D televisions are everywhere – and they’re all on sale! Why not just rush right out and buy one of these new toys and install it in your living room! Imagine how much better everything will look, from movies to TV shows to live sporting events – yes! Let’s buy one today!

Wait a minute! The old GERD hates to be the bearer of realistic news, especially when it comes to buying new toys (the GERD loves new toys!), but there are a few facts to consider before buying a 3-D television.

Cost:

A quick perusal of relevant web sites (Amazon, Best Buy & Wal-Mart) shows that while the costs of 3-D televisions are coming down, they are still a pricy option. The cost for one of these lovelies ranges according to size: an average of $300-$500 for 32”- 42” models, $650-$1,000 for 47”-55” models, and for the really serious three dimensional people out there, from $3000-$9999 for 55”-75” monsters; almost all of these are “Smart” 3-D TV’s (capable of direct internet connections to provide Netflix, YouTube, Facebook etc.) For the purpose of this comparison, I only considered systems capable of 1080P and at least 120Hz, don’t waste your time on systems with less than this.

Cost – Part Two:

What about those terrific 3-D movies you’ll want to watch? To do that you will need a 3-D capable DVD player. How much do these cost? Quick Batman, back to the web! Let’s save time and just go for the average priced system. Panasonic has a 3-D, WiFi, built in Blu-Ray, 1080p player for just $249.98. What am I waiting for?

Cost – Part Three:

You’ll need more! The Movies themselves! A quick survey shows $34.99-$89.00 for recently released 3-D movies; older movies (Megamind, for example) can be found for $29.99. A bit more expensive than the $8.99-$14.99 for current Blu-ray movies.

Cost – Part Four :

What about a Sound System? Although not required, who wants to splash out this much money just to listen through the TV speakers? Let’s add between $350-$750 for a good theater sound system; more if you’re so inclined.

Cost – Part Five:

Glasses – you gotta have glasses. There are two types depending on the type of 3-D TV you have. Active glasses (most common) have a rechargeable battery and run from $19.99 to $79.99; Passive, (no battery, which makes them lighter and less expensive) which go for $12.99-$29.99 apiece, although you can go as high as $149.99 for the image conscious.

Convenience:

The key to seeing stereo is the glasses. Whether an active or passive system, glasses are required (at least for now). Wearing 3-D glasses for any length of time can actually be a problem. In my own experience, looking at 3-D for more than a few hours gives me a headache. The eHow.com web site states, “While watching three-dimensional television has not been shown to produce permanent adverse health effects, multiple reports in the media indicate that watching 3D TV can cause minor health problems such as dizziness, headaches and eyestrain. Some doctors say more serious health problems such as epileptic seizure and psychological problems are also possible. Teenagers, children, and people with certain types of health problems are more likely to experience problems while watching 3D TV.”

Wearers beware!

Content:

Besides expensive 3-D movies, what else is there to watch? 3-D broadcast TV actually exists, and the availability of 3-D TV is growing. Direct TV and Comcast both offer 3-D television, and live 3-D sports broadcasting is growing. However, in comparison to HD content, 3-D has a very small selection. Perhaps in time this selection will grow, but recording and/or broadcasting is 3-D is expensive for the networks and only time will tell if it grows significantly.

Conclusion:

Let’s add it all up. I’m using “middle of the road” costs for this summary.

3-D Television Cost = $700 for a 47” model
3-D DVD player = $250
3-D movies = 10 movies at $29.99 each – $299.99
Glasses = $24.99 for 2 pair

Total = $ 1,274.98 for a basic 3-D starter kit. This price could be more like $4,000 if you wanted to upscale a few items. If you want to go nuts, $10,000+ is not out of reach.

By the way, if you have the “go nuts” kind of money to spend on a TV, contact me – I have some land I want you to invest in!

Next Time: Did You Hear That?