Tech that didn't happen
Why 2006 was the year of disappointment
By John “jaQ” Andrews firstname.lastname@example.org
Forget overpriced game systems that confused polygon count with fun.
Forget the continuing miniaturization of portable gadgets masquerading as innovation. Forget even TIME magazine's selection of "You" as the Person of the Year because "You" are suddenly making and posting all this great content on the Web.
A lot of truly exciting technology that could have come our way this year just didn't. Maybe I'm becoming spoiled, but I like my upgrades fast and furious so I can snag the last generation of gizmos for cheap right after they come out. What will have to wait until next year's Christmas list? Read on.
• Blu-ray/HD DVD combo player I asked the consumer electronics industry for this machine way back in January. I even predicted it would be out in September. Let it never be said that I don't cop to mistakes.
To review: DVDs have just pitiful quality, so two standards battled to become the next generation of home movie media. So far, neither has won, even with a Blu-ray drive integrated into the Playstation 3. Microsoft's gaming arm got into the format war with an HD DVD drive for its Xbox 360 at a mere $200, which was quickly hacked and connected to PCs. From there it's a short cable to the 42" plasma screen all geeks are legally required to own.
The two formats are physically the same size and shape as DVDs and CDs, so making one player that could read both of them shouldn't be a huge technical issue. The problem is more about getting companies backing the two competing standards to play nice with each other. Hurry up, guys, I'm ready to predict when the first combo recorder will be released.
• IEEE 802.11n WiFi No, despite the numerous "pre-N" devices on the market for year, you still cannot have a faster wireless network. Not yours. At least, not one that's guaranteed to be compatible with devices from other vendors supposedly based on the same standard, currently only in draft form.
802.11n, a successor to 802.11b and 802.11g wireless standards, is still slated for release, but the current Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers timeline has the final publication date pushed out all the way to April of 2008. It's supposed to offer faster throughput and greater range, but geez, by then, the whole Internet thing is gonna be so passe.
• Flying cars and vacations on the moon These were supposed to be here for the millennium. They even got an extra year with that whole "there was no Year 0" nonsense. But I'm getting a little tired of waiting, folks. Get with it.
• If they mated: iPod & cell phone A few wireless communications vendors rolled out cell phones with small amounts of memory and music playback capability this year, but the long-pined-for iPhone never materialized. Numerous rumors, sketches and faked videos purported to herald the coming of this great device, but alas, nothing doing. Come on, Apple, how hard would it be to slap a little more circuitry in an 80GB iPod to give it voice capability? There had to have been money there partnering with service providers. Could you just not stomach a little logo messing up the sheen of your media player? You could've sold them unlocked, even.
What really sounded the death knell for the iPhone was, well, the iPhone. By Cisco's Linksys brand name. The Linksys iPhone, announced just this month, is a considerably less sexy gadget, basically another handset for using the Skype Internet telephone service.
Ah well. There's always next year.