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To App or not to App?

by Timmy Treu

Oh yes, this is one of those words that has entered our daily jargon. Think of it. Before Apple actually launched its highly innovative App Store no one imagined that this single word ‘App’ would get on everyone’s wish list. But where does this lead to, asks TIMMY TREU?

I do have two teenage sons, an ideal age where Apps are just cheap enough they can afford to purchase them without asking daddy’s hard-earned cash. And yet they do! Only this year, I found out I have already forked out about €100 of Apps on each son, and Christmas is yet to come! I do not even include their spent on iTunes music – that’s for me.

Here is the dilemma. Now that iTunes has started in Europe as well to sell movies, how much will my sons cost me? Highly likely, an arm and a leg, since they will still continue to go to the cinema, while wanting to download films they went to see plus those they didn't on their iPods. To up the bill, they will want to upgrade to next-generation iPods with larger memory, otherwise how can they show off their library to friends?

The good news is that this behaviour quite substantially reduces the entertainment industry’s carbon footprint. No DVD, no shining packaging, not plastic to dispose of. I have always been an ardent advocate of a paperless, green environment.

Will my savings on carbon reduction match my spendings on Apps? I don’t know and probably will never work it out. Simply put, I believe a smaller footprint makes economic sense and is definitely socially defensible. And this is where I want to get to: Apps are increasingly becoming the substitute for packaged software, and eventually movies.

Many years ago when I bought my first iPod, I thought its 8Gb memory would be more than sufficient to hold the music I wanted to carry with me. But, as my music catalogue grew, I found that I had constantly to select the music tracks I wanted to carry with me on my iPod. What an annoyance! Looking at my substantial CD library, I figured that if I wanted to put the 6,000+ songs on my iPod, let alone all those I downloaded from iTunes over the years, I’d need at least 40-60Gb of memory.

So, I finally made the plunge and got myself a 160Gb device, that could accommodate all my digitised music as well as my movie library (well, only a small part of it!). That is, until the portable device becomes obsolete again, not because of technology, but the lack of memory.

So, what am I calling for? I want one and only one device in which I should be able to store all my music, apps and movies. It would become a sort of server for my home-based entertainment centre, pluggable in a docking station, yet remaining 100% portable; my PC or Mac acting as backup devices for all my Apps.

How long will we have to wait for a 2-Terabyte portable device at a reasonable price, with the possibility of adding extra memory to cope with high definition, let alone 3D HD content?

While technically feasible, indeed elegant, this proposition makes no marketing sense, I fear. Manufacturers and retailers of portable devices have little incentive to supply extra memory chips when they can sell new iPods or iPads whenever I need bigger memory capacity! Sadly, continually disposing of obsolete devices does little to reduce my carbon footprint as well.

So, we are back to square one. How environmentally-friendly is the Apps eco-system? And by Apps I mean all kinds of software that can reside and are playable on a portable device. The answer: Produce a 2Tb portable device. That should be enough to store one’s complete music library, about 40 HD movies and a basket of Apps! Price it at €299! Get is ready for Christmas!

And I would have to buy three of these gadgets – for my two sons and for myself!

Column Comments

Prospects for 3D in the home

There has been a lot of hype about 3D TV. But the industry getting behind a broad realm of technologies is a far cry from a monetisable mass market. Fundamentally, 3D is complex, more so than HD as technology and ecosystem. Screen Digest' TOM MORROD examines the issue.

This complexity will be reflected in uptake of 3D. It is often said that 3D is easier for consumers to 'see' than HD, thus driving true demand. But it can be countered that a market is not just about demand. It is about supply, price and information - all in questionable quantities.

Supply is a big piece of the puzzle and crucially, like HD, 3D is an ecosystem. It is certainly about the TV receiver, polarised or active switching; the glasses (easily forgotten but not necessarily 'in the box'). But it also takes in the decoding device - set-top box, games console or BD player; the distribution medium (broadcast/unicast), games console or 3D BD; the content and the process of capture, editing and contribution, including broadcasting infrastructure when not printed to disc.

Only about 20 per cent of broadcaster equipment is HD, 30 per cent of TV screens and less than that of set-top boxes. We are still in a very early stage of actual upgrade across the HD ecosystem. And while the HD infrastructure across broadcasters and operators can be used to transmit lower resolution 3D to some existing HD PVRs, all those TV screens will need replacing.

Price is a murky issue spanning both consumer and professional equipment. Many of the early announced prices for 3D TV sets are considerable inflations on similar non-3D TVs. This is especially true for passive polarised, where more technology is built into the display. However, active switching, offering screens at similar prices to non-3D displays, have a hidden cost: the glasses may cost up to $150 a pair, a major consumer cost.... Read More...