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March 5, 2009, 4:22 p.m.

Microsoft’s vision: ubiquitous display technology

This video released by Microsoft a few days ago, which has collected quite a few links, is worth viewing as a vision for news delivery in the future.

It shows the possibilities for very thin, very portable, color e-paper (or other display technology) touch-screen devices for use in many applications including news consumption.  Watch for a glimpse of a foldable electronic newspaper.

For a full 5-minute version, with an expanded version of the e-newspaper scenario at 4:10, have a look here (scroll down to the second video.)

Of course, it’s all vaporware and some of this is stuff that definitely falls into the futureporn category.  (Where’s my flying car?  Where’s my personal robot and vacation on Mars?)    But note that often, the future visions of 20 years ago actually fall far short of where we’ve traveled to.

A late-1980s video from Ameritech at Paleo-Future, for example, while envisioning an information service delivered via a TV/computer screen, completely misses quite a number of key developments that would be powering the Web just a few years later.  Note the database navigation prototyped at 5:05 — there are no hyperlinks, and navigation is totally by means of choices the user makes to move stepwise through hierarchichally-organized data.  The obvious idea of navigation by means of search is completely absent (perhaps because no one could then envision the speed at which the entire Web could eventually be searched within microseconds).

So, while my fellow Niemanite Josh Benton, a Kindle naysayer, may may be correct in the sense that Kindle could prove to be an evolutionary dead end, similar to the Ameritech demo, I believe that thinner, sexier, and more portable displays for many applications including news will proliferate.  While you can now turn your iPhone into a Kindle reader, phone screens won’t become all-purpose display devices, for the simple reason that you might actually want to read something and talk on the phone at the same time.  And you’ll certainly want bigger, foldable displays when they become available.

The ubiquitous E-readers and e-info devices  suggested in the Microsoft video will need a variety of innovative new navigational tools, along with color, motion and flexibility, and surely all of those are on the drawing boards at Amazon, Sony, Philips, E Ink, Hearst, Apple and others.  The future is as likely to outstrip our imagination as it is to fall short.

POSTED     March 5, 2009, 4:22 p.m.
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