Aris Silzars Display Technology Consulting



Unexpected Changes…

As one can readily see by observing the many failures of those who try,  predicting how technology will change our lives in the years to come is a devilishly difficult task.  One must not only be able to assess which technologies will be successful, but must also be able to unravel the even more challenging puzzle of how people will accept and decide to use the new capabilities that technology can offer. 

Before it happened, how many of us in the display community would have predicted that LC displays would overcome all of their inherent limitations and become the overwhelmingly dominant technology for televisions of all sizes?  Given our current knowledge, what are you willing to predict about the eventual success of OLEDs?  And what would you predict about the future for 3D technology?

How good were we at predicting that cell phones and other portable touch-controlled devices would become so prevalent – before this happened?  Did many of us foresee the rapid acceptance of social networks and the addictive behavior of having to stay “connected” for all our waking hours – no matter what else we should be doing?  I still use an old-fashioned “cell phone” as my primary means of communication while traveling.  It’s actually only a few years old but already embarrassingly obsolete.  However, I feel no great need to have it in my hand ready to turn it on the second the airplane wheels touch a runway upon landing.  Perhaps I too am becoming old fashioned and obsolete?

In November of 2000, I wrote a column prognosticating whether there would soon be a convergence of television, computers, and the Internet.  That column was stimulated by a news program interviewing Bill Gates asking him to offer his predictions of how personal computer technology would impact our lives in the future.  In that interview he boldly predicted that there would be a convergence of computers and television.  He demonstrated this by sitting next to a television set and pointing to interesting ways that we would do computer tasks while displaying them on a conventional television screen. 

In my November 2000 column, I analyzed this prediction and expressed strong skepticism that this would happen anytime soon.  I just couldn’t see how we would use low-resolution NTSC television images to do tasks such as word processing, e-mail reading, and searching the Internet.  I had the further reservation that combining work-related tasks with entertainment would not be of interest to most people.  Furthermore, computer activities tend to be single user while television viewing is typically a multi-viewer or family activity.  At least for these reasons, Mr. Gates prediction of how Microsoft would soon enhance the television viewing experience just did not seem to be realistic – at least not from the typical user’s viewpoint. 

As we now enter the year 2012, perhaps we can conclude that Bill Gates and I were both partly right and partly wrong in our predictions and analysis.  Neither of us anticipated the exact path that technology would take to prove us right – and also wrong.  If we look at the last eleven years, it would be reasonable to conclude that I was right and Bill Gates was wrong since computers, television, and the Internet did not converge in any meaningful way.  However, if we look at what is going on right now, then perhaps we can conclude that we are now finally beginning to see the convergence that Bill gates was predicting – but for reasons very different than he envisioned eleven years ago.

As we can see from our current 2012 insight – but could not envision a decade ago – a number of developments have occurred that have led to making this convergence more to our liking.  What is really interesting is that the changes that have taken place over the last decade are not so much ones of technology but of new behaviors that have come about because of the introduction of cell phones with cameras, then smart phones with data transmission capability, and now portable devices such as tablet computers.  These devices have transformed us from a society that communicated electronically only by voice to a society that now communicates by voice, pictures, video streams, and data.  And that now makes the convergence with television a logical and natural consequence.  Once we have taken the step of embracing visual components such as pictures and video streams as an integral part of our communication process, television becomes a natural extension of that process.  We all become producers of television mini-programs.  Sending these images and having our friends see what we have created on large flat-screen TVs is now something that we can perhaps embrace and add to our behavior set.

Thus, in the coming year we may begin to see more of us putting up images on our television screens that we or our friends have captured on smart phone cameras or other portable devices.  The direct access of those data streams on our television displays will then become just as routine as watching a conventional program on a cable channel.

In the year 2000, did anyone predict this evolution of image capture capability and how it would integrate with our cell phone usage?  I am not aware of anyone having had such an insight.  It was a step-by-step evolution that led us to where we are today.  When we first added rudimentary cameras to cell phones, it was not at all clear where this path would take us.  Smart phones with touch capability also did not have a clear path until “aps” gained popularity.  I also don’t remember anyone predicting this whole phenomenon of a million “aps” before it happened.  And so in spite of our limited insight into where the future would take us, we have arrived at yet another interesting milepost on our technology journey.  As we can see from the events of the past decade, it’s a journey where the direction is determined by both technology and how society chooses to implement technology to create new behaviors.  This combination of influences makes it very challenging to see what lies ahead.  Sometimes the path is easier to divine than other times, but we can never be certain of what the future holds.  That of course will make this year and the years yet to come very interesting indeed. 

Should you wish to offer your thoughts about this topic of technology convergence, you may reach me directly from this site, by e-mail at, or by telephone at 425-898-9117.  With my sincerest wishes for a prosperous and interesting year 2012.    




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