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The 'Game Changer' theory

IFA 2010 didn’t offer any breakthrough technology, but it’s just a matter of time.

india Updated: Sep 18, 2010 17:47 IST
Rajiv Makhni

There’s a serious problem that almost all technology columns suffer from (actually there are multiple – the paradox of ethics and credibility being the most delicate of them all). But the one that plagues almost all of us on a regular basis is hyperbole. Our hunger for a new product, our want for a new technology, our desire to be dazzled by something different leads us to over-report the product. All of us then get into superlative territory and start using terms like radical, out of the box, dazzling, stunning, brilliant and of course the old favourite – breakthrough ‘Game Changer’!

Very few new products are anything like that. Technology for some time now has been evolutionary rather than revolutionary; a feature add-on game rather than all-new inventions. Thus, reporting on IFA’s product line-up as the second part of last week’s column, I shall try and refrain from extreme hyperbole and restrict my blood pounding techie heart to adhere to a more restrained beat.

Every large consumer electronic fair has some constants. Mind-boggling pavilions and products set up to dazzle the mind into salivating submission. You come back thinking that the world has been reinvented from the ground up. Having had a week now to get over the reality distortion field that was thrown out in Berlin, I shall now embark on breaking down products into two categories. Those that were really good and those that were great but were destined to fail.

ipadTowards Greatness

Toshiba Folio 100 Tablet
While Samsung stole the thunder with its Galaxy Tab, Toshiba hit back strong with its Folio 100. The Folio has a gorgeous 10.1 inch multi-touch screen, Android 2.2, throws in USB, SD and HDMI slots, a 1.3 megapixel webcam and a 7-hour battery back-up. The great part is that they’ve added their own layer on top of Android to make the whole experience more customised.

Samsung 65-inch LED and LG Nano Infinia
Two products that are completely different beasts – with one thing in common. Awe-inspiring displays. While our eternal wait for OLED may fructify soon, TVs with such large displays will remain the domain of backlit LED for a while. And the reason that you may never even want to change – the LG Infinia almost gets rid of the bezel and the Samsung 65-incher is breathtaking in style and function. Put one of each in your room and act like you’re on the deck of the Star Trek enterprise.

Opalum Flow speakers
The world of speakers is basically divided into two. Huge, klunky monsters that sound good and thin and sleek paper wafers that sound crap. The inherent underlying physics of sound need a speaker to have depth and girth. Finally, one company was able to break from the very law of audio physics. Opalum Flow speakers blend literally into the wall. They are active powered, use a technology called Actiwave to reproduce deep sound from 43Hz to 20 Khz, require no sub woofer and are just 38 mm thin!

Samsung HTC 9950
You go and out and buy the thinnest large screen television you can afford. You choose the all-chrome and brushed steel one as it looks the best. You attach a BluRay player and fire up your first movie and prepare to be astounded. The stunning pictures roll – followed by puny sound. It’s a universal fact that most super thin TVs have super thin sound. That’s when you need to add on a smaller home theatre set-up. The Samsung 9500 series makes sure that you don’t end up with a mismatch to your TV. Full featured, shiny, glitzy stainless steel looks and great sound to match.

Philips SoundSphere
Philips’ ‘Obsessed with Sound’ campaign hadn’t really got anything in its portfolio that made us jump. And then, suddenly, appears the SoundSphere. While it has lots of bells and whistles and can play music from almost anywhere – USB, net, streaming, WiFi, source – that’s not the reason to buy it. If ever sound can look good then this is proof. Brilliant dynamics and amazing ergonomics – the SoundSphere is an audio system for your eyes.

Good, but not destined for greatness
There were other brilliant products that truly define our march into the future – but each missed true greatness due to a single flaw. The Toshiba Libretto W100 dual screen is a dream toy (marred by sluggishness), the Philips 21:9 3D TV is breathtaking in its expanse (killed by the fact that there are no takers for this format), Sony’s Google TV is the next generation in television (and yet confusing to most as to why we need it) and Sharp’s 3D video capture phone drew huge crowds (and as always left most underwhelmed at the final results).

Thus the curtain came down on IFA for 2010. Final conclusion – a great year without any real product reaching any hyperbole heights. It’s only a matter of time though, as suddenly, out of the blue shall appear a God Device – a dazzling, radical, out of the box, breakthrough ‘Game Changer’!!

Rajiv Makhni is managing editor, Technology, NDTV and the anchor of Gadget Guru, Cell Guru and Newsnet 3.0. Follow Rajiv on Twitter at twitter.com/RajivMakhni