The tech they promised... and what we got

Summary:From Microsoft's Vista to Web 2.0, technology often falls short of the grand visions spun by marketeers

...bunch of goodies than those introduced by XP. An improved storage system called WinFS was postponed to some future version. Perhaps.

Although Vista is specified to run in 512MB, it's not really happy without 2GB. Microsoft has also tightened up the licence scheme.

In a nutshell, it's late, it's a resource hog, and it doesn't add much that's new — except an unfamiliar and alienating interface, and new security and management headaches.

But perhaps the biggest disappointment with Vista is that, despite all the above, it hasn't been the disaster Microsoft-haters were hoping for. At one stage, some observers predicted that Vista would be such a flop Microsoft would shift to a new model and never do another full Windows release.

In fact, though Vista installations aren't as widespread as the company hoped — especially in the enterprise — Microsoft's revenues are still soaring away, so it seems more than likely we can expect future Windows versions.

5. Web 2.0

What they promised...
With Web 2.0, for a brief moment, it looked as though the future had arrived. Although Tim Berners-Lee had built the web to be interactive — as a tool to share as well as consume information — for the first 10 years of its life it was characterised by anarchy on the one hand and corporatism on the other.

Web 2.0 threw the gates open. This was geek paradise, and finally it was full of non-geeks. Sensible people had done the work to make it easy to create and share your own content, that expressed yourself, in virtual settings that made it easy to find others like yourself, to hook up with old friends, to get work done. Only this was work that was so much fun it wasn't like work at all.

Facebook groups and MySpace pages were going to be places where new groups and concepts could emerge and run rings round the old-school traditional business models.

All the things we'd been trying to do, involving blogs, peer-to-peer sharing and email lists were open to people who weren't so technical. All the people we knew, and all the new ones we wanted to know, would be there ready to meet us.

Just as Google made it possible to find information, Web 2.0 sites would make it possible to find the social tools and people to make the things you want happen.

... and what we got
Facebook is full of vampires, and we just poked 15 attractive-looking people we probably didn't know. Blogger ate hours of our time, taking in words and pictures that no one would read or see.

We got in touch with all our past disasters in Friends Reunited. We learned to play the English concertina on YouTube, with the help of a man sitting in his kitchen, before we drifted off to the parts of the site that make Ant and Dec look like Sir Kenneth Clarke.

We shifted to the more businesslike climes of Plaxo and LinkedIn, and found what it's like to be trapped in a room with 1,000 under-employed motivational speakers. We know we are never more than six degrees of separation from Thomas Power, and that knowledge is terrifying.

And when we looked up, we noticed that other people had somehow parlayed the whole game into a huge bubble of value, based entirely on the belief that, somehow or other, this can all be turned into revenue. Our content, our play, it turned out, was work and wealth — but not for us.

6. The Apple iPhone

What they promised...
This is a phone, we were told, that is so different it will change the world forever. It will sell faster than any other phone, and make it possible to use multimedia, and play music, while all the while displaying our complete coolness to everyone around us.

The iPhone would be, simply, better than any other phone. By having no keys, it would liberate us from the dreary formality of other phones, and open up a new free world where communicating with others would be as easy as thinking about them.

... and what we got
We got a very pricey phone on a lengthy and restrictive contract. We got a phone that makes texting fiddly, and doesn't have the 3G data that would make it easy to use the web somewhere outside a Wi-Fi hotspot.

Those are the obvious and much-rehearsed limitations. But we also got a phone that pushes us towards pricey music downloads, and another incentive to alienate ourselves from the world with earphones.

Apart from the lovely touchscreen, though, there is at least one revolutionary aspect of the iPhone. It's got a new kind of contract between O2 and the handset maker, Apple. O2 will pay a hefty percentage (as much as 40 percent) to Apple for the rights to use the phone.

Now, that's a revolution. It breaks the operator's traditionally absolute power. The drawback is the company it installs in its stead.

Topics: Tech Industry

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