The other day while digging for news, I started to think about how far we have come technologically; I remember sitting and banging away on what to me at the time was a super speedy 2x86 CPU and I was happy. It was quick (again for the time) and could do everything I needed it to. Then, a new piece of software was thrown at me. This used terrain information (inputted by the user) to create an amazing 3D map of a battlefield. I was floored; normally I would sketch out this type of information using a drafting table. But here was something that would do it for me.
One problem, it would not run on my 2x86, I was going to need a more powerful system… My long battle with hardware upgrades was about to begin. Software driving hardware; that was the way things were until the late 90s.
At some point in the 90s hardware became so sophisticated that it leapt ahead of software. We now see software companies rushing products to market just to keep up with last year’s tech. Take games for example: A game is developed on whatever the current top performing hardware is at the time development begins.
That means that the rendering engine is designed to run at its best on the fastest GPU out. The AI is designed to run on the top CPU etc. Normally that would be great but since Hardware manufacturers have gotten into a six-month cycle; by the time a game hits the shelves - it is already outdated. So we are buying yesterday’s product and products poorly coded in order to meet deadlines.
The six-month refresh also means that time cannot be put into developing story line, combat systems, AI etc. Game developers just stuff as much eye candy as they can and push old, rehashed ideas out the door. This is hurting the market in ways that I cannot even begin to describe. Software companies cannot develop truly innovative features. Games are shipping with patches to known bugs already in the works. The software that is released comes broken and support for it is very lacking. This is from good companies too, but in order to keep up with demand we, the consumer, gets crap.
Even with all that, there is still another factor to all of this that makes things even worse...
The internet review sites
Yup, the trusted review sites are making things worse in an already bad situation. In an effort to get hits and page views many sites succumb to sensationalistic reporting. They need content and need people to read it. To do this they rush product reviews out on an ever increasing schedule. Many sites spend no more than 8-16 hours testing a product that you will spend your hard earned money on. The use of automated demos is more and more common and very little time is spent on the actual usability of the product. This leads to errors in testing, biased reporting and the production of the "repeated truth".
To give an example of how the "repeated truth" works let’s look at Vista. I will use a personal experience for this example:
Long before Vista ever hit the shelves, bloggers the world over were calling it awful, many had never used it and in some cases - had never seen it. They were reposting information off of other blogs, who in turn had reposted information off of even more blogs. After it was repeated so many times the "truth" that Vista was a horrible dog that would not work on anything and could not play games was born.
At the beginning of last year, I had spoken to a friend of mine about getting a new system. He was very interested in the idea and wanted a real gaming system. So I specked out a system for him that would allow him to game and do just about everything he needed. He looked it over and said "There is no way I am getting Vista!" as I had included Vista x64 Ultimate as the OS.
When I asked him why, he stated "I took a look at it and it was horrible". In the end I built the system with Windows XP x64 and he was happy. About four weeks later he was over and saw my laptop, he asked me what new beta OS was I playing with; when I told him it was a retail copy of Vista x64 Ultimate. He was stunned. It was obvious that he had no experience with the OS other that what he had read on the Internet. So he began to ask me a long list of questions; if I had had this problem or that. When I said no to all of them he decided he would give it a try - he now uses Vista on all his systems.
This is not to say that Vista is perfect, no operating system or software ever is, nor am I saying all review sites are bad. In fact there are many that do not "drink the corporate Kool-Aid"; but they are becoming fewer and fewer as the companies find sites that do not have as high a level of ethics as they should.
These sites end up getting skipped over for product launches and evaluations after all why would a big company send something to a site that might write something negative about their product? After all they are concerned about making money. Some companies even go so far as to demand sites revise their reviews if they portray a product in a negative manner. Not all companies participate in this behavior either, some view a negative review as a chance to improve their product and work with sites to overcome problems and present solutions to their readers. The big issue is; how to tell the good from the bad? Sadly, there is really no accurate way to do this.
So where am I going with all of this? It is pretty simple really. We now live in a world of 2nd rate hardware refreshes happening every six-months, designed to get the consumer spending money on hardware they really do not need, propped up by review sites that do not thoroughly test products and give very short sighted recommendations, and software that is poorly coded due to lack of proper development time and the repeated truths of bloggers many of whom have never used or seen the products they are blogging about filling the net with extremely biased misinformation. In the end, it is the consumer and the spirit of innovation that loses.
It is a scary time ahead for technology as we all head into the dark tunnel. Anyone got a torch? [Ed's note: In other non-related news, Apple and SONY recently released two new interesting products. We expect to see interesting reviews on them. For those who do not know The Onion, we advise that you visit the site and enjoy in its content.]
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