Preview 2008 - Technology

Out of your box

New technology is breaking down existing barriers between old and new media, finds Allan Radcliffe

Technology is advancing at such a rapid pace that predicting the future with any accuracy is becoming increasingly tricky. As might be expected, media technology is set to become faster, more powerful, more efficient, cheaper, more portable and more democratic over the coming months. With convenience at the forefront of manufacturers’ minds, the next ‘must have’ piece of hardware is likely to be a form of media player that brings together high-definition (HD) TV content, games and broadband internet as one unit. Viewers will soon be able to download episodes of their favourite series and watch them without having their peace and quiet disrupted by commercial breaks. TV content and videogames are likely to find their way directly onto gaming consoles.

Such cross media fertilisation is set to take place in the opposite direction too, as TV companies begin putting more content online themselves, through sites such as the fledgling While watching HD TV online is currently something of a specialist pastime, it won’t be long before the software is developed to help the average person view their favourite TV show in HD on their laptop. The big dilemma is how to fund such endeavours – sponsorship is one such proposed model.

Television content is also set to become more open and accessible – and more akin to the web – with networks pooling their resources to create comprehensive joint media destinations. On this side of the Atlantic, the broadcasting triumvirate of BBC, ITV and Channel 4 are teaming up to create a one-stop shop for on-demand video downloads. Viewer power will be increased with the growth of sites like Metacritic being dovetailed with downloadable content, tailoring it further to user preferences.

The big media story of 2007 was social networking sites such as MySpace, Bebo and Facebook. This phenomenon will progress to the next stage in 2008. An alliance of social networks led by Google is currently attempting to challenge the dominance of Facebook by introducing a common set of standards to allow cross-platform activity between Facebook, MySpace, Bebo and other social networking sites. Google will benefit by selling advertising on those sites while subscribers will be able to chat, blog and fileshare across numerous sites for free.

Even more significant perhaps will be the emergence of free, web-based office applications. Ubuntu, the linux-based, free operating system looks set to take off, meaning you no longer need Windows to operate your PC. Google Docs, the new, free, web-based equivalent of Microsoft Office is likely to enter the mainstream too, while Googlemail continues to develop as the most viable online choice for email. Could we finally be about to witness the breaking of the Microsoft monopoly at the expense of its upstart rival, Google?

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