Underhyped, overhyped 1998

Tim Byars (tbyars@earthlink.net)
Tue, 29 Dec 1998 08:52:14 -0800


From wireless to Windows

By Rebecca Lynn Eisenberg, CBS MarketWatch Last Update 11:07 AM ET Dec 24,
1998 NewsWatch

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS.MW) -- The year 1998 was for wireless phones, LCD
displays, and more than anything else, hype about gadgets. So it seemed
fitting to offer a guide to the most underhyped and overhyped of the year's
new tech gadgets.

Most underhyped, yet worthy:

-- Qualcomm's (QCOM) wireless phones. As much as I love the Star Trek
appeal of the Motorola StarTac wireless flip-phones, and as much as I covet
the infra-red capabilities of the latest Nokia, Qualcomm hands-down made
the most fabulous and brilliant phones this year. Both the antenna-less,
5-ounce, 5-line-capable, large-LCD-laden Q-phone and the similar
candy-cane-shaped, ergonomic, dial-shuttle (aka jog dial to the rest of us)
QCP make all other wireless phones look old, ugly and stupid.

Qualcomm could stand to hire a product-name consultant. Both phones also
operate in dual analog and CDMA digital (a secure wireless protocol
developed by Qualcomm and available all over) modes, making them both cute
*and* useful.

-- MacOS 8.5. In all of the (well-deserved) hype about the iMac, little
press attention was given to Apple's (AAPL) most revolutionary product this
year: its new operating system. With MacOS 8.5, Apple finally adopted the
strategy from which Microsoft has made billions: stealing good ideas from
the competition.

Want your task bar on the bottom of your screen? MacOS 8.5 lets you put it
there. Want contextual menus? OK, you got them. But the best points about
8.5 are what Apple came up with all by itself: a browser-less search
feature called Sherlock that lets you pore over just your desktop or the
entire Internet by typing a few words, and QuickTime 3, the multimedia
software standard that Microsoft tried to kill but couldn't.

MacOS 8.5 is superfast and superstable, and now, thanks to developer
interest buoyed by iMac's cultlike success, it finally is compatible with
all the software you need - - hallelujah. Apple always was and still is a
software company. (Now if we could only see MacOS for Intel machines!)

-- Microsoft Office 98. Shoot me for liking a Microsoft (MSFT) product,
but the truth is that Microsoft finally came through for Mac users this
year, with software that actually converts across platforms without losing
any formatting or data. Rumors are that Steve Jobs had to give away all of
Apple's numerous patent claims against Microsoft to get Bill to make this
thing, but for those of us who refuse to run Windows it is a lifesaver - -
both for us and for Apple.

-- 3Com's Palm III Connected Organizer: see Windows CE below.

Most overhyped, yet worthless:

Windows 98. Take an operating system with at least 5000 bugs, remove 2000
of the bugs, and then integrate a CPU-hogging Web browser so fastidiously
that you cannot execute the most inconsequential command without the
CPU-hogging Web browser popping up and what do you get? Microsoft Windows
'98. Sure, Microsoft did the poor Windows-using masses a huge favor by
fixing thousands of the bugs it released with Win95, but that it got away
with calling Win98 an upgrade rather than a bug fix is criminal.

-- DiVX. Quick test: you can by a DVD movie from Amazon.com for $15 and
watch it wherever you want, whenever you want, on your laptop or on your
TV, in whatever piecemeal order you want for the rest of your life. Or you
can pay five bucks to buy a DiVX movie that you can only play for 48 hours
on the DiVX player that you can only purchase at Circuit City for about a
$100 premium over a DVD player, and then each time you accidentally slip
said DiVX disc into said player, you get charged. Which do you choose?
Unless you like to be ripped off and inconvenienced, you choose DVD. Don't
get me wrong. I am confident that the pay-per-use model is going to
overtake the multimedia (and Internet) business and consumer landscape. But
DiVX - - with its overpriced proprietary hardware requirements and discs -
- is not the way. For pay-per-use to succeed, it has to follow the AOL
model - - by giving away everything (especially the storage media for
crying out loud) except for the service. DiVX is far off.

-- Anything that runs Windows CE. Looking like a PalmPilot (COMS) doesn't
make that cute little Philips Nino a PalmPilot. Microsoft WinCE (or Wince
as critics call it) is a slow, useless pale imitation of what currently
exists as the only multi-faceted cross-platform user-friendly stand-alone
palm-sized operating system, 3Com's PalmOS. Take as evidence that a Wince
utility that allows "task switching" and thus "makes Wince devices more
competitive with the PalmPilot" won a Comdex Best of Show Award. You'll
never know what a handheld can be if all you ever try is Wince. Pay the
extra $30 and go with Palm


For those who understand, no explanation is needed. For those who don't, no explanation will suffice.

<> tbyars@earthlink.net <>