In 2020, plagued by the epidemic, technology has not stopped its development.
In the past ten years, the technological system established by mankind has played a unique role in this epidemic. It can be a prevention and control tool based on big data, remote education and collaborative office based on high-speed networks and online platforms, or just like a smart phone as a tool to connect to each other.
▲ Picture from: Jakarta Post
2021 is also the beginning of a new decade. In what direction will consumer electronics products develop? What kind of inspiration will the hardware of the entire industry get from the epidemic?
I hope we can look forward to the future and seize new possibilities from the technological evolution of the past year.
The mobile phone industry is the foundation and core
The smartphone industry in 2020 can be said to be a year of internal and external troubles.
Internally, mainstream manufacturers have all entered the 5G track, but Huawei's short-lived exit has also given gaps to competitors in other markets and spawned a new round of reshuffle in the mobile phone market.
In addition, the status quo of homogenization of smart phones has been going on for many years, coupled with the impact of the epidemic on consumer desire, how to sustain growth has become a new proposition for every manufacturer.
Excellent products are still the core of the hard power competition. Whether it's an alternative design, a stellar folding screen, or an advanced performance configuration, the pursuit of new technology has basically become the common choice of every manufacturer, and it is also a bargaining chip for them to stay on the table.
The market and users are also further segmented. Today, Apple has to release four iPhone 12s at one time, covering different price points, to cover enough people; and in the Android camp, the keywords "medium cup, big cup, super big cup" will also run through 2020.
▲ Picture from: Apple
It is foreseeable that, facing the 5G era, mobile phones will no longer be the only area that competitors will focus on.
From earphones, speakers, and watches with the lowest thresholds, to TVs, laptops, and even smart homes of all kinds, building ecology, connecting everything, and then occupying the minds of users has become a common choice in the industry.
But the mobile phone is still the hardest part to be shaken. It is the carrier of mobile payment and travel modes, and it is also a necessary condition for the popularization of the health code system under the epidemic.
When everyone has a mobile phone, the tradition will quietly move towards the Internet. Who can leave it?
In the early years, both Microsoft and Qualcomm tried ARM-based chips on Windows laptops, but the results were not satisfactory in terms of compatibility or performance.
In 2020, Apple changed the status quo. A new batch of ARM-based computers represented by the new M1 core MacBook has proved its strength in the traditional X86 camp, and has also shaken the most powerful Wintel alliance in the desktop field.
▲ Picture from: Apple
Before long, the chip industry is likely to usher in a turning point: in the future, processors such as Apple A series and Qualcomm Snapdragon will not only serve smart phones, but also become the core of notebook computers and desktops, changing their Appearance and performance even penetrate into all areas of social production.
The huge changes in the underlying architecture also herald a new possibility: the complete integration of the software industry.
Traditional desktop software is built on the computer, which ensures the monopoly of Microsoft and Intel on the X86 ecosystem, but now, the smart phone and application store model redefine our software usage habits, and the ARM ecosystem counterattack It has been inevitable.
When the barriers between platforms are broken, the vision of "develop once, deploy on multiple terminals" will become a reality. Then the software industry we are talking about in the future may no longer distinguish between mobile and desktop, but will evolve into an ideal state of dual-end isomorphism and free data circulation.
The question is, who will determine the "heart" of our digital consumer products in the future? Perhaps this is not only an architectural dispute between ARM and X86, but also a game between the entire semiconductor industry in the future.
A personal computer that is no longer silent
A pandemic and several months of home quarantine have fully released the originally stagnant demand for PC replacement, and also allowed the personal computer market to achieve the largest growth in the past decade.
This also makes us re-aware of the importance of computers and its irreplaceable status in the post-epidemic era.
▲ Picture from: TechRadar
People are not unwilling to use computers to edit documents, make PPT, and develop software. As long as complex multitasking is involved, computers are always a much better productivity tool than mobile phones and tablets.
But the solidified workflow and usage scenarios that have not changed for many years have also caused this category to fall into the contradiction of "enough is enough." As long as a three- to four-year computer can complete most office tasks without failing, there is no need to replace it.
As for faster performance? A better look? Judging from the market in the past few years, these incremental small upgrades have never been able to convince enough consumers to pay.
But working from home and learning online are different. For people who do not have a computer at home, this is a process from scratch. Especially when remote collaboration has gradually become a long-standing model, the original intentional or unintentional choice has finally evolved into an urgent need.
Regarding the existence and positioning of traditional computers, we have obtained a clearer answer after the epidemic. From the perspective of innovative products, the PC may be boring, but as a tool and a carrier of consumer content, personal computers will still exist for a long time and can be expected in the future.
Home fitness under one ring
If you are looking for a popular electronic product in 2020, Nintendo Switch’s fitness ring is definitely on the list.
Strictly speaking, we should put it in the review of 2019, but with the arrival of the epidemic and the closure of gyms, it successfully caught the fast track of home fitness and became the "best financial management" in the first half of 2020. product".
Some people are puzzled. The fitness ring is not the only game that fulfills fitness demands. Why is it out of the ring? But behind the high popularity, it is still inseparable from the excellent quality of the game.
▲ Picture from: Nintendo
The producer of this product, Kawamoto Koichi, was originally a standard "otaku", but due to long-term physical pain caused by sitting for a long time, he planned to develop a game that could "do exercises while playing." The "Fitness Ring" game that integrates "RPG role-playing, somatosensory interaction, and fitness" was born.
Behind the "home exercise", family fitness has also become a new outlet. From the most common yoga mats to the hot sales of fascia guns, to the emergence of fitness platforms with "smart hardware + content services" such as Peloton and Apple Fitness+, behind the rapid growth in fitness demand, a new round of competition for the living room is about to start. .
But for users, perhaps only need to care about one thing: how to really stick to the fitness, instead of just staying on the three-minute heat.
Can virtuality fill reality
After talking about virtual reality for several years, under the epidemic situation, we are facing a brand new challenge:
"Can we use VR and AR equipment to build a completely online communication space?"
When the world is blocked and isolated, an immersive, completely three-dimensional virtual platform is the best alternative. It can allow isolated individuals to reconnect, complete writing collaboration, and fill in the blanks in entertainment or business, and pin people's emotions.
But the existing technology has not allowed us to move further away from such a future.
▲ Picture from: Skyword
VR and AR helmets are still cumbersome, expensive, and the experience is uneven. As for "connecting people", the "Animal Crossing" game that appeared last year seems to be more than most virtual platforms. Value communication medium.
A similar situation can also be applied to the topic of "robots replacing humans." We have been talking about this proposition for many years. The epidemic should have been the best opportunity for them to show their skills. From the results, most factories, restaurants, and businesses The super restart will ultimately have to be done by people.
VR in 2020 is not without results. The appearance of "Half-life: Alex" proves the unlimited potential of virtual reality technology in interaction and narrative capabilities; and the second-generation Oculus Quest launched by Facebook also relies on millions of sales Proved their strength.
These are all signs of continued progress in VR.
In the past few years, the analysis agency Gartner proposed a concept of "technology maturity curve", which refers to a new technology that will be speculated to the peak by public opinion after it appears, and then the bubble will burst and fall into a trough. As for whether it can successfully return The mainstream sight depends on the iteration of subsequent products and whether the technology itself can bring real value.
Perhaps the current VR and AR equipment are in the early stage of the recovery of this curve. We hope that it can become a truly useful technology, not just as a technical passerby.
Unbought next generation
In 2020, gamers have gained a lot. Sony and Microsoft have successively released PS5 and Xbox Series X, marking the official step of the console gaming industry to a new era, and Nvidia's RTX 30 series graphics cards also kicked off the new Ampere architecture.
8K resolution, ultra-high frame rate, ray tracing, AI computing power assistance, these are the keywords emphasized by the new game hardware in the past year. Although the graphics of modern video games have reached the level of being fake, the arms race to "restore reality" shows no sign of stopping.
▲ Picture from: Wired
However, this year, these new products also encountered a common problem: serious shortages and unnecessary premiums.
As semiconductor production capacity has been squeezed due to the epidemic, both newly-listed game consoles and graphics cards are in short supply.
Manufacturers have not had time to respond to sudden changes. After all, the epidemic has affected the semiconductor industry chain, and supply is bound to be limited, but just like the recovery of traditional computers, the demand for entertainment equipment such as game consoles and computers on the user side has increased at a speed far exceeding industry expectations.
Everyone hopes to get the best living room entertainment, but in the end they find that they have money and nowhere to spend. When "sold out" and "out of stock" become the norm, they naturally complain.
This may be the result that both parties in the market are most reluctant to see-the developer has a good product, and the user has expressed the purchase intention, but the chain is lost in the most basic manufacturing link. How to deal with the supply chain and accurately predict their potential consumer groups is still something every hardware manufacturer needs to pay attention to.
5G, not good enough
Each generation of mobile network upgrades will bring new usage scenarios.
Just as 2G gave birth to short messages, 3G gave birth to surfing the Internet and sending and receiving emails, and 4G gave birth to a mobile Internet ecology, what will 5G bring? The increasing number of remote collaboration services and online platforms during the epidemic has already heralded the upcoming trend.
This is also the significance of the progress of the basic network. It will incubate new services, new scenarios, and new traffic, and then form an industrial ecology that has never been seen before.
However, it is clear that with regard to the question of "what does 5G bring," mobile phone manufacturers and operators have given high expectations, but the existing results are far from satisfying users.
▲ Picture from: PageOne
The progress on the scene side is still slow. VR, cloud gaming, and the industrial Internet of Things are still slowly iterating in the areas where 5G is most needed. Watching online videos, playing games on the Internet, and mobile phone functions such as car-hailing and take-out. Get a better experience, but not much difference.
Even the internet speed has not reached the vision of "the next full HD movie in a few seconds." As millimeter waves are not yet commercially available, the "Sub-6" version 5G we are using now is more like a "4G+" product. No matter the speed, the number of connections or the delay, it can't support a better idea for the time being. .
We may have to wait a while before we see the innovation of mobile networks.
When the mask turns into a wearable device
The trend toward intelligent and electronic masks may be the most unexpected "technical upgrade" in the past year.
This is also the most typical example of social demand driving technological progress. Only when masks become a portable item like mobile phones, people realize its many shortcomings.
▲ Picture from: CLIU Mask
Most of the new changes are improvements made based on the deficiencies of existing masks, such as the use of new materials to create a transparent appearance so that wearers can see each other’s expressions clearly when communicating with each other, or allow masks to obtain air filtration and ventilation. , Even the function of automatic disinfection, from the original "disposable consumables" to the "smart respirator" positioning.
However, it is a pity that most of the products currently labeled as "smart masks" are in the conceptual stage. To mass-produce, these technologies must first be made cheap to a certain extent.
After masks have become an inseparable part of human life, it has also caused many consequential changes: Beijing’s smart subway has added the function of identifying whether passengers are wearing masks, and Apple’s iPhone has optimized face recognition algorithms for masks, let alone a large number of solutions. Mask supply and demand, and cross-border technology and fashion companies making masks.
All efforts are made to allow society to adapt to the new normal of the epidemic as soon as possible, but some changes may also permanently change the lives of some people.
We are shaped by technology
Looking back and looking forward to the changes in the hardware industry, it has always been good, but in the context of 2020, every result is not easy.
I am reminded of the first global-scale disease that mankind encountered a hundred years ago: the 1918 influenza. This is the most serious health disaster in modern society, but it also brings a positive side, which is to promote the progress of public health in various countries and the progress of the entire social science system.
▲ Picture from: Microsoft
It is foreseeable that after the epidemic, large companies will also accelerate technological development in certain areas. For example, Microsoft recently launched a brand-new online collaboration platform Microsoft Viva, which is completely designed for the new situation of remote work and is also an urgent need created by the epidemic.
▲ Picture from: Netflix
But technology is not necessarily all positive. Last year's "Smart Trap" documentary on Netflix reflected on how the interest algorithm of social software hurts the user's subconscious and affects our social relationships.
In fact, these criticisms have existed for many years. Perhaps people who have experienced the epidemic will have a new perspective to examine the relationship between themselves, technology and products.
How should we view future technological developments? Kevin Kelly believes in the book "What Science and Technology Want" that the coexistence and symbiosis of mankind and technology is a macroscopic necessity, but from a microscopic point of view, the characteristics of technology are always determined by people.
Instead of worrying and disgusting, it is better to use the right choice to point out the direction and drive the common progress of technology and mankind.
I hope that new technologies can create a better tomorrow for us.
Source of title picture: Hackaday
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