FutureWire - futurism and emerging technology

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Wither the Digital Home?

For years -- decades, really -- technologists have been waxing enthusiastic about the "digital home," where all electronic devices are interconnected. But, as a recent article in The Economist reveals, the digital home remains, like the "paperless office," a dream... not because it's not technically feasible or manufacturers don't have products to offer, but because there's no consumer demand.

Technology consultant Pip Coburn calls the motivation to adopt a new set of technologies a "sense of crisis" -- which is lacking in the case of the digital home. Why invest in complicated and expensive technology when present solutions meet their needs? The article cites a survey showing that 27% of consumers who bought home networking equipment had problems installing it and needed technical support. Systems, in addition to being user-hostile, are not interoperable, and different standards are confusing. There's evidence that consumers find the idea of a pervasive environment a bit scary and too "Big Brother." There's also disagreement about what the term "digital home" means. Does it describe the completely pervasive, networked home? Or does it simply refer to a home with digital devices, such as PCs and DVD players?