Among the onslaught of "Best of 2012" lists barreling their way into my normal reading stops, Time Magazine has unleashed its "Top 10 Everything" arsenal. Included in that is the list highlighting the "Top 10 Gadgets" of the past year. No surprise, Apple's well-marketed, efficient (and did I say well-marketed?) iPhone 5 tops the list.
Past that, however, I took notice of how delightfully full the list was in terms of products useful to the broadcasting industry. It's Christmas stocking full, and at a time when there is substantial conversation concerning the current fork in the road, the list struck me as a fat reason for optimism moving forward.
That is, it can be if we let it. I'll explain that in a bit, but first, as for the those gadgets...
Starting at 10 and working back down, the Simple.TV begins the countdown. The DVR device allows consumers to watch live and recorded television on any web-connected device, wherever it may be. At No. 8, the Samsung Galaxy Note II. Call it a phone if you want; I look at it as the big-screen TV of smart devices. If you haven't before, consider how attractive that is to people who do like to actually see the mobile video they watch. The Microsoft Surface tablet follows at No. 7, and it doesn't need much explanation: Tablet, video, mobile, etc. It has a ways to go in terms of keeping up with the Joneses, but for folks who dig their Microsoft products, it's neat. At No. 6 (yep, three gadgets in a row), Apple's 15in MacBook Pro is expensive, but I do love me some 15in displays — as does a video watcher in a mobile setting. Jumping up to No. 2, Nintendo finally (FINALLY!) decided that gaming consoles could be capable of more, and came out with the Wii U, which includes TVii (capable of streaming video). And then, of course, the iPhone 5.
If you just like to push buttons and see things work, that list is fun enough. But, when you consider what the potential of a list like this holds... man, it almost feels like I'm standing in Texas during the middle 1800s watching my rig strike black gold.
What the list suggests is that while a good chunk of the broadcast industry wrings its hands over its future direction, perhaps some of it is unnecessary. We stress over new standards, twist in knots over disappearing television spectrum, and contemplate the cloud's true impact. All of these things are important, vitally so. Where we shouldn't be concerned, however, is freaking out over whether consumers want what our industry has to offer.
Manufacturers generally aren't going to build devices people don't want to buy (with all due respect to the Shake Weight and Spray-On Hair). That said, considering fully 60 percent of Time's gadgets list features tools for consuming video content shows just how high that demand is. People do want content; they just want to have it at their movement's whim and want to consume it in flashy ways. The general innovator in me rejoices at this.
Those other issues I mentioned earlier — those aren't on the consumer. So we, as in the industry, have to take care of our own in-house issues. As Broadcast Engineering editor Brad Dick said in his magazine column this month (click the "current fork" link above), we have to work together. As we do, and as we continue to develop non-traditional and mobile delivery methods, the product landscape obviously is fertile and ready for growth.
Now, that's a thought worth shaking a weight at.