Microsoft Integrates Kinect into Windows 8

If you have an Xbox 360 but don’t have a Kinect you might be scratching your head, or even a bit ticked off, asking why Microsoft changed a perfectly good and very functional GUI to a tile-based UI like that used in Windows Phone 7 and, coming soon, with Windows 8.  However, if you have an Xbox 360 with Kinect, you probably think it’s pretty cool, and might even love it.

The new Xbox 360 UI integrates Kinect so that you can “grab” the screen edges and swipe to the next screen, then hold your hand over a tile to select it.  If you’ve seen “Minority Report”, it’s almost exactly like that, just without the crazy looking gloves Tom Cruise’s character wears to control his system.   The second thing that Microsoft has integrated into the new UI is speech recognition.  You can say, for example, “Xbox go home” to go to the home screen of the UI, “Xbox play disc” to watch a movie, and so forth.  The technology of both aspects is actually quite amazing, and this is just version 1.0, so to speak.

Prediction: Both the gesture based controls and the voice commands are still in their infancy, but after seeing how closely the new Xbox UI mirrors Windows 8, I can’t help but imagine Microsoft has planned to integrate a Kinect-like device with the new OS when it releases this year.  As the technology continues to evolve, not only could a user open a new Word document by saying “Draft New” or something similar, you could draft the entire thing without ever touching the mouse or keyboard, even for traditional commands traditionally reserved for the mouse and/or keyboard like copy and paste.

I’m not saying that it will replace the old tried and true keyboard and mouse, at least not next year.  But as the technology improves and evolves, gesture and voice-based commands very well could replace traditional manual controls, and evolve to replace other consumer electronic mainstays such as the good old fashioned TV remote.

Social Networking Plays an Even Greater Role in Deciding the 2012 Presidential Election

On September 26, 1960, the first ever televised presidential debate was held between then-Senator John F. Kennedy and Vice President Richard M. Nixon.  That televised debate, and the ones that followed, are often credited with helping JFK win the election.  Kennedy came off as calm, intelligent and charismatic, while Nixon came across as old, crotchety and out of place.  JFK wisely realized that the new medium could be a tremendous asset if properly utilized and he did so with great success.

Similarly, in the 2008 election, President Barack Obama conducted a campaign perhaps unlike any other in history.  The President’s campaign was in effect an online grassroots campaign, prompting millions of people to share traditional information in new ways, primarily through social media such as Facebook and YouTube.  Defying the odds throughout the primaries, he became an unlikely early dark horse favorite, then the Democratic nominee over Democratic favorites Hillary Clinton and John Edwards, and eventually, President.  These unlikely wins at each level of the campaign prompted the New York Times to run an article on November 7, 2008 entitled “How Obama’s Internet Campaign Changed Politics”.

Prediction: Now that these techniques are well known, all politicians have to play the game completely differently.  Not only are these great tools for fundraising and gaining votes and supporters, they are also potentially a tremendous liability if one were to say or do something inadvisable or downright dumb.  And given that the technology has evolved since 2008, it is very likely that this year someone will come up with a game changer yet again.

Consumers Continue to Cut the Pay TV Cord

In 2011, roughly one in three households reported having no home phone line, a huge increase from 5% in 2005.  When you take into account the number of folks who very rarely use that home landline in favor of their cell phones, the percentage would likely be even higher.

A similar trend is developing in the arena of pay TV.  Although not yet coming close to the number of folks ditching their phone landlines, cable and satellite subscriptions have steadily declined for the past couple of years.

Online streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu have become mainstream as roughly 42% of Americans are streaming movies and TV shows on a regular basis.  Utilization of pay-as-you-go services from Microsoft via Xbox Live, Sony via the Playstation Network and, of course, Apple via iTunes continues to increase as well.  Amazon fired a very noticeable shot across everyone’s bow with the release of the Kindle Fire with it’s media streaming capabilities (packaged with the oh-so-easy one-click Amazon purchasing option, naturally).  And with their aggressive acquisition of more and more rights to stream more and better content via their Prime subscriptions, it is clear that Amazon sees downloadable and streaming media to be the future.

Prediction: By the end of 2011, roughly 10% of consumers had shifted from pay TV to online-only watching.  Watch for that number to increase yet again in 2012.  Whether the drop in cable and satellite subscribers is a contentious choice on the part of the consumer or just a reflection of our current economic climate remains to be seen, but there is little doubt that streaming and downloadable media services will continue to grow and improve.  As that happens, cable and satellite providers will have to find new ways to stay competitive and in the end, hopefully, we consumers will come out on top.

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