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Analog Angle Blog

Whatever became of (fill in your own item here)?

The other day, I got an email about an upcoming two-day conference, and the topic was Web 2.0. I did a double-take: um, whatever happened to Web 2.0, anyway ?

Just a few years ago, it was proclaimed and touted as the “next big thing”. We were all supposed to reorient ourselves to dealing with it, leveraging it, maximizing it with respect to our work and personal web-based activities. (I'll confess here: I never did understand what Web 2.0 actually was, anyway.)

I don't mean to pick on Web 2.0 in particular. This is not, of course, the first time that something we are repeatedly told is the next big thing takes off and then flames out, or never even takes off as predicted. After all, there is an entire marketing/consultant/promoter subculture whose main role is to predict and hype the future, and they do this relentlessly.

Most impressive to me is that these folks never bother to look back, and actually admit to any sort of track record. It's full speed ahead; lead, follow, or get out of the way; and, are you coming with us?

When I got this Web 2.0 announcement, I took a minute from my day job to think about other recent items which failed to live up to their upfront hype. Some of these didn't make it because the technology just didn’t happen, some because they really didn’t fill a true user need (except “you have to get with this because everyone else is doing it”), and other were simply overtaken and passed by other developments.

What did I come up with? Let's see: “Second Life” was going to be the way to reach out and interact with engineers, for one. UWB is another.

And then there's the netbook. I always thought the netbook was a great idea: I purchased an HP Jornada 820 back in the day (1988) before the term “netbook” was even used, and it was a 2-pound (1 kg) joy for what I needed, despite its limitations. Though they were going to be the next wave in portable PCs, the striped-down PC it embodied never really caught on.

Then a few years ago, the netbook concept came back big time, with units from leading PC vendors. You might say that they got their own “second life”—very unusual for a consumer product—and again, they were going to be the next big thing.

Well, that's not quite how things have worked out. In just a few years, smartphones and tablets have eclipsed the netbook, and their future is modest, at best. Meanwhile, I'll keep using my HP Mini netbook, running Windows XP, Internet Explorer, and Microsoft Office, and with its 80 GB disk—and I'm happy.

What fairly recent “next big things” come to your mind, and which didn’t “make it” although we were assured they would? And of which ones being hyped now are you skeptical? ?

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