New Media

One day’s news provides a window on the pace
of change as new media slip into our lives.

The change wrought by new media is unrelenting. The news on any given day can provide a window through which we see how profoundly new media and new incarnations of old media slip into our lives and change us.

For example, here’s a compilation of news from the past couple of days.

Item one: Palm and Blackberry are pairing the Blackberry operating system for wireless e-mail with Palm’s hardware for a new personal instant messenger and e-mail device. The ultimate goal will be a device that carries both instant messages and email. What’s intriguing about his is that RMI, the Blackberry people, see it as a shot in the arm for their company that has reached the end of its current technology. Palm has apparently needed an instant messaging operating system, so the licensing serves both companies well. For the end-users instant messaging is becoming more important for both personal and business communication. Some are predicting the end of email as more people move to instant messaging.

Item two: Microsoft and Yahoo are announcing today, according to reports this morning, an agreement to allow interconnection between their competing instant messaging platforms, adding momentum to wider adoption for both.

Item three: CNN reports that the cell phone industry, which barely existed in Africa 10 years ago, today is a $25 billion industry that is providing communication for Africans in a uniquely African way. By slicing through the government bureaucracy and long delays for land lines and offering service through the informal economy, one hundred million Africans are using cellphones today. And the numbers are growing at an astonishing pace. Africa is leap-frogging over landline-based telephony.

Item four: The video iPod is not even widely available but producers are already preparing small screen video productions. The challenge they face is to fit productions on the small screen. Unlike the iPod, cellphone video will likely rely on short-form productions while some marketers say the video iPod will be capable of serving long-form viewing targeted at commuters, for example, who watch an hour or two on the train into the city and another hour or two on the ride home.

Wherever it’s used, on a commuter train or in an airport waiting area, the nature of the small screen medium will change production values and messaging.

Item five: Several utilities around the country are implementing broadband over power lines (B.P.L) to compete with cable and phone companies for broadband service. Besides affecting price point, BPL should also make broadband almost universally available in the U.S. because it uses existing infrastructure.

Each of these will result in rather fundamental change by providing mobility and portability of content, and different production values. These are lifestyle changes in addition to changes in communication style.

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