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David Pogue Talks Digital Media

Writer, entertainer, raconteur and New York Times columnist David Pogue gave the Y’s Men an entertaining “Tech Update 2012” on Thursday.  He highlighted the fact that we are only at the start of what promises to be an era “on-demand” digital media devices and delivery.

He described the new iPhone 5 as “taller, faster, insanely light (and with) 4G LTE, really, really fast… and does things no other gadget has done before.”   Talking about the Apple eco-system, he said the iPhone offers apps from the playful Ocarina, which turns it into a musical instrument, to potentially life-saving medical apps including a fetal monitor, EKG and glucose monitor.

But today’s leading edge will be tomorrow’s “Commodore 64.”

For all he likes about the iPhone 5, Pogue said compatibility is not a strength.  Its new Lightning connector is smaller than the one used for the last decade. That’s the “pretty bad.” The “really bad” is that every existing accessory needs an Apple-made adapter.  At $30 each, Pogue said “it’ll cost me $150 for a $200 phone.”

“If you want a look at the future, look at Siri” (the iPhone’s voice actuated “intelligent assistant.”).  Ask her for sports scores, movie times, or start a search “will I need a sweater tomorrow?” and get the answer – most of the time.  She’s not yet perfect!

Speaking more broadly, he told the group that today’s cable model is under attack and broken. The era of seller defined packages will soon transition to a la carte.

More threatening, is that “we’re in the On-Demand Era” where everything’s real time – Hulu, for example, a service that “offers the last four episodes of every TV show.” And Comcast offers subscribers “any show, any time, on-demand.”

In another area, on-demand medicine is here – doctors with free time provide online consultations to patients who don’t require an office visit.  Doctors earn small fees, patients get immediate answers and insurance companies pay out lower fees.

We’re at the “Dawn of the Tablet Era,” he said, then asked, rhetorically, “what do I need this for?” For “(content) consumption – reading, listening.” He called the tablet the “best selling new product category in the history of man.”

At the same time, we’re in the “Cro-Magnon” era of e-readers, though he called “great.” He added that people who have them read more, and that print newspapers and magazines are in decline.

Digital cameras, too, are getting much, much better.  The world wanted a small camera that produces “incredible” pictures – “razor crisp in low light with no flash.” Sony recently introduced two with full frame sensors that make them the near equivalent of a professional DSLR in a small body.

And landlines are “plummeting.” “Do you know a single college kid who signs up for a landline?” What the world wants is “free calls, from a cellphone to any phone number.” Though no one’s there yet, he named three voice over the Internet services that are close.

Again, a rhetorical question “how’re you supposed to keep up?… tech moves so fast.”

He closed by referencing one of his books – “you don’t live in Westport on a newspaper writer’s salary” – in which he asked readers to submit 140 character Chinese proverbs, and left the Y’s Men with this one: “Remember – the pit is always smaller than the prune.”

Pogue was a theater arts major at Yale and a Broadway conductor and song writer for ten years. He was offered the opportunity to sing for the group and took it.  He sat down at the piano and sang a couple of tunes he had written about the computer industry, one something of a put down of Microsoft (a view shared by many in the hall?).

Pogue writes a Personal Tech column in the New York Times every Thursday and he writes a blog –

Left photo by Bill Balch, right photo by Roy Fuchs

Roy Fuchs