With the year slowly getting near its end and while smartphones keep stealing the main show in the IT world, here and there several apparently minor aspects of the technology still manage to grab a good share of the audience attention.
First and most significant perhaps is the USB3.0 interface. More than five times faster to transfer data than the standard USB2.0 we have been accustomed to after all these years, USB3.0 is a feature which benefits can directly be felt by all those who move and copy large amounts of data, audiovisual files, high definition photos and so forth.
Some three months ago, in this very column, I wrote that USB3.0, despite its undisputable technical superiority, had been slow at penetrating the market in any noteworthy manner and had not been widely adopted. Today I stand corrected. The fast interface is now found on most new laptops, on Intel’s motherboards for desktop machines and on a very large range of external hard disks.
Most computer stores and malls in Amman now sell external USB3.0 hard disks. One of the most popular of these consumer electronic megastores offers 500GB high performance USB3.0 disks for as little as JD60. The trend is strongly moving forward and is irreversible.
It is interesting to notice that USB3.0 external devices are encouraging computer manufacturers to integrate the fast interface in their machines, while at the same time the fact that more and more computers come fitted with USB3.0 is pushing makers of external devices and accessories to design more products that precisely work well with USB3.0. It is some kind of chain reaction. Curiously sales of USB3.0 flash drives are not on a par with sales of hard disks with the same interface.
Another not-so-new product that seems to be picking up speed recently is the SSD, the solid state disk, a device that is lightly fast for it has no moving parts. Price per gigabyte is going down and manufacturers of laptops are now integrating SSDs in their new models instead of mechanical drives. The price is still three times higher than equivalent capacity mechanical hard disks but this is an improvement compared to 10 months ago when it was much more expensive.
SSDs have received mixed reviews. The speed and performance are what make the product so attractive. Users say that loading software, starting applications and doing data search are virtually instant — no wait time at all. However many complain of increased heat dissipation and reduced battery life in laptops fitted with SSDs.
With the widespread existence of smartphones and their enhanced networking capability, one of the most powerful computer media players, J River’s Media Centre, now offers mind-blowing music and video playability and flexibility, all controlled in the palm of your hand with a smartphone. Gizmo is the name of the company’s software app that you can install on your intelligent mobile phone for unprecedented, smooth remote control.
Once you have done that you can search for music, photos or videos as surely as if you were sitting before your computer. You can then decide to play the digital media contents on the smartphone, on the computer or on your TV, provided of course you have equipped it with cabled or wireless networking. The volume button of your smartphone serves as the volume button for the music even if it’s playing back on the computer in the living room.
In the realm of cloud storage, DropBox is confirming its excellent position. The 2GB of online free storage usually offered by the company is suddenly boosted up to 50GB if you happen to be the lucky owner of the new Samsung Galaxy S3 smartphone. Well, for two years only, says the company! By then I assume that renting 50GB space in the cloud will cost almost nothing if you really have to pay for it.
DropBox has an edge for it is simple, fast, fool proof and ensures unprecedented uptime, an essential aspect for an online storage service.
Microsoft doesn’t want to be left out of the novelty show. The guys in Redmond now have a new Windows and a new Office, even if this does not necessarily make everyone happy, if only for the reluctance to change. Windows 8 is already selling and Office 2013 has just been announced. If they make the headlines, it is much too early to say anything about the two products except that everybody’s curious to see what they will do for us.