While it’s easy to be persuaded to jump aboard the latest technological bandwagon, it’s always worth asking exactly how a new product will benefit you – the customer. This is a particularly pertinent question in a month when two major chip makers are telling us why we ought to upgrade to their quad-core technology. Click here for our AMD Phenom and Mesh Platinum Pro - an Intel Penryn-equipped desktop PC - reviews.
But high-end processors aren’t cheap; and the performance increases are going to remain minor until software developers start giving us something that makes use of all these extra cores. So isn’t the customer potentially the biggest loser of all?
In contrast, many of us could benefit enormously from another possible revolution brewing on the other side of the Atlantic. Two months ago, we suggested that the age of the e-book might be close, provided plenty of content was made available. Now that looks like happening as Amazon’s Jeff Bezos has thrown the weight of his company into the e-books arena with the launch of the curiously named Kindle.
Amazon’s backing ensures that there will soon be a huge number of titles available online, sparking an increased interest in e-books. In turn, we expect to see the price of readers falling and many a publisher scurrying to digitise its existing library.
But all this is just the start of something much bigger; it’s the beginning of the ‘long tail’ revolution. According to that concept, if distribution is wide enough then products that individually sell in very small numbers can collectively outsell the bestsellers and market-leaders. A quarter of Amazon’s book sales come from outside its top 100,000 titles, for example.
Few products are going to be allowed to consume precious floor space in a shop or warehouse unless they’re likely to sell well. But in the digital world, where an e-book or MP3 file takes up an almost insignificant amount of storage space on a hard drive, even the most obscure and specialist work can be allowed to sit, waiting to be snapped up by a receptive audience – whether that consists of several million people or just two or three. The success of e-books would mean that whatever we wanted to read, chances are it would be out there waiting for us. Technology that serves the needs of the customer? Now that would be revolutionary.