A thousand times bigger ?

In the seventies I had my first experience with a digital computer. Actually the word computer is a bit exagerated, it was a TI58c, a programmable calculator from Texas Instrument that could remember a little program in its resident memory even when turned off, which was a revolution at the time. I used it mainly to cheat at the exams. It’s memory capacity was expressed in bytes. That’s all I remember from computing in the seventies.

Then it was the eighties. And in 1981 precisely, I bought my very first own computer, a ZX81 from Sinclair computer. It had a whopping kilobyte of memory. Unfortunately some of those 1024 Kilobytes were used for the display memory. I quickly bought the 16K extension. But it was overheating and disconnected frequently. A few years later, around 1984, I bought a Sinclair ZX Spectrum, with 16 K of memory, that I quickly upgrade to the 48K model. I still own a untouched sample in my office, thanks to my partner John who found one in an attic. One of my best friend was lucky enough to get a 128K Macintosh. But all I could afford was a Sinclair QL… enought to overleap the Commodore 64 K that all the others kids from my school where bragging about. In the eighties we expressed memory in kilobytes.

Then it was the nineties. And in 1991 I founded Ex Machina, a prepress and multimedia studio. My first hard drive was a 20 megabytes hard drive. It was huge, thousand times bigger than my previous storage unit : the 3 1/2 floppy drive. But I had trouble opening a photoshop file the size of an A4 page, and to be able to cut and paste between two scans, I had to backup and empty my whole hard drive. Luckily hard drives where growing fast, and suddenly I was sending 40 Megabytes Syquest disks to my offset film supplier. Then Syquest drive became obsoletes and replaced by optical disks, up to 512 Megabytes, … I started creating CD-ROM of 640 Megabytes. In the nineties we expressed memory in Megabytes.

Then we passed 2000. In 2001 Ex Machina, my first company merged with Emalaya and became Emakina. I can remember my first 1 gigabyte removable magneto optic disk drive. And I had 20 gigabytes in my Macintosh laptop. Then 40, then a hundred gigabytes. Now my iMac has a 500 Gigabytes Hard Drive inside and I burn 4.7 Gigabyte DVD disks. I read 40 Gigabytes Blue Ray disks in my PS3. In the first 10 years of the third millennium the memory unit where the Gigabytes, … but my first Terabyte drive entered my house as an Apple Time Capsule. I have several servers with terabytes drive at my Emakina offices, I have a 30 Terabytes storage cluster at ContactOffice, one of my company that provide webmail and online file storage. I can clearly see that the memory unit of the twenties will be the Terabytes (1000^4).

Every 10 years the memory unit grow by a thousand factor. With little imagination you can forecast petabytes (1000^5) drives in the thirties, exabytes (1000^6) in the forties and zettabytes (1000^7) in the fifties, yottabytes (1000^8) in the sixties… enough to record digitally every sound your ear, every image each of your eyes captures in a resolution higher than your retina, every smell, every taste, every touch feeling, … every bit of the chaotic signals your brain thinks is reality. To remember everything forever. Hope I’ll live long enough to see if I was right.

Good night.

Changed my mind. The next Apple product should be the iCar …

… an in-dash car entertainment, communication and navigation system.

I was reading about the beta firmware 2.1 for the iPhone, iPhone 3G and iPod Touch and it seems we will be getting turn-by-turn direction in the Google Maps iPhone application.

Now just imagine a standard in-dash unit which at the press of the finger would reveal an touch sensitive LCD screen, controlling what would essentially be the electronic of an iPhone. Add some radio DAB/FM/AM circuitry – similar to the Apple FM iPod remote for the iPod 4G – and optionally a connector for a boot CD changer, and you’ll get the ultimate in-car entertainment (featuring iPod music, video, podcasts, TV series and Movies), communication (with Bluetooth for headphones, GSM, GPRS, EDGE, UMTS, Wi-fi) and navigation (using Google Maps) solution.

Let’s call it “iCar”, as I couldn’t find a better codename.

With iCar you will be able to drive in town and have restaurants, hotels, museum, night clubs, gas stations, and other points of interest informations pulled from the internet using 3G or Wi-fi internet connection and displayed live on your moving map. Click theirs icons for turn-by-turn driving directions, rating, comments, menus, calling them or send them a message.

Park the car and wait a few seconds for download and watch pictures from MobileMe Galleries and Flickr taken around your car location do a nice slide show. This thanks to your GPS and the localization feature of the iPhone.

When listening a cool song on the DAB or FM radio, a button will trigger Shazam (or an Apple equivalent) and offer you to buy the track, music video or complete album from the iTunes Music Store. After waiting a few seconds to download a track over 3G, you’ll be able to listen to it forever.

When not driving, watch podcasts, videos, tv series, movies, … all on the beautiful LCD screen.

Park your car within Wi-fi distance of your home computer and sync your iTunes media with your iCar automagically, just like with an Apple TV. For those unable to park their computer so close, an iPod connector will permit connecting any iPod or iPhone and syncing media down to the drive or transfer purchases done on the iCar back to your iPod.

Thanks to MobileMe, iCar will also sync over-the-air with your email, calendar and address book. Great to have a look at your agenda without getting your iPhone out of your pocket. But even better, you’ll have only one finger touch to get your driving direction for a contact in your address book, or the next meeting in your calendar!

With Apple Speech Recognition, and Text to Speech technologies currently included in Mac OS X, you’ll be able to ask verbally your Apple iCar to read your day’s agenda aloud, or your latest emails. You’ll even be able to dictate short messages and emails.

This would be a revolutionary product and an entirely new platform for third party application developers. A specific App Store would allow downloading applications to iCar over-the-air. Facebook will release an app that will locate your friends (those who agree) on the map, thanks to their iPhone and iCars GPS. Trip advisor will release an application that allow sharing reviews and rating for any place around your car. Apple will release Remote, an application that allow locking your car remotely and driving it from a distance for Batman like performance 😉

The next Apple product : a digital camera

The current crop of digital camera is great hardware. I have always be a loyal fan of the Canon IXUS range and bought like 5 of them from the first 2 Megs to the latest 10 Megs (accidentally broken). Recently I bought a Panasonic Lumix TZ5 and it’s (mostly) great. It can snap pictures up to 9 Megs and even record video in HD definition. But the interface is just rubbish. I general Camera software is just lame. It almost hasn’t evolved in a decade.

Apple could design a revolutionnary digital camera, the iCamera. First by it’s form factor : a touchscreen, twice the size of an iPhone, slightly thicker. Video resolution would be HD Ready (720p), so the Screen resolution would be 720 x 1320 pixels at the same dpi res as an iPhone.

Then it would also be new hardware combination, built on a simplified version of the electronic of an iPhone (removing the bluetooth, GSM circuitry) and a Casio Exilim (or similar). The rest of the space would be used for batteries and memory storage.

As of course recording would be on solid state memory (Apple bought a lot of memory to manufacturers) or a 1.8 in 4200 rpm hard drive. It will start probably start with something like 64 Gigs of SSD / 160 Gigs of HD, but would quickly evolve to 128 Gigs of SSD or 320 Gigs of HD…

But storage wouldn’t be an issue as Apple iCamera will of course sync over the air (Wifi 802.11n) with a Apple TV, MobileMe Galleries, iPhones and over Firewire / USB 2.0 with Macintoshes and iPods.

But the real revolution would be great Apple software ! Of course the shooting software will allow Photo Booth like live effects, including background replacement, optical and digital zoom, special flash modes, … But the killing feature would be iMovie 08 and Aperture like video and photo software editors, running on the camera device, using the touch screen interface.

This revolutionary product would define an entirely new category of devices that would allow shooting, editing and publishing Hi def still photography and HD quality videos on the field. This will especially makes HD video easy to produce which may leverage the whole HD video economy.

Digital Still and Video Cameras is a category with great hardware waiting for a decent “Apple quality level” software like computers, music players and mobile phones. Please Apple, give the Nikon, Canon, Sony and Panasonic a lesson in software engineering. Millions of families are waiting for a better experience.