As we get underway with the new year, it’s a time to turn our attention to the big issues that are likely to dominate the consumer tech landscape for the coming 12 months.
It’s looking like a bit of a battle zone as the tech giants face off with their phablets, the government tries to captures all our technology movements in one go, content owners step up their war to wrest back the ill-gotten files from bittorrenters and free-to-air and pay tv providers go head-to-head with new streaming services for online eyeballs.
The government has laid down the gauntlet on the issue of data retention when it introduced the bill for the mandatory retention of telecommunications metadata. It wants to compel telcos to store a set of customer data for up to two years, although when it was first mooted there was confusion in government ranks about defining metadata and if it would be used to tackle cybercrime and even go after online piracy.
The scheme won’t include web browsing history, but metadata as it’s outlined in the bill introduced in October includes a substantial amount of detail that will be available to law enforcement agencies. The question is can Scott Ludlam and the independents, supported by rights groups such as Electronic Frontiers Australia and online activism from Get Up! and individuals themselves, and back the dark forces and stop Australia from moving towards a cyber police state?
One of the government’s other stealth battles is trying to clamp down on piracy. Australian enjoys the dishonourable title as one of the world’s most prolific downloaders of illegal content, or at least Game of Thrones. The government wants to make good on promises to rights holders that it will do something to stem the tide of file sharing. Three Strikes and prosecutions have been mooted, but, it’s not clear if this will be put into law.
The studios have once again taken aim at iiNet and are trying to force the ISP to hand over details of customers that the right holders of Dallas Buyers Club believe illegally downloaded the film. Watch this space to see how this one plays out.
Online streaming services
Netflix may or may not be coming to our virtual shores. Every week there’s another rumour, but in the mean time Dendy Direct has opened its cinema doors online and this year we can expect to see Nine Entertainment’s streaming service StreamCo go live and take on Foxtel’s Presto and maybe even the much-delayed Hoyts Stream. Those geo-dodgers with VPNs may be looking forward to new offshore offerings such as HBO’s new streaming service and CBS All Access.
The sad story of Australia’s attempt at a forward-looking national broadband network will be studied in textbooks of the future. Where did it all go so wrong? It’s hard to fathom how a piece of national infrastructure could elicit such strong emotion in commentators, politicians, technocrats and the general public. It’s probably because so many people see a wasted opportunity lost to political partisanship that put the national interest and future ingenuity behind point scoring and the need to create a second-best plan for the sake of politics. A Gallipoli-size loss to the nation this one.
Facebook seems intent on ingratiating itself further into our online activities and identities, while our government wants to allow law enforcement agencies greater ability to snoop into our online footprint. Mobile devices have become our own self-chosen tracking devices and we seem to be collectively blinded by their appeal and unwilling to question what anonymity with forsaken for connectivity. Internet-connected devices are like cyber shrapnel in our pockets taking out small pieces of our privacy bit by bit.
Wearables, phablets and innovation
The phablet battle took an interesting turn when Apple finally got around to introducing a couple of new iPhones that won’t fit neatly in a pocket. It remains to be seen if it’s enough to gain back those lost of the bigger screens already. How much bigger can a phone get?
And can we please come up with a word other than phablet?
THE YEAR AHEAD
These are just a few of the questions under the banner of device innovation. This year is likely to be a big year for wearables too. Smart watches, fitness tracking devices and who knows what else await the public keen to connect in new ways. A trench war more than a battle this one.