Visions of the Future for Computer Graphics and Communication
And then, of course, you've got NDIVIA and its competitors doing the same thing for a few hundred dollars. Once you got to that commodity level, everything took off because now you could pay for all the real R&D at commodity volume. Then per unit things got really cheap.
So we're going to go through a transition. We're going to have the Silicon Graphics version of things. It's not going to be available for everybody, but then enough innovation will happen that people will understand why they want it. I think that one of the most important things that happened, maybe the most important thing that's happened in terms of people fundamentally rethinking communication is not the iPad, it's the Microsoft Kinect. Suddenly, you have a very large number of really smart people, a lot of them in their early 20s, who for the first time have their hands on a technology that can let them track human body movement however they want. They can use the official Microsoft SDK, but they don't have to. And this is changing a lot! Those devices, something like that was available for ten thousand dollars but that's not interesting. As soon as it goes down enough and it's good enough that you get some hacking, so if there were [see through] glasses for a few hundred dollars, that would inevitably lead to the disposable ones. It'll take a while, but once you get to the point where enough people are innovating, the market drives it really far really fast.
DS: You just highlighted an important issue. Who bears the cost of making these groundbreaking steps that move the technology forward to the point that makes it interesting enough for people to pay attention? That's a tremendous burden.
KP: I think that what Apple is showing with the whole iTunes/Apps/iPad/iPhone ecosystem and with what Microsoft is showing with the whole Xbox 360/Halo/Kinect ecosystem is that the people who are successful at taking this risk are the ones who are good at making it a content play. How to connect it to content that people want. You present the hardware as a better delivery mechanism, an evolution of something that people already understand or can easily be made to understand because it connects with something that they want. You don't just throw hardware into the world and it all just works, it has to be part of a well thought out set of interventions.
DS: Do you think that there are others? You use Apple and Microsoft a lot as examples. As innovative as Apple is, for example, there are a lot of people that are taking them to task with the way that they are integrating rights management with the content, with all of this innovative hardware.
KP: I don't think that anybody outside of Apple is happy about that. And then another complicated case, of course, is Amazon. Amazon is selling all their eBook readers at a pretty significant loss! They lose a hefty amount of money on each one that they sell you, whether it's the Kindle, or the new Fire. With the Kindle classic they're probably losing $25 on each one of those things. And the reason is that they're not trying to make money on those devices, they're trying to make money because they're going to sell you a whole bunch of eBooks and other things through them. So there is a hardware innovator that is throwing away an incredible amount of money to get you into their rights world, their content world.
Do I think it's a Devil's bargain? Of course I do! At some point will people rebel? The danger for those early innovators who then try to lock into content is that eventually somebody will come along who won't lock into content, because now it's a world where that's not necessary. So you can do that for a while, but you can't do that forever.
DS: That comes back to one of the first things I was asking you with regards to the commercial research and innovation. You make this excellent point about how moving forward, there will be staged growth. Yet with so many of these innovators, it's driven by the financial realities of the commercial application. In the work that you do and you see others doing, do you feel that those economic forces are overpowering the research, or do you still see a lot of research that's being done more altruistically, or with less of an overt commercial aspect?