A buzzword (also fashion word and vogue word) is a term of art or technical jargon that has begun to see use in the wider society outside of its originally narrow technical context by nonspecialists who use the term vaguely or imprecisely.
We are deluged with buzzwords on a daily basis, especially because we are working in the IT industry. Though, I think it has become more of an issue lately. I’m too young to know what ‘70 or ‘80 looked like, but I’d bet they were not even close to what we experience today.
I remember the late ’90s and early 2000 years. Everybody was talking about XML. And shortly after that, about his best friends XPath and SAX. It looked like the closest thing to the Holy Grail that humanity ever created. The lesson I learned? It seems we are far better at marketing or PR than applied sciences. We can convince a lot of people about a particular subject, although there is no “scientific” proof to backup our statements.
We are assaulted by new “things”. Some of these things are just buzzwords, while others are the real deal. And they have the potential to change your life for the better. The question is how do you pick up the right ones? When you are a developer or entrepreneur, you can look at these novelties as opportunities. An opportunity to do new kinds of projects (maybe you’ve gotten bored by doing the same thing over and over), an opportunity to create new products, or an opportunity to get rich :D. Unfortunately you are limited by time. You cannot pursue all of them; you have to pick a few.
How can you increase your chances of making a sound decision? I will tell you one method I use: when something new appears I try to look behind the marketing talk. One way to do this is to see if that “thing” is starting to deliver on its promises.
Let’s have a look at the Open Screen Project. When it was first announced, back in 2008, it looked like something extremely cool. At the same time, I bet many people thought it couldn’t possibly be a success. I mean its mission is to “enable consumers to engage with rich Internet experiences seamlessly across any device, anywhere”, but in order to do this, Adobe needed to work with companies from different industries (chipset manufacturers, telco companies, publishers, networks, and so on) and most likely with companies that otherwise compete against each other.
A little more than a year after the launch, the partners list looks amazing and the project is delivering on the promises: we have demoed a prerelease version of Flash Player 10.1 running on Net PCs and on a number of smartphones (Nokia, Motorola, Google, Toshiba, HTC, Palm). By working close with our partners we were able to tweak the Flash Player to make the most out of the hardware platform and at the same time increase battery life and decrease memory usage (early tests showed an improvement by 87% of rendering performance and a 55% reduction in memory consumption). This means you can watch video for 3.4 hours and play games for 6.5 hours on mobiles.
I think the key element to take away is this: all these partners realized that the Flash Platform can help their platforms to bring more value to consumers. And they realized that by working with Adobe they can be sure they will provide great experience to their users. Needless to say that Apple is not a partner of Open Screen Project and it doesn’t look like it wants to be anytime soon.
And this brings me to Apple’s latest device, iPad. Apple claims that iPad is “the best way to experience the web”. I think this is, to say the least, a big overstatement. Like it or not, plug-ins are part of the today’s web. Java, Flash Player, Silverlight, Unity 3D are examples of plug-ins that move the web forward and are used by millions of people out there. And what it happens when you surf to any of the web sites that depend on these plug-ins on an iPad? Nothing. Literally. Because iPad doesn’t support plug-ins. In fact you can’t even install another web browser. Apple is acting like a guardian or a “benevolent” dictator and decides for you what is good or bad for you. I said it before but I will say it again. Maybe because I was born and raised in a communist country I’m extremely sensitive to products or companies who “think” for me by limiting my liberty. And because I’m free, I can choose to buy or not. Thus, I am the proud user of a MacBook, but I don’t own an iPhone nor do I want to buy an iPad in its current incarnation.
PS. You can see here an illustration of how a big part of the web is seen on iPad.
Later Edit: Mike Chambers has a great take on another fear I have, fueled by the moves Apple has made lately.