Dispatches from the frontier:
>>Remember the last time you bought a TV? When was that? Like, maybe 10 years ago? Five? Well, the next time your boob tube goes gray, you're in for a shock. Like I was, standing there surrounded by aisles and aisles of TVs -- sleek flat screens that are nothing like the big, hulking Trinitron that just died on me. For starters, it's plasma versus LCD versus DLP. Then it's contrast ratios, aspect ratios, and resolutions, not to mention the video inputs of composite or RGB+H/V or VGA or DVI or HDMI. And then there's price. So I flipped open my Samsung Palm Phone and got ShopSmart, Consumer Reports' wireless service, up on the screen. I got ratings, comparisons, prices, and articles, all at my fingertips right there when I needed them. I waved off the sales associate and used my phone for information and answers. I didn't have to wade through any lingo or sales pitches. ShopSmart gave me the lowdown, and I walked out with the best value for my money. Who needs advertising when the truth is just a flip of the phone away?
>> Did you read the e-mail chain with New York Times reporter Andrew Ross Sorkin that Mark Cuban posted after Sorkin's column on the sale of Register.com? How about the full transcript of the "Night-line" interview with Dr. Stephen Meyer of the Discovery Institute, posted on this intelligent-design think tank's Web site after the "Nightline" segment? I don't know about you, but I feel smarter when I can read the whole story. Not to mention that it gives me a fresh perspective on the news process. Who says you have to rely solely upon a news report to figure out the real deal?
>>How many devices does it take for you to get through the day? I'm down to two: a Palm Phone and a video iPod. (Oh, yeah -- and the laptop it takes to manage them.) My calendar, my contacts, and my e-mail are on my Palm Phone. My video iPod has music, NPR podcasts, and Law & Order. And when TiVoToGo ships its release for video iPods, I'll transfer the latest episodes of West Wing to my iPod library. Who needs old media? I've got TV, radio, movies, CDs, Rolodex, phone, all rolled into...two. Packed neatly, they both fit into one back pocket. Of course, truth be told, I have yet to take the final plunge. I haven't yet hauled any of my old hardware to Goodwill. After all, the flat-screen TV is brand new. But talk to me this time next year. If you want dibs on my stereo or on a like-new flat-screen TV, speak up soon.
>> Maybe I'll keep the flat-screen TV, though. One flaw with video iPods: I can't tune in live to North Carolina basketball games. That's U.N.C, as in the University of National Champions (2005, 1993, 1982, 1957, 1924). Yep, I'm a Tar Heel (B.A., 1977, M.A., 1981, Ph.D., 1985). All too often, I'm stuck overnight in some far-off city when there's a Tar Heel game on. Luckily, I found a way to bring my content with me. I hooked up a Slingbox to my new flat-screen TV so that wherever I'm traveling, I can watch the game on my laptop over the high-speed Internet connection in my hotel room. Now that's frontier living.
J. Walker Smith is president of Yankelovich Partners and the coauthor of Coming to Concurrence: Addressable Attitudes and the New Model for Marketing Productivity. (firstname.lastname@example.org)