Friday New Tools Feature: A Day of Portentous Products

Today, two important consumer releases mark substantial advances in the widespread adoption of new media. First, Verizon released the Droid and Droid Eris, two smartphones which may be ushering in the age of Android. The Droid has gotten excellent reviews, and though there are still some kinks to work out before any Android device delivers the same shiny, seamless experience as the iPhone, the Droid is actually a superior phone in a number of ways. Furthermore, Android's open-source philosophy means we'll see more and more handset makers producing quality products like the Droid, with next-gen phones on the way from Asus, HTC, and others. Android is flexible enough that it's being used to power everything from netbooks to Barnes and Noble's new e-reader, and as mobile processors increase in power (several 1gHz Snapdragon-powered phones are in the works as we speak), the line between phone and mobile computer will continue to blur further.

The second major release today was Netflix's (free) PlayStation 3 streaming disc, which leverages BD-Live technology to allow anyone with a PlayStation 3 and a Netflix account to stream thousands of movies and TV shows in DVD quality to their TV quickly and easily (a feature which has already been available on the XBox for some time, and should be coming to the Wil soon). This may not seem like such a big deal, but although I will often hook up my computer to the TV to watch streaming movies on Netflix, many people (like my parents) have Netflix but don't take advantage of the excellent streaming feature. Having this ability built in to devices like the PS3 and other BluRay players moves Netflix streaming more squarely into the mainstream, perhaps presaging the impending decline of all physical media.

These products on their may not be game-changers, but they both evince a sea change in the media and communications environment, a change that will have profound consequences for those caught unprepared. Smartphones and streaming media are no longer marginal technologies - as their ecosystems flourish and prices drop, the power and convenience they offer consumers will mean that they quickly become the norm.