Robert X. Cringely: Last Week "Changed the World of High Tech Forever"

Noted tech writer Robert X. Cringely writes in his latest column that the technology world last week reached an inflection point that will forever change the personal computer, video game and electronic entertainment businesses. He notes that Intelis Andy Grove made the term "inflection point" popular and says that "itis that abrupt elbow in a graph of growth or decline when the new technology or paradigm truly kicks on, and suddenly there is no going back." Of course, he says "most of us still donit know" that this has happened.

Cringely points to three events last week that account for this abrupt shift: Microsoftis reveal of the Xbox 360, which Cringely says "will perform many functions that currently require a home computer," including the ability to "play music and movies, surf the Web and probably even a non-PC platform for voice-over-IP." He says this now puts the company "in direct competition with its own customers," namely, Dell, HP, Gateway and other hardware OEM manufacturers.

The second event didnit attract as much attention as the first and third, although what Cringely describes would have bigger ramifications on the PC business than the Xbox 360. He mentions that Google has announced its Google Web Accelerator, which promises to double the speed of Internet searches. Cringely writes that such technology could "turn ever user into a thin client, whether they know it or not.

"Google might even offer its own hardware device, optimized for the Accelerator. At that point, youill buy your PC from Google, use Google as your ISP, surf an Internet that is really the Google cache, be fed ads and sold content from Google servers. Itis a GoogleWorld that requires no AOL, no Microsoft, no Intel, no HP or Dell."

The third event concerns Yahoois entry into the music subscription business at a price point thatis less than half of what Real and Napster charge. If the company can kill off those competitors as well as the iTunes Music Store, Yahoo becomes "the premier media company for the 21st century," Cringely writes. "If it works for music, movies, TV, and video games will follow and Yahoo will have turned its huge user base into a retail channel."

Dovetailing with Yahoois announcement is a recent post on Slashdot by a supposed Apple employee who explains that all the speculation about a video iPod is misplaced. The person puts forward the idea that Apple will produce a video equivalent of AirPort Express, which Cringely writes "is the last piece needed for Appleis video service and answers a lot of questions. Why isnit the Mac mini more powerful? Because it doesnit have to be. The mini becomes a storage and downloading device and H.264 decoding is handled in the AirPort gizmo using one of the H.264 hardware decoder chips coming on the market for around $20."

Cringely concludes: "So Apple takes over video and movies while Yahoo threatens with a low-priced music subscription service and Google threatens to take control of, well everything.

"And Microsoft? Microsoft kicks the dog."