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Google wearables: A solution looking for a rich nerd

Some revolutions never happen. This might be one of them

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Steam and diesel

It amazes technology historians that Britain developed 20,000 miles (32,000km) of railway around the middle of the 19th century. No village in the land was further than 15 miles from a railway station, and many communities had a choice of two. The operating companies were simultaneously the largest companies in the world at the time - I believe LNW, today's West Coast Main Line, was the largest. And yet, because, they were debt-ridden and had overextended themselves, they were also constantly broke. They staggered on because stream-powered rail was a vastly superior technology to horses or canals; it was the only game in town.

But at the first sign of competition, from urban trams at the turn of the 20th Century, the edifice collapsed. The British train companies were "grouped" and then, later, nationalised.

In other countries, whose industrial development lagged behind the UK (ie, everyone), the mind-boggling track splurge never took place, because a more "personal" and convenient transport technology came along: the internal combustion engine. Countries developed urban mass transit, and trunk routes between conurbations, but everything else was left to make internal combustion engine-powered travel easier.

Some pundits (and readers) see an inexorable progression of the dominant technology platform into ever smaller and more wearable things. This enthusiasm was summed up by Martin Geddes recently: "Luggage, portable, mobile, wearable, implantable, ingestible, excretable. One day, you will be crapping computers, the new human parasite". Wearable enthusiasts point to our capacity for carrying multiple gadgets around with us.

But for a Wearable World to transpire, where it is the dominant platform, the smartphone has to give way. We must imagine it will collapse just as the Victorian train companies collapsed. I simply don't see that, for the reason Google has inadvertently illustrated in its video.

In developed markets we already have general purpose smartphones that do everything Google has demonstrated: there's no killer app, which translates into significantly greater convenience. Since voice remains the most popular human communication mechanism, so the phone - or a phone, of some kind - will be with us.

Is this "New Era of Wearable Computing" really just next year's round-up of Earpieces? I'm beginning to think it is. And that doesn't sound anything like as sexy, does it? ®

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