Friday, September 14, 2007

Can’t We All Just Get Along?

The one thing that frustrates me to no end about technology is compatibility, or rather lack thereof.

Take this example, which happened just last night, and in fact prompted this entry. I often e-mail Microsoft Word documents to colleagues only to hear footsteps trudging into my office shortly thereafter, and sullen faces explaining that they “couldn’t open it”. I don’t even need to think twice: I already know why.

I use the Vista version of Microsoft Office, while they use older versions or, *gulp*, Apple iBooks. By automatic default, all of my Word documents are saved as “Word Documents”. This sounds fine, but what it really does is save them to some strange file type called .docx that only the Vista version of Office can read. In order to allow an older version of Word to open my documents, I must scroll the drop-down list once I hit “Save As”, and manually select “Word 97-2003 Document”. Is this a weird attempt at forcing everyone to adopt Vista, or just a rudimentary work-around the fact that it isn’t compatible with older versions of the software?

Of course the issue of incompatibility isn’t just limited to PCs, but spans every area of consumer electronics: VHS and Beta, HD DVD and Blu-ray, AAC and MP3, and so many flash memory card formats that I can’t even keep track any more, to name a few.

Here’s another example: my colleague owned a mobile phone from brand X, which he absolutely loved. In fact, he loved it so much, that he decked it out to the nines with accessories: a 12V adapter for the car, optional headphones, and even a cute little desk stand/charger. About a year later, he decided to grab a new phone from this same manufacturer. As it turns out, the proprietary connector is different, which means all of those accessories? Hello, eBay!

I guess you don’t get full-on compatibility in any industry: I can visit any bank’s ATM and withdraw funds, but I can only deposit cheques into my own, for example. But when it comes to CE, where competition is brutally fierce, it would be nice to see the battle fought out after a single standard was agreed upon. Then, let the consumer choose which gadget he wants, and keep your fingers crossed that it’s yours.

1 comment:

Jim said...

Vista, that says it all.