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Switched On: The Slight Before Christmas


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Each week Ross Rubin contributes Switched On, a weekly column about the future of technology, multimedia, and digital entertainment. Last week he gave us an in depth look at the MSN TV 2, and where it's going:

Twas the night before Christmas and inside the house
I turned on my PC and forced a degauss
The children were sleeping but, nuts to the boys,
My thoughts were now focused on more advanced toys.

It had been a year in which content bore wings
Where music and movies became mobile things
And many sought in products stereophonic
That small hard drive case with white earbuds iconic

The nation's retailers were glad to take orders
For plasma TVs and DVD recorders,
For 8-color inkjets that output great clarity,
And digital cameras that had reached film parity.

Yet many a technophile saw Christmas blue;
There really was not a whole lot that was new.
And so, with the promise of more-of-the-sames
They lusted for portable video games.

For one did not need one's own E3 show booth
To see that the Game Boy was long in the tooth.
The SP form factor defied the conventional
But games were pass?hat were not three dimensional.

And so came Nintendo, the longstanding champ
To tighten their market share grip with a clamp.
The portable game masters sought to beguile us
With two screens, including one used with a stylus.

The DS excitement did not hit the curb.
As gamers spent millions to ask, "What's an Urb?"
The portable console was met with a roar
(And help from a port from the N64)

It seemed that the big N was par for the course
Avoiding the path of a tech tour de force --
A clever design with a focus on play
And franchises to draw from would carry the day.

When what to my wondering eyes did I see
But a small plastic Santa lit by LED.
He said DS games were not what folks should grab.
Instead, they should play games on Sony's black slab.

I thought to myself, man, this Santa's a dud.
He really seems hell-bent on spreading the FUD:
In fact, he does not even seem like the sort
That merits the juice from my USB port.

Oh Santa, I said, people buy what they can.
For now, PSPs are sold just in Japan.
The hype for that platform has been just abysmal
In fact, it has almost become Gran Turismal.

Then Santa turned red and continued the fight.
He mentioned eBay and suspect import sites.
He said he'd launch spyware and cause viral wrongs
And make me use SonicStage with all of my songs.

His started to leave but had one parting blow.
"Why write this? Hey, Christmas is over, you know!"
But I did reply to the small plastic phony:
This column missed Christmas, but then, so did Sony.

Ross Rubin is director of industry analysis at NPD Techworld, a division of market research and analysis provider The NPD Group. Views expressed in Switched On, however, are his own. Feedback is welcome at

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