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Switched On: Enter the lay tricks


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Each week Ross Rubin contributes Switched On, a weekly column about the future of technology, multimedia, and digital entertainment:

The scene: A hotel room on a rainy night. Pentius and Duo face each other near large, comfortable red chairs that look like leftover props from Pee Wee's Playhouse, yet no one is filming a Radio Shack commercial.

"Pentius! It's an honor to meet you!"

"Please, have a seat, Duo. The honor is mine. I imagine that right now you're feeling a bit like a noob in the middle of a large computer store. You're here because you feel something that's eating at you that you can't explain. Do you know what I'm talking about?"

"What is..." (squinting at the badge on Pentius's computer) "V eleven v?"

"It's pronounced 'vive."  Do you want to know what it is?"

"Actually, there's this E! True Hollywood Story about "Who's The Boss" that I -"

"VIIV is the hype that surrounds the industry. You can see it in every computer magazine, in Intel's booth at CES, in keynotes from Microsoft. Soon it will be in your living room, your bedroom, anywhere you have an Intel-based desktop. Duo!"

"Were you listening to me or staring at that big pile of co-op funds from Intel?"

"I was, uh... OK, so this vi'iv thing? What is it again?"

"It's pronounced 'vive." Unfortunately, and despite considerable marketing expenditures, no one can be told what VIIV is. You have to see it for yourself. Before you is a remote control with two buttons. Press the "Exit" button and you go back to your dull little PC dutifully performing dull little tasks. Press the green button with the little flag and you'll be propelled into a world of expensive sophisticated dual core processors, pricey aluminum enclosures with vacuum fluorescent displays, redundant functionality and slowly evolving integration with digital cable and satellite.

"Remember, after this there is no turning back... unless there's a system crash, in which case you'll be happy to know that Windows Vista reboots much more quickly than XP."

Duo presses the green button.  Hours later...

"Whoa, why do my eyes hurt?"

"Because you've never used them to stare at so much text from ten feet away."

"My body feels weak, too."

"That's because you've spent your whole life being force-fed a steady diet of the most reprehensible gruel."

"The liquefied remains of other humans?"

"Worse. Shlocky music, movies, TV shows and even... FM radio."

Duo wretches.

"So, this 6-4 thing in Roman numerals..."


"It's really Windows Media Center?"


"A chip?"

"Not exactly."

"A certification program?"


"I still don't get it. Why would I buy this instead of just, I dunno, picking up a TiVo for half a small?"

"You really want me to kick your ass in kung fu again, don't you? I'm sorry, Duo. I was hopeful that you might be The One."

"The One what?"

"The One consumer who could figure out what VIIV is."

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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