10 broken technology ideas -- and how to fix them

Why they are broken and what could be done to fix them once and for all

3. Contact managers

I'd like to retrieve the lost hours spent building up a contacts database. Not long ago, I stopped meticulously entering names, addresses, phone numbers and e-mails and now rely on other methods.

For example, I search Gmail for names and addresses. When I want to send a new e-mail, I just type a portion of a name to get the full address, type the message, and send.

For names not in my Gmail archive, I use an online address book such as YellowPages or LinkedIn.

However, a good contact manager could work like the iPhone: It would see phone number in an e-mail and allow me to right-click and add the name and phone number to a database automatically within Gmail. The database would be smart enough to know if a phone number already matches an existing name, and it would weed out duplicates automatically. I'd never have to type in contacts, because this "auto-database" would work as easily as a mobile phone, support any e-mail client and work in the background. Some contact managers come close -- such as Now Up-to-Date & Contact -- but it still involves a manual process.

4. Digital streaming adapters

They have names like Apple TV, Netgear Digital Entertainer and Sonos, but they all do the same thing: move music, video and photos from your PC in the office to the HDTV in your family room.

They are supposed to solve a persistent dilemma: a PC just doesn't work with a television. A keyboard and mouse are meant for a desk, not a sofa. These adapters add another appliance to an overcrowded entertainment center bulging with DVRs and game consoles.

The fix? Put them right into the television itself. Hewlett-Packard started this with the MediaSmart TV, but I'd like to see it as a standard feature that is more open -- not just based on Windows Media Extender, but supporting any media format over Wi-Fi.

5. Video on a phone

A phone screen is too small for video, and even the iPod Touch can cause eye strain when you watch a two-hour feature film. I'm convinced that anything you only do once or twice in dealing with new technology and find it hard to do -- like load a smart phone with video clips or swap contacts with your laptop over Bluetooth -- is just a novelty and often not worth the effort. I will likely never do it again; it's not worth the time.

Even the iPhone is a poor movie viewer unless you are desperate for a Jason Bourne flick on the bus. But solid-state memory is finally getting cheaper, and it makes sense to load up a mobile device with movies.

What I'd like to see is Bluetooth built into HDTVs so that I can beam a high-resolution movie from my phone or projector in the phone (like the Pico technology being developed by Texas Instruments) or a mini-DVI port.

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