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Wednesday, June 8, 2005

From Luxury Good to Disposable Item (Parts 2 & 3): A $30 Disposable Video Camera and a $1400 Plasma Television
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Two months ago, I told the story of how I found a $29 progressive scan DVD player at CompUSA. As I noted then, I found this amazing in many respects, but mostly because I had spent something like $1000 bucks on my first DVD player when they hit the market.

Well, I have found yet another reason to lament being an early adopter of technology. I opened the D section of today's Wall Street Jounral to read Walt Mossberg's review of the new Pure Digital Technologies disposable video camera. The price? An amazing $29.99! These video cameras will be sold at drug stores like CVS, which started stocking them on Monday of this week. In their stores, CVS will brand the cameras under their own name.

Once again, I am just floored by the stunning pace of technological progress. Just as wasted nearly $1000 bucks on my first DVD player (which wasn't even a progressive scan model!), I burned almost as much on my first video camcorder. By today's standards, my video camera already looks a little clunky compared to the much small units now on the market.

According to Mossberg's review, the CVS one-time-use video camera, which is about as big as an i-Pod and has a small LCD screen on the front, can capture 20 minutes of video. After you record some movies, you return the device to CVS who then processes the movies for you and gives you a DVD with the movies on it. The movies can be viewed on any DVD player or computer device. They can also be zipped to friends quite easily via e-mail who will get a link to the video online instead of having the entire big file sent to them.

Despite the limited film time and a picture that isn't quite up to par with most other video cameras, Mossberg describes this CVS disposable camera as "extremely convenient, rugged and easy to use." Why would anyone want a camera like this? Well, if you're a parent like me, you can appreciate the fact that sometimes you just don't want to take you $500-$1000 camcorder to the beach or a kid's birthday party for fear that it will get dirty or damaged. Moreover, sometimes you just don't want to lug a larger camcorder around with you. A disposable i-Pod sized camera, by contrast, gives you the ability to keep a couple of these things in the car and throw them in your pocket when you think you might want to capture just a few minutes of cool videos.

While we're on the subject of technological progress and stunning price drops, last night my brother sent me a link to a computer company (PC Connection) that is now selling a $1400 42-inch high-definition plasma television. That is not a misprint. Check out the deal here. Anyone who has shopped for a flat-screen display over the past few years knows what a stunning deal this is. After all, just two years ago, few plasma displays could be found under $5000, and most were still up in the $7-$10K range. Heck, you couldn't even buy a 42-inch ANALOG display two years ago for under $1400 bucks. And now high-definition digital displays have dropped to that price point. A-M-A-Z-I-N-G. Luckily, when it comes to plasma TVs, this was the one time I did not allow myself to get suckered into becoming an early adopter, so at least I'm not bitter about the stunning price drops we're witnessing today.

Next time you hear some joker say that capitalism doesn't work, or that there is a "digital divide" in this country, send them this story. $29 DVD players. $30 video cameras. $1400 plasma HDTVs. What's next, disposable cell phones?

posted by Adam Thierer @ 9:10 AM | Innovation , Mass Media

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