UNC Asheville Magazine Home

Practically Speaking

Download Practically Speaking (pdf)

practically speaking

Techies reveal what’s hot this holiday season

By Katie Rozycki ’07

Jeff brown

Jeff Brown, director of user services in Information Technology

As the holiday season approaches, UNC Asheville has its very own cadre of faculty and staff techies tuned in to what’s hot and what’s not when it comes to the season’s most innovative gizmos to give and get.

Jeff Brown, director of user services in Information Technology, anticipates that netbooks, smartphones, portable music players and digital cameras will again be popular holiday items.

“The theme seems to be personal, portable technology that allows people to share their experiences with their friends via the Internet and social networks,” explains Brown. “It’s about ease of use, constant communication, and integration into daily life.” Client Support Specialist Gok Cheng ’05 agrees that versatility and portability will continue to be a factor in what separates hot gadgets from the lukewarm. Cheng considers netbooks “a trend waiting to explode.”

Netbooks are a category of small, lightweight laptop computers. They are often less expensive than regular laptops, and many people use netbooks in conjunction with their larger, more traditional computers.

What else will fly off the shelves? According to Cheng, Apple’s iPhones and iPods will continue to be this season’s go-to gadgets.

“What it really boils down to is portability,” said Cheng. “We are a society on the go and constantly moving. We like having information at our fingertips and the best gadgets will allow us to do so.”

Multimedia Arts and Sciences Director and Associate Professor Lorraine Walsh, another UNC Asheville tech aficionado, is also a fan of the iPhone. She believes its success and potential is only just beginning.

“It’s probably more accurate to call smartphones, like the Apple 3G iPhone, handheld computers,” said Walsh. “That is, these are computers that can make phone calls— and do much more.” Walsh attributes the iPhone’s popularity to its usability, appealing design and “fun factor.” She anticipates that “apps” will continue to gain in popularity as the holidays approach.

For those of you who might be a tad behind the times, an “app” or “application” is a piece of software that can do anything from count the calories in your favorite recipe to find a mechanic. “There are about 75,000 apps now available for the iPhone,” Walsh said. “That’s astonishing!”

“The theme seems to be personal, portable technology that allows people to share their experiences with their friends via the Internet and social networks.”

— Jeff Brown, director of user services in Information Technology

The iPhone isn’t just for fun and games, however. Walsh sees the potential for a number of apps meant for education and research. One example is an electronic field guide app currently in development.

“You can take a picture of a leaf with your computer to identify plant species, or insects and birds,” explained Walsh. “This app has tremendous environmental implications as the information collected can be uploaded to databases for analysis.”

With all this integration, will comparatively low-tech, single purpose devices go out of style? Fear not, according to Brown. Though “single purpose devices have to be much more feature-full and compelling to compete with multipurpose devices, I don’t think that they’ll fall by the wayside necessarily,” he said. “They’ll just become more refined and less expensive.”

Read more stories (back to contents)