- The Washington Times - Friday, June 20, 2008

Do you pride yourself on being an early adopter of new technology? Perhaps you were envied as the first on your block to have the stylish Apple iPhone last year - only to find that those who waited a mere two months got theirs for $200 less.

Maybe you bought an HD DVD player last year, wanting to show off the high-definition picture and sound - only to find that the format war that looked to have no end in sight was soon decided in favor of Blu-ray Disc.

Or are you an early-but-not-too-early adopter?

You might have waited a few months to get that lower-priced iPhone - only to discover just this month that a new iPhone will be released in July that costs another $200 less and has important new features, including a global-positioning system and access to the faster 3G data network.

You might have thought you were smart by waiting for the high-def DVD format war to end before purchasing a Blu-ray player - but you’ll see new players hitting the market this summer with new interactive BD Live technology that your player doesn’t support.

Early adopters have always paid a premium for being the first to sample new technology, but that premium seems to be a lot higher these days.

“I think the new ‘norm’ for technology is change,” says Kit Eaton, a contributing editor of the gadget blog Gizmodo.com. “We’re used to technology advancing quickly, so we know that when we buy something, it’s not going to be the ‘cutting edge’ gadget it was when we bought it for very long.”

Are early adopters becoming wary adopters?

Even a tech expert like Mr. Eaton has been holding out. “Personally, I waited for the iPhone 3G to come out before thinking about buying one, and I know that before too long, one will likely come out with a bigger memory - but I’m OK with that, since I’ll get to use the device when I buy it.”

Chris Andrusiak is another consumer who is looking on the bright side. The 32-year-old sales representative was an early adopter of HD DVD, buying a player in August 2006, before stand-alone Blu-ray players were being sold. He doesn’t seem bitter about picking a loser - and buying 74 HD DVDs. “To be honest, I am still very pleased with my HD DVD player,” he says. “It’s a fantastic upscaler for standard DVDs, so it still gets lots of use here.”

He even still counts himself an early adopter. “I enjoy having the latest gadgets and being the first person I know to have them,” he says. “I suppose it’s a hobby or personality defect of sorts.”

That’s exactly the attitude technology companies want to see. “You got what you paid for,” says Peter M. Fannon, Panasonic’s vice president for technology policy, government and regulation.

He points out that Blu-ray technology is a big advance over standard DVD technology - so consumers enjoying that great picture and sound shouldn’t feel too bad that Blu-ray technology itself has advanced.

Technology always moves forward. Soon, he notes, you’ll even see Blu-ray recorders at the consumer level. Panasonic’s BD Live player, the BD50, will be in stores soon with a retail price of about $700.

Mr. Fannon was at a presentation in the District this week sponsored by Disney to show off the company’s upcoming BD Live release. In stores on Oct. 7, the classic “Sleeping Beauty” will take advantage of BD Live’s Internet connectivity to enable viewers to chat with one another while watching the film, send video mail incorporating clips from the film, and more.

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