When Will Then Be Now? (Premium)

One of the enduring frustrations of being a technology enthusiast is that the broad claims made on stage during industry events are rarely matched by reality. And both Microsoft and Google are guilty this month of overpromising and under-delivering on a Utopian future that we may never really see.

Like many things, this reminds me of the movie Spaceballs, which spoofed Star Wars in the 1980's to great effect. At one point, two of the goofy villains in the movie, Dark Helmet (a humorous take on Darth Vader, played by Rick Moranis) and Colonel Sandurz (George Wyner), take advantage of "instant cassettes" technology to see the future of the movie they're in.

"What the hell am I looking at?" Dark Helmet asks, incredulously, watch the movie he's currently in unfold before him. "When does this happen in the movie?"

"Now," Colonel Sandurz replies. "You're looking at now, sir. Everything that happens now is happening now."

"What happened to then?"

"We passed it."


"Just now. We're at now, now."

"Go back to then!"





"I can't."


"We missed it."


"Just now."

"When will then be now?" Dark Helmet finally asks.


If you're looking for the root source of my sense of humor, that may be it. But regardless, Spaceballs has forever burned the line "When will then be now?" into my brain. And it's something I ask myself regularly, especially when it comes to personal technology.

Let me provide two examples from this month.

At Microsoft Build 2017 last week, Microsoft showed off an incredible demo of a new Windows 10 app called Story Remix in which you can add incredible Mixed Reality effects to video, and in both directions: You can overlay real video on a virtual background, or you can add hologram-like 3D objects to real video. It's supposed to be so simple that even tech-averse soccer moms can make it work. And the demo was so incredible that the developer audience roared its approval.

One day later, Microsoft released a new version of the Photos app in Windows 10 to Insiders that includes a new Story Remix feature. All it does is mix photos into slideshows. There are no Mixed Reality features at all, and this functionality duplicates the features from previous solutions like Sway and, worse, Photo Story, an application that dates back about 15 years.

Cue the sad trombone.

And then there's Google IO, where we were treated to a variety of forward-leaning announcements, only a handful of which were accompanied by hard release dates. But let's stick to photos: The firm announced four major updates for Google Photos: Simpler photo sharing, automatic photo sharing, photo books, and Google Lens integration.

Then, Google released an update to that app. Which includes none of those features. It does have some new filters, apparently.

Again, sad trombone.

In both cases, these firms will eventually deliver on their promises to som...

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