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Monday, December 31, 2012

Where do we go from here? Tech and social trends for 2013



Chris Davis, Pincher Creek Voice

An opinionated look at some of the possible technological and social trends of the present and near future.


Ubiquitous

  • Google
  • Facebook - A daily staple for most internet users now, Facebook isn't going away any time soon.  It's already got too large of a market share to be easily contested by any new idea for social networking (claiming over 1 billion active users).  See also Facebook Key Facts.
  • Twitter - See "Facebook" or Twitter statistics.
  • Desktop computing - Here's where I disagree with many of the prognosticators in the tech field.  The desktop computer isn't going away.  Yes, sales are way down. Why?  Because most of us already have desktop computers that do the job we need them to.  There's really not that much difference between this computer I'm typing on now (1 year old) and the one I have sitting next to it processing movies (7 years old).  At a certain point desktop computers got "good enough" for the tasks they are most suited to.  Instead of throwing them away for the newer shiny one we're buying portable devices, which are great for consuming content but not anywhere near as good for creating it.  I don't mind reading the Financial Post on my netbook ("What's a netbook, Grandpa?") or my tablet, but I'd sure hate trying to do my taxes, my accounting, or this website on either one.  For the casual user that doesn't seek to create any content the desktop will soon just be an assumed part of the television set.
  • Internet porn - here to stay.  See also: No way am I posting a related link for this one.
  • Cheap tablets - This was the Christmas when almost everyone bought a cheap tablet, largely Android based.  And why not, for $100 you can have more computing in the palm of your hand than a very expensive desktop computer provided a few years ago. See also Tablet Sales Christmas 2012. Which brings us to...
  • Disposable technology - the trend right now is towards "good enough" rather than "best in class".  A "good enough" device does almost everything a "best in class" device does at a fraction of the cost.  I can buy about 5 Android devices for the price of an iPad right now.  Drop it, oh well.  It gets stolen, no big deal.  A better one comes along for $100, why not.  Bad for the planet, yes.  However, even the expensive "best in class", for example the newest Apple whatever, is obsolete before it hits the shelves.  And much much more expensive.
  • Wikipedia - Crowd sourced and moderated information about pretty much everything.  More reliable than the average newspaper, more current than Encyclopedia Brittanica ever managed to be, and the first stop for many fact finding internet searches.
  • Angry Birds -  I don't get it, but apparently everyone else does.


On the fence

  • LinkedIn - Nobody really seems to know what LinkedIn is for anymore, but it's still perceived as the "must have" network for business professionals, even if they just put it on/use it as their resume.  As a social marketing tool it has never achieved the status of Facebook, nor is it ever going to.  Most avid LinkedIn users (they still exist, right?) probably don't want it to.  Like Apple products, it's more about perception than it is about actual value.  See also LinkedIn Infographic.
  • Gmail - Still the best email system out there, but adoption of it has probably leveled out somewhat.  Either you get it and use it or you don't and won't.


Growing

  • Google Chrome - Overtaking Internet Explorer in most markets, with China and India being the main (BIG) holdouts, as well as enterprise (businesses) which are traditionally slow to adapt to change.  See also Browser Trends 2012.
  • Open Source - Linux based computing, Android devices, the server you never see that is running your internet for you, computers that are much much cheaper and faster... You're probably using Linux right now in some way even if you don't know it.  Open Source has hit the mainstream in a big way, and proprietary ideas like those propounded in the great Apple vs Microsoft wars of the quickly fading past seem silly in retrospect.  See also Top five Linux stories with one big conclusion
  • Flash Mobs - Expect to see WAY more of these in the coming years, as social media enables group organizing to move to a level never dreamed of before.  


Declining

  • All things Apple - Overpriced.  Doesn't play well with others.  See "Open Source".  See also Apple sales drop by nearly a third.
  • All things Microsoft - See "Google Chrome" and "Open Source".  Microsoft will probably do ok compared against the elitist closed philosophy over at Apple Corp. but there's little left to distinguish Microsoft products from their various competitors, with the notable exception still being the Office suite of products, which have enough of a stranglehold on the mindset of enterprises to continue to be a dominant force.  Except that Open Office is much cheaper and just as effective.   See also Microsoft profits fall 22%
  • Privacy - See "Facebook" and "Twitter", cross-reference with cameras everywhere, websites with your data, hospitals with your data, banks with your data...  Funny thing about privacy - Once you give it away it's almost impossible to take it back.  We now know more about each other than we ever did since we left little communal gatherings inside of caves or isolated villages.  We seem to like it that way.  There's a big psychological shift occurring to us as individuals and as a society.  People aren't alone anymore, and increasingly being unknown isn't an option.
  • Internet Explorer - Die!  Why won't you die!  IE might still talk like a champ, but it's floating like a brick and Binging like a flea.  Q: What's IE for these days?  A: Downloading Chrome (or ANYTHING else).
  • Dedicated devices - We increasingly expect to carry one device that does it all.  One device to charge and look after.  One device to run our digital lives, particularly away from the home or office.  Ideally it surfs the web, acts as an E-reader, makes phone calls, takes high quality pictures and video, and enables us to monitor and update our social network feeds in real-time.  The device that does one or two things just isn't good enough anymore.  I don't need a Walkman AND a phone AND a laptop/tablet.  Neither do you.  ("What's a Walkman, Grandpa?")
  • Broadcast Radio - Imagine the internet without video, photos, the ability to cross reference, no friends to engage in a real conversation with, all programmed from one or two centralized locations with a limited target audience being fed a limited diet of specified lifestyle as product.   Radio is for driving to now.  For those that like to drive with the radio on, packaged programming like Sirius is on the upswing in a major way.  The days of the great disc jockey are over. 
  • Publicly funded mail services - see Canada Post reports $50M quarterly lossU.S. Postal Service takes another step toward insolvency, Royal Mail profit surge makes it sellable

Over
  • E-readers - Why buy a device that only read books when for the same price you can buy one that surfs the web, acts as a phone, plays movies...with a wide variety of sizes available to suit any preference. The E-reader will soon be a relic of the past, replaced by the tablet.  See also E- Reader Apocalypse
  • Print - Book sales declining.  Newspaper sales disappearing, fast.  Advertising flyers are increasingly a relic of the past, but will probably be the last major print market to die.  To quote the Rolling Stones (from 1967): "Who needs yesterday's papers?"  The information world is all about NOW.  In the past it was always about how close to "now" can you get information to the reader.  The answer now is "Now".   See also E-book sales growthnewspaperdeathwatch.com 
  • Gagnam Style - It was fun while it lasted.  Mostly.  Don't see also Angry Birds Gagnam Style
  • Paul McCartney singing "Let It Be" and/or "Live and Let Die" at fundraising events.  Over. Please.  On a similar note, somebody tell what's left of the Who that we won't be fooled again.  
  • Ignorance, racism, and lies - The internet has made being stupid or uninformed a much riskier proposition.  People will call you on it, and see it for what it is.  Racism is harder to justify when you can tell by the other guy's Facebook page that he's actually a lot like you.  Lies are harder to sell when the truth is a Google away.  Spin is still in.
  • Lolcats - Not really over, but should be.


Transforming

  • Broadcast television - The home screen is bigger, increasingly it can do more things, and the public still devours new content with gusto.  We like episodic programming, we like talking heads, we like seeing sports and world events live, and the tools for doing all that have drastically improved.  Of all the "old" media Broadcast Television is the newest, and the one that has shown the greatest willingness to embrace change while finding a way to profit from it.  Shows with thin premises (think sitcoms) will probably get shorter, with easily digestible 15 minute episodes becoming more the norm.  Shows with big themes may get much longer.  It's going to be an interesting few years of experimenting before it gets back to a regular formula, if it ever does.  Product placement will become as or more important than dedicated advertisements.
  • Music - Those that bemoan what is happening to the music industry probably don't grasp how brutally unfair that industry has been to its content producers since forever.  Yes, bootleg downloading of music has damaged the bottom line of the big music companies, but almost all of the money lost was going to executives instead of to artists anyway.  Facts: the Beatles were on the edge of bankruptcy when they split up in 1969.  The biggest pop group EVER.  Bo Diddley lived out his declining years in a trailer alongside the highway, where he picked up living expenses by giving brief interviews to bus tours that would stop at his shack on wheels. RIGHT NOW somebody is re-recording one of his songs (with new lyrics) and passing it off as their own.  The music industry has been a gangster infected scam for generations.  Now musicians don't need to sign on the dotted line and pray for a year or two of financial success.  A small group of fat-cats doesn't decide what we get to listen to. The game has changed, and probably for the better.
  • Advertising - Advertising is moving away from the "loudmouth shouting at me" method and towards social marketing, and it's doing so quickly.  "I tell two friends and they tell two friends" is the new marketing plan.  Everybody has their own website now, selling their own products directly to the consumer in many cases.  The middle man is disappearing.  Is that bad for my industry, ad supported news?  Yes.  However, there's more advertising out there than there ever has been before, in a huge way.  Somebody's creating it.  Somebody's creating and maintaining those websites.  Somebody's telling two friends.  Some of us have way more than two "friends" to tell.  There's a lot of room for growth in the advertising arena, but the old way is done.  
  • Language - The internet has changed language more rapidly and in more ways than ANYTHING ever has before.  A global dialect is emerging from the global conversation, tied to English, that most accepting of languages.  English has never been shy about adopting new words and new rhythms, being a bowdlerization of French and other Latin languages to begin with.  Phrases, words, concepts from other languages are being added to our dialect at a rapid rate at the same time as the rest of the world is learning and adapting English to its own uses.     
Longshots
  • Google+ - It's better than Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo, Windows Live, and a host of other available social networking options.  Too bad nobody came to the party.  Facebook will continue to dominate this part of the market.
Coming soon
  • The hidden net - As more governmental control comes to the internet we all know and use, other ways of flashing communication around the planet will start to become more mainstream.  Devices will increasingly talk to other devices directly, skipping the broader net, passing information along a chain that will be harder to track/trace/control,  a digital "tell two friends who tell tell two friends".  This will be fueled partly by companies and users who resist government control of the web for legitimate reasons and partly by users with darker motives.  
  • Lifestyle as art - We're already more interested in the personal life of the Hollywood starlet than we are in her most recent movie.  That's going to trend upwards.  Living vicariously through the fabulous lives of others is the new entertainment.  Soon we will be able to see the world through our favourite star's eyes, tagging along to the party through virtual reality devices.   The next manifestation of this trend will be the society reporter wearing Google glasses.  

3 comments:

  1. While I do agree that E-readers are limited in their functionality and will likely be a tech that goes by the wayside it does have one feature I would be loathe to give up over other true tablets. E-readers are not screens in the traditional sense, they are more like an etch a sketch and dont emit light and that allows me to read waaaay longer than looking at a lit screen. I will use my Kobo as long as I can if it means reduced eyestrain! :D Great article! Fun to read.

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  2. Chris you are not too far off the mark on what you have said in your column. Continuing on towards a technological future there is an annual technology show that is the largest in size and content in the world. All the new and upcoming electronics and inventions are previewed and some will make it and some will not that is the nature of electronics in the fast lane. This amazing show takes place in Las Vegas in January of every year and this year is from Tuesday January 8, 2013 until Friday January 11 , 2013. Called the Consumer Electronic Show(CES) produced by CEA(Consumers Electronics Association). It is titled according to the year held and this year is CES2013 and I will be attending(for the seventh year now) and will be flying out of Calgary International Airport Monday January 7, 2013. Here is a link for anyone interested to follow up on further technology as mentioned by Chris in this column. Google is one of the players every year as is many of the big names in electronics such as Intel, Microsoft, Toshiba, Samsung, LG and many more too numerous to mention here. There are also the small up and coming players that are sharing their product and inventions for the first time and are hoping that this trade show will launch a highly productive future for themselves. Here is a link for further info if interested. http://www.cesweb.org/

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  3. Janet Barkwith7/1/13

    Really must take issue with your comment about Paul McCartney singing Let It Be etc at fund raisers et al. Singing? Is that what he does these days? Doesn't sound like singing to me - more like screeching/catawauling or whatever. Somebody should really tell him and put him out of our misery ...

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