Thursday, December 31, 2009

Four themes for a snowy New Year’s Eve

The short, cheery woman behind the counter at Starbucks this morning declared that the decade will officially be over one year from today.  The hip dude with many tattoos standing next to her argued that the decade is officially over today.  So, regardless of whether the cheery woman or the hip dude are correct, I’ve been thinking about some of the key trends over the past decade… and many relate to technology.  In no particular order, they are:

The iPod changed everything – Ten years ago, if we wanted to buy music, we walked into a music store and purchased a CD.  Today, we (or at least the vast majority of us) download it from iTunes and then play it on our iPod or iPhone, oftentimes through a hookup to our car or home speakers.  CDs are nearly gone.  Standalone music players, gone.  Most music stores, gone.  Most other web-based music downloading services (including the illegal ones), gone.  Apple’s formula?  Easy to use devices.  Easy to use software.  Easy way to connect the device to the software.  Easy, easy, easy.

Convergence counts – Two co-workers today showed off their Christmas gifts.  One displayed her new Amazon Kindle, the other a Barnes & Noble Nook.  And both are great.  For a variety of reasons (including some noted in the iPod paragraph above), digital readers are taking off and in ten years we’ll look back and note that they became the preferred and dominant mode of distributing content.  But, as cell phones get smarter and laptops get better, won’t we want to read books on those instead?  Just as the iPhone showed us that one device can be your phone, portable computer, music player (and for some, your GPS, camera, video recorder, etc.), I think it’s likely the trend toward technology convergence will continue.  So, either Kindles and Nooks will be completely replaced… or, they will need to morph into more capable and versatile devices themselves.

The digital age – Ten years ago, photography pros and hobbyists debated whether digital or film ruled.  It was a religious argument: heated, opinionated, and no one was ever willing to concede to the other.  But here we are on the verge of 2010 and that debate, other than among the esoteric elite, is over.  Walk  into any camera store and try to buy a film camera… just try.  And while film still offers artistic benefits through greater dynamic range and greater subtle variations across the tonal spectrum, it’s all about digital now.  Why?  Prices have fallen, quality has gone up and the convenience of shooting photos, gaining instant feedback on the quality of the image, and then being able to store the best shots (and delete the worst) are far too compelling.  And, now all of us can create holiday cards, high quality books, slideshows, movies, and other vehicles to display our work… and so we’re not going back.

The connected society – We can (and should) argue whether this is a good thing or a bad thing, but today, all of us can and frequently need to be connected nearly 24x7.  Remote access to email systems and gizmo cell phones have made it possible to work from nearly anywhere and at any time.  Social networking and communication websites have given rise to an “always connected” society.  During the next ten years, either this trend will continue… or there will be a backlash such that increasingly people will say that enough is enough.  I predict the former as being constantly connected is addicting, much the same way instant gratification and greater convenience are.  Once you get used to something…

Technology is always touted as making-our-lives-easier and improving-quality-of-life.


1 comment:

  1. Read Ray Kurzweil's book "The Singularity is Near" for a wild ride, and look into the technological future. I agree with you Rey, there is no turning back now.