Friday, July 31, 2009

Divergence 2

The scenario of Divergence that I talked about in the last post is probable, however its probability hinges on some basic consumer factors. There could be more but I would start by outlining three:

1. What percentage of the total users would like to have separate portable devices for functionalities like taking pictures, navigation, music, games etc?
2. Within this group, what percentage of people would like to upload, download pictures instantly after capture, or play music and games online and on the go?
3. And finally how many people from the second group would be prepared to pay for wireless connectivity services that enable these activities?

Conventional logic would perhaps make us believe that such consumers might be very few. However I believe that adoption of such new gadgets and services might not follow a linear course as we saw above. A lot hinges on the form and experience factor of these new gadgets and these wireless services. (Future surprises us all the time – it was difficult to imagine that people would always want to carry all the music that they liked. But as we saw with the success Apple iPod – they did, and even paid a premium for it!)

The other set of questions that these gadgets and services raise are to do with operational factors like industry standards and interface. What would be the application software in these devices so as to be able to interface with the Internet? Which operating system would they use?

I remember reading Everyware, by Adam Greenfield, last year. Greenfield offers a sneak peak into the questions that ubiquitous computing (ubicomp) would raise in the future. The book looks at the ecosystem of the wirelessly interconnected devices of the future. Greenfield goes on to talk about the importance of finding common standard for all these things to be able to interface effectively. AT&T’s pursuit that I discussed in the last post would l make this need even more immediate.

What might be exciting to visualize is that if this is going to happen in the future, what would happen then. In other words what could be the social impact of these technology developments and how could it potentially impact our behaviour in the time to come?
Questions from our future are heading our way fast!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Divergence 1

(It has been a long break (again). I guess too much of work at work is not the best thing for a Blog. Hope to be more regular from here on..)

Digital camera, game consoles, e books readers, GPS devices etc, are all familiar gadgets of everyday use.
Now imagine all these devices having the ability to hook up to the Internet on their own.
• I mean the camera does not need to wait to be near a computer to transfer pictures nor does it need to be attached to a mobile phone to share
• The mobile game console can surf the net in wide area - wirelessly
• The GPS device does not need to be attached to a mobile phone to get its quadrants right
• The specialized e book reader (largely like the Kindle of today) hooks up to the Internet on its own, wirelessly.

If AT&T were to have its way – we could soon see a mobile service provider selling subsidized cameras, GPS devices, E-Book Readers, hand held video game devices and more (BusinessWeek July 2009). The motivation for a company like AT&T is quite simple more the number of wireless connections, greater the usage and thus higher the revenues.

So what’s the big deal? Two I think:

1. “‘Master Gadget’ Never Really Came (the wait is forever?)”
This indicates that the device approach to the definition of convergence (one device does it all) is not coming out to be true. Somewhere corporations have realized, that it is not worthwhile to wait for that ‘one device’ that people would start using as their master gadget (i.e. make calls, surf web, take pictures, read books, listen to music, get directions, play games, etc etc)
Why has it not come? Well, it is debatable.
Corporations would prefer to say that majority of consumers are not ready to switch to and pay for that one device.
Consumers would say – there is no worthy device that can deliver satisfactorily on even half of the desired functions well.

I guess iPhone or iPod Touch, are examples of devices that have managed to come close to the desired multi-functionality

2. “The real war for standards (operating system etc) is perhaps about to begin”
Which OS version and Internet browser would these many different devices (made by manufacturers spread across the world from Tokyo and Seoul to Shenzhen in China, use? Internet Explorer, Firefox, Google Chrome, Safari or Opera? Netbooks going the Android or UNIX way or Nokia building Symbian as the Mobile OS standard etc are not the real news. The real news would perhaps be who among Microsoft, Nokia, Google etc ends up holding the majority of the Operating system and Application software sky.