In January, I spent two weeks attending the world’s largest consumer technology convention and a much smaller but very important annual television convention. This column is to give you an idea of what will new cutting edge gadgets will soon be available and to also suggest ways they will affect how you consume media and access information.
The Consumer Electronics Show had over 150,000 attendees from all over the world and is the place where new technological gadgets are introduced that will go on sale later this year. Here are some headlines from that show.
We are rapidly moving to total connectedness. Whether you are in the office, in the home, on the road, or anywhere in the world you can be connected to information, data and billions of people. Bill Gates spoke of the fact that the home is soon going to be completely connected. Computers, televisions, phones, everything in the home will be connected. Ed Zander, Chairman of Motorola spoke about the home as being a hub of “seamless technology” and that mobile devices provide “seamless mobility” wherever we are in the world. Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo, CEO of Nokia speaks of “a world where everyone can be connected” and of “mobility, interconnectivity, community and convenience”
Compare how much more connected you are now than you were 10 years ago. That is how much more you will be connected in 3-5 years than you are today. How we use that connectivity is up to us and is the human variable in the equation. Technology is providing us with connectivity that twenty years ago was only imagined in science fiction and in the minds of a few visionary futurists.
We are moving toward a world where practically every type of information and entertainment will be available to us not just when we want it, but where we want it. First there was time shifting, now add to that place shifting and device shifting. Whenever, wherever and on what device is now or will soon be up to us.
It used to be that phones were for making calls, television sets for watching TV programs, music players for listening to music, cameras for taking pictures, GPS devices for finding out where we are or how to get to where we are going and PDA for our schedules and contact information. There are now a multitude of devices that provide you with the capability to do all of these activities on a single device. It used to be an axiom that ‘combo’ devices compromised on everything. That is no longer the case. We are rapidly moving to phones that play music as well as music players, and handheld computers that can replace laptops and televisions. We will have an incredible amount of choice as to what devices and how many we own and carry with us.
Style and Interface
This is the next step after providing functionality. Many companies are now focusing on style and feel. How cool does a device look? How easy is it to use? How ‘low-tech’ can it be made, so that ‘anyone’ can use them? This is the new point of differentiation in electronics today, along with price. The new Apple iPhone is an example of this.
Price always declines as technologies develop and gain acceptance. This seems to be accelerating across the board. Remember when flat screen televisions cost more than $5,000 or a desk top more than $2,000 or all smart phones cost more than $500? Those days are long gone.
The National Association of Television Program Executives convention a week later was striking compared to what it was 10 or even 5 years ago. It used to be solely about the television business with a focus on the television station business. Now it is all about the developing relationships between the traditional television business and all the other screens that are now in our lives. The television screen, the computer screen, the PDA screen, the mobile telephone screen are all now being used to watch video. Now, instead of conversations about programming and time periods, the discussions are now about ‘platforming’ as in how to move TV programming from one platform to another.
Platforming now means that you will soon be able to watch TV programming not only when you want to, time shifting with Tivo and other DVRs but also place shifting and screen shifting. TV programming is now available on your computer with a high speed connection. It will soon be available in shorter formats on your cell phone. Even if you are outside the country you can watch your favorite TV programs. A friend of mine set up his Sling Box in New Jersey so that when he spent a month in India he could log on to his home computer/TV set up through his laptop and watch his beloved Dallas Cowboys. The only acceptable context for that activity 5 years ago would have been in a science fiction novel.
As mentioned above, the changes ahead in the next 3-5 years in terms of communications, connectivity and availability of content will match, if not surpass all the changes we have experienced in the last 10 years.
Embrace the Future. It is here, it is yours and in some cases you will be able to hold it in the palm of your hand.