January 8, 2010
Thoughts on a Year that will Change Everything
2010 is a officially one week old. By Internet-time standards it feels like a month has passed. Only eight days into the new year and the foundations of a new Net have already been poured, smoothed and hardened. Looking forward to new ways of accessing the Web, we know that eight or nine months from now the landscape we perceive will be very different than it is today. A full generation has grown up digital. For the twenty-somethings of today, there is no "new technology" involved in mobile computing. Like Postman's toaster, it has always been thus and is only getting better. There really is no "adoption" of new technologies or techniques among this cohort. Adaption has been the way of the 20-somethings for as long as they can remember, which is of course, forever. The earliest of this generation are rounding the corner on 30. Their time has come and they are driving transformation. In the good ol' days of the '80s, style makers drove transformation for the hipsters. Today, geeks are hip and true geeks don't require the services of style makers. The most important transformation, the move from large computing devices to hand-held devices is already taking place. A number of factors allow us to access the full spectrum of the Web from anywhere one can get a 3G signal. Cloud storage puts our personal data beyond the realm of the transportable and into the realm of the ethereal. Cloud computing gives us the ability to make that data functional with software running on a server separate from the access device. These innovations allow portable devices to grow smaller yet more powerful. The next factor in this transformation comes from the wisdom of the technorati, the digital elite. If Internet intellectuals learned one lesson in the last decade it was this: "The masses control the content. Let them." One of the reasons the iPhone is so successful is it is so damn useful. The main reason it is so damn useful is the thousands of applications created by the masses themselves that allow individual users to trick-out their devices to best suit their needs. A great product which is able to allow its users to make it infinitely greater at zero expense to the manufacturer. Everyone is special and everyone wins! Such a model could never work in that backwater of industrial manufacturing known as GM. Mobile devices are now virtual Swiss Army knives. The introduction of the iPhone was the spark of a revolutionary series of innovations which resulted in this week's unveiling of the great game-changer, the Google Phone. The first decade of the 21st century was very very good for Google. The second decade looks to be even better. If Google plays its cards right, it could unquestionably dominate digital communications in a couple of years. The Google Phone really is that important to them. Google has nearly perfected cloud computing for office productivity and personal use. While products like Google Wave and Google Docs appear to have a long way to go to meet the functionality and versatility of Microsoft's Office suite, those shortcomings will be made up for in convenience while latent bugs are being squashed by super-genius technologists. Able to run the full range of Google productivity products with highly subsidized services, the G-Phone will likely replace the iPhone as the dominant mobile device over the coming couple years. Apple, while threatened, doesn't really need to worry too much about Google. In Apple's two way race mentality, Google merely replaces Microsoft as dominant competitor. Apple is expected to release a Tablet Computing device by the end of January. Like the iPhone before it, this Tablet is thought to be a game-changer. More on that when it is unveiled. Microsoft seems intent on addressing the bigbox devices. At the Consumer Electronics Show, Microsoft's anticipated Windows 7 for mobile was a no-show. They did score a huge win with Xbox applications but Xbox is not terribly portable and certainly not designed for business. The closest Microsoft gets in credibly addressing portable computing is their collaboration with HP on a "Slate" computer running Windows7 which CEO Steve Ballmer demonstrated during his keynote on Wednesday. Everything is about to get a lot more personal, especially in marketing. The thing to understand about mobile access and cloud computing is that the service providers know a lot more about individual users than traditional ISPs do. Digital marketing is going to be so heavily influenced by personal choices, the only true measurement of success will be based on performance, not placement. It's about to become even more about driving relevant traffic in the hopes of making conversions. The online marketing world is going to undergo fundamental changes as both advertising and query responses become more personalized. An interesting area to watch will be brand based advertising and marketing. While large brands have enormous ad-budgets, those budgets have tended to be focused through fewer hands. That tendency shifted somewhat during the age of search placement marketing but, as consumers are accessing information from smaller, more focused devices, the focus of larger networks such as Google and Yahoo! are sighted on large brands. For traditional SEO shops, that means reinvention or, more appropriately, adaptation. Savvy search marketers began shifting their focus before 2008 from strictly offering SEO and PPC services to presenting suites of services, "wholistic" digital marketing. This is the year such efforts will pay off as terrestrial advertisers continue to cross into the digital stream. 2010 feels good to write. 2009 is a collection of numbers holding way to much distasteful baggage to be written without a foul feeling on one's fingers. 2010 feels fresh, new, invigorated and expansive. A new frontier opens with all massive changes. This week, we saw the first face of that new frontier with more known to be coming in weeks. Frontiers offer opportunity and unbridled hope along with innumerable challenges. There is never any certainty when writing about the future however in 2010 one prediction is certainly a foregone conclusion. 2010 is the year we change the way we relate to information. It is going to be interesting.