Martin’s Weblog

2012 – The Genie Escapes the Bottle and Everything Goes Square

With our lives increasingly mediated by technology and with that technology radically evolving this blog outlines the case that in 2012 we should expect more “real world” effects and disruption from our technology as the gravitational force from the not too distant singularity pulls us into a Web Squared Technium.

The Genie Escapes The Bottle

Computers are shaking off their mortal coils – we are letting them out of the fixed, high maintenance boxes we have kept them in all these years and giving the finger to the mouse. Computers need not be WIMPs. There is new creativity and imagination in the development of more natural computer interfaces and forms –  many of these are growing from Apple seeds.

I think that in 2012 we will see the start of quickening radical shift in the way we interact with computers – near past predictions are already looking wildly conservative – e.g. Gartners prediction that 50% of computers bought for those under 15 years of age will be touch , Read Write Web’s predication that gestural interfaces for your living room are five years away.and Augmented Planet’s predication that Augmented reality glasses are 20 years away

The combination of natural interfaces and new computer forms are revolutionising what we think of as computers and their impact – here are some of the major developments


Using a finger to point to something is one of our earliest actions – no wonder there are plenty of examples of babies using iPads and even with other species – Orangutans  take easily to iPads as well. Today’s children are the “touch generation” –  Haptic interfaces are so natural that development is bound to be exponential and they will develop as these children grow up


“A picture paints a thousand words”  and in many cases its just so difficult to describe an action in words. In his TED video Chris Anderson describes how web video powers global innovation by empowering everyone both literate and non literate. I’ve also noticed how many people are using Skype and Facetime and how useful Google video chat and G+ Video hangouts are for meetings – I’m sure that we will see an explosion in the use of video and visual communications and interfaces in 2012 and one of the most exciting maybe video glasses – Lumus are expected to show their glasses at CES in January for OEM production later in the year.


Things get really interesting when our computers start to “understand” what they are “seeing”. Facial recognition is scareably accurate and Google and Apple dveloping  facial recognition for their smartphones. Things get even more interesting when our computers understand our gestures – Microsoft’s Kinect has ushered in a new interface era and the race is on to augment our technology interfaces with gesture – expect to see gesture appearing  everywhere from games (of course) to TVs computers and smartphones.


Voice interfaces have been developed over a very, very long time but failed to go mainstream. As is often the case Apple have seeded a revolution and with Siri Apple has breathed new life into voice. Some consider this to be “The invisible interface of the future” and has of course kick started competition – Google are expected to release their answer to Siri ,“Majel” early in 2012

Computers come to their senses (and our senses)

Traditional desktop computers suffer terrible sensory deprivation compared with mobiles which are bristling with sensors and connectivity. New technology can see us, hear us and understand our gestures. Putting all this together means 2012 may mark a change in our relationship with technology we will really start to be able to interact more naturally with our technology  – much like we interact with people and animals.

In 2010 Google’s Reto Meier predicted The Future of Mobile: Invisible, connected devices with infinite screens but his time frames look conservative now. I won’t attempt to say when but below are some of the what – all this may happen quicker than we think.

Touchscreens with  textures

Touchable holograms


Flexible and wearable displays

Gesture interfaces that read our emotions

Gesture interfaces that read our lips

Google Augmented reality Glasses

Augmented reality glasses

Augmented reality contact lenses

Wearable computing

Electronic cotton for the ultimate wearable computer

Mind reading

Mind Control

Mind control and robotics


Technology and Social Powers

Dion Hinchcliffe lists and describes most of the well known power “laws” in Digital technology and social theory in his post Twenty-two power laws of the emerging social economy – here are a few of the main ones taken from Dion’s list

Moores law

The processing power of a microchip doubles every 18 months such that computers become faster and the price of a given level of computing power halves every 18 months.

Gilder’s Law

The total bandwidth of communication systems triples every 12 months.

Metcalf’s law

The potential value of a network grows exponentially according to its size so that as a network grows, the value of being connected to it grows exponentially, while the cost per user remains the same or even reduces.

Reeds Law

The network effect of social systems is much higher than would otherwise be expected such that The Utility of a (social) network scales exponentially with the overall size of a network.

Reflexivity (social theory)

Describes how social systems are often self reinforcing, how social actions influence the fundamental behavior of social systems and how social systems can tend towards disequilibrium.

The Pareto Principle

Roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes – the famous “80:20” rule.

Principle of Least Effort

People basically vote with their feet to the easiest solution in the least exacting way available.

Everything Goes Square

While some believe there will be apocalypse in 2012 I think there are signs of major a transformation in human affairs facilitated and catalysed by technology.

With our lives increasing mediated by technology and with that technology radically changing the signs are set for a period of significant and fast (even exponential) change from self-reinforcing social and technology power laws.

Tim O’Reilly and John Battelle describe this era as Web Squared – an era of exponential technology and real world change from the combination of Web 2.0 technology and philosophies with social, mobile, real-time and sensors.

It’s as if technology has its own irresistible momentum – something which Kevin Kelly describes in “What Technology Wants” – a Technium  with “its own inherent agenda and urges”. Kelly’s Technium describes the intersection of humanity with technology:

The  technium may be described as an integral view of technology and humanity in which technology is a natural and inherent dimension of what it means to be human .. the technium is integral to human existence and evolution”

Ray Kurzweil argues that Accelerating Returns on exponential growth will eventually create a tipping point to what he calls The Singularity – a time when the change graph over time is vertical change and we reach an era of unpredictability, apparent chaos and uncertainty that only our machines will understand. Kurzweil makes a compelling case –  “It took the printing press 400 years to reach a large audience, it took the telephone 50 years, the mobile phone seven years, and social networks only three. The pace of innovation will only continue to accelerate, he says, because exponential evolution is built into the very nature of technology”

While we are a long way from the type of rapid change Kurzweil predicts, O’Reilly and Battelle’s Web Squared is already being felt. Time’s 2011 person of the year (The Protester) is symbolic of the changes in which technology is implicated when web meets world – helping a “generation to find its voice”. David Weinberger doesn’t hold back in “Too Big To Know” and describes how the Internet Is Ruining Everything. If 2011 is anything to go by we should expect more “real world” effects and disruption from our technology as the gravitational force from the not too distant singularity pulls us into a Web Squared Technium.


January 15, 2012 Posted by | culture, future, IT and society, predictions, society | 3 Comments

I never make predictions and never will: 2011 – Superstacks beyond the WIMP

In the spirit of “I never make predictions and I never will” here goes.

I feel like I’ve seen it all before – the repetitive cycles as the human condition plays itself out through history and technology. Boom-bust, expansion-contraction, freedom-control – Cambrian like periods of expansion and diversity followed by Darwinian like selection and contraction to new norms.  It seems as if the last 5 years have been an amazing Cambrian technology expansion cycle of new technologies such as Web 2.0, cloud, mobile and social and that we are now entering a period of selection and consolidation towards new norms.

Thomas J. Watson Sr., then-president of IBM allegedly said in 1943 that
“I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.” – he may have been wrong – there may be a market for even less.

The IT paradigm is shifting to Cloud computing but like mainframes in 1943 only a few organisations have the ability and resources to build these new “computers”  – gravitational forces are creating a small number of planet like surface to air super-clouds each with their own ecosystem. Life is good within the chosen ecosystem but inter-planetary communication and travel could be a problem.

The major players are attempting to build complete stacks from surface to air to host  their ecosystems – from hardware through a vertical stack to cloud based resources. At least three super-stacks are forming – initially with unique features – it will be interesting if they maintain these features or all become similar.

Google have a powerful cloud base and are are building a mobileground base with mobile technologies – they already have a successful, thriving smartphone ecosystem – we all wait to see if they can repeat this with tablets and laptops (ChromeOS). Google’s ecosystem is relatively loosely coupled and diverse but with an emphasis on pure cloud.

Apple have a tightly integrated stack from ground based iPods, iPhones and iPads through to the iTunes app market. Apple’s ecosystem is relatively controlled and tightly coupled with an emphasis on “ground based” apps. However, Apple have been building large data centres – will their ecosystem offer any pure cloud resources in 2011?

Microsoft have all the pieces yet are struggling to put them together without sacrificing their cash cows – Microsoft’s huge installed base has slowed it down – will it help it float or sink in the new paradigm? Microsoft are having trouble building their stack and haven’t yet developed a viable ecosystem that I can see. Can Microsoft recreate the Windows ecosystem in their stack – the departure of Ray Ozzie in October 2010 suggests they may not be able to and that this could be a long term extinction event for Microsoft – relegating it to a has been legacy supplier – Microsoft Windows and Office forever? ..

Cross stack developments (e.g. using HTML 5.0) will help build bridges and actually help reinforce the stacks but if these super stacks get built there will of course be forces building outside their control that will eventually bring them down or just render them obsolete – this is human nature played out through technology. The interesting “off-stack” ecosystem is of course open source, Peer to Peer and the creative commons. My longer term prediction is that future zeitgeist will shift off-stack back to personal and peer to peer through a natural cycle helped along by some stack based event and amazing technology development.

Beyond the WIMP
The seeds were sown in 2008 when Bill Gates left Microsoft and harvested in October 2010 when Ray Ozzie also left Microsoft and bloged “Dawn of a New Day”  where he imagined a Post PC World.

Over a 25 year period the PC and the WIMP interface could be said to have realised Bill Gates’s  dream of “a computer on every desk and in every home” but now we are talking about a computer with every person and the technology to do this is different to that used to put a computer on your desk. Microsoft could see the changes coming (they have had pocket PCs and Tablets for a decade) and made new mobile devices within the existing mainstream PC WIMP paradigm. Apple design genius helped show what was possible – the iPod, iPhone and iPad were not radical functional departures from what already existed – the innovation was in connecting together new technologies with superb human centric design. Again Microsoft are under pressure to adapt to the new era – they have the technology but can they implement when the weight of installed base weighs them down rather than advantages them.

The new wave of computing is very personal and built from a combination of ultra mobile, highly connected, real-time, any-time, any-where, green, social, knowledgeable, sensory, cloud, augmented reality, easy to use and pervasive. It certainly gives Gates’ Information at your fingertips”  a new spin.

This new era starts with smartphones, tablets,  social, real-time and rich sensory interfaces such as multi-touch and context awareness through vision, sound, location, orientation and other sensors. New era devices will become cheaper, smaller, more functional and pervasive – they will augment our reality and become the norm through the advantages they give to the user.

As we move beyond the WIMP we should expect new era devices to become ever more integrated with our context and our senses. Some of the things we should expect in the next decade are voice and gesture interfaces; context interfaces that anticipate and wearable computers and interfaces such as Data Glasses and Data Lenses.

Naturally there will be developments outside this new wave of technology. Change could arise from Ambient/ Internet of Things/ Ubiquitous computing developments so that rather than carry computing around with us our environment and objects within it provide the computing and access – a sort of retro shift (as often happens). Change could arise from the logical progression of personalisation so that eventually implantable computers and interfaces supercede those we wear or carry.


Social equality
Equality of access has in the past been adjusted by public resources such as libraries and schools but how can public resources adjust for the new wave of pervasive personal technology. The web has revolutionised and democratised information and just when equality of access gets within reach new technologies may snatch it away again – those with the new “information at your fingertips” to augment their realities have a distinct advantage compared to those without the resources.. How can we help equality in the new era? Will there be a technology adjustment to close the equality gap again?

As our technology gets increasingly personal, social and pervasive then issues of privacy will increase – we’ve seen plenty of privacy issues in  2010 starting with Facebook’s Zuckerberg Saying “The Age of Privacy is Over” and ending with Wikileaks and the activities surrounding it. The issues of state-state/state; state-citizen and citizen-citizen privacy-transparency will play out in the new communications space. What responses will there be to these privacy issues? Will society become more secretive and transparent? Will cultures of multiple identities, walled environments and off-web P2P type activities develop? Will these issues simply play out in the new medium in the same way they have done in the past?


December 29, 2010 Posted by | future, predictions | Leave a comment

Predictions and the nature of change

William Gibson’s quote “The Future is Already Here – It’s Just Not Evenly Distributed” is a powerful and practical idea for working out what is going to happen in the short term – extrapolate from current edge and current trends. These days new technology is announced & piloted very early – there are few surprises in the short term in terms of technology developments.  The problem with short term predictions is that we often exaggerate the scale and impacts of predicted developments.

Bill Gates summed it up when he said “We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten”. Like compound interest an exponential function is just a fixed percentage of growth that compounds – change is occurring around us all the time and like a slow boiling frog we only  jump when we become aware of it. Another factor in ICT change in particular is the Network effect (the value and effectiveness of a communication technology increases with the number of users) – this acts a sort of natural selection – operating both negative and positive feedback on exponential growth.

The problem with long term developments are that they are subject to exponential and combinatorial factors – chaotic things that we are not good at understanding at the best of times. To compound things change cycles themselves are becoming faster.

In the short term nothing much appears to happen while longer term changes appear are often beyond our understanding.

December 29, 2010 Posted by | future, ICT, predictions | 1 Comment

I never make predictions and never will: In 2010 Mobile will drive us

In the spirit of “I never make predictions and I never will” here goes.

William Gibson’s quote “The Future is Already Here – It’s Just Not Evenly Distributed” is a powerful and practical idea for working out what is going to happen in the short term – extrapolate from current edge and current trends. Using my crystal ball to throw the light of the recent past into the near future I see network effects creating exponential growth in certain areas and it is on these areas that I will focus.

These days new technology is announced & piloted very early – there are few surprises. I have to agree with Miko Matsumura that in 2010 Nothing is going to happen – Bill Gates summed it up when he said “We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten”. Like compound interest an exponential function is just a fixed percentage of growth that compounds – change is occurring around us all the time and like a slow boiling frog we only  jump when we become aware of it – as if it emerged out of nowhere. Another factor in ICT change in particular is the Network effect (the value and effectiveness of a communication technology increases with the number of users) – this acts a sort of natural selection – operating both negative and positive feedback on exponential growth.

I’ve used only mobile since 2000 – at first it radically changed the way I operate but there hasn’t been much change for 10 years – mobile computers are still basically like little desktops. However, mobile developments from Apple and Google are changing computing and culture – 2010 may be the year when all the strands come together and the frog jumps in surprise at what emerges.

Mobile will drive IT

Manufacturers and developers will focus on mobile first – some of this will filter into traditional computing but much of it will be inappropriate in a fixed desktop type environment. All the action will be with mobile now. We already see this with announcements of Google operating systems and rumours of the Apple tablet.

Mobile will drive us anytime, anywhere in real-time.

I’m not referring to smartphones or netbooks but to the ability to access services anytime, anywhere conveniently. The always on, always connected immediacy of mobile has altered our culture and our technology – we expect technology and services to be constantly available anytime, anywhere. Mobile has contributed to the shift to real-time – you don’t need to get back to a desk to access and update – you can access and update in-situ in real-time and we expect to be able to.

Mobile will drive us to new Interfaces

Through necessity new technology will be developed for mobile and this will also filter back into traditional systems. Keyboard-mouse derived interfaces are not appropriate for mobile devices – as mobile really takes off we should expect to see radical yet device appropriate new interfaces. iPhone set the direction with mulitouch – we should expect to see development of this with more gesture and sensory interaction – pressure, speed, acceleration, orientation, audio, video etc could all be used. Data glasses are an inevitability – a necessary way to compensate for small display size – especially when combined with augmented reality.

Mobile will drive us to the clouds.

Mobiles have to delicately balance power, size, weight and battery life. Although there may be a diversity of devices types the overall trend is always to smaller and lighter. If mobiles prioritise communications (network and User Interface) they can off-load power to the cloud and focus on balancing battery life, weight and size. A tiny device can use the cloud to run the core of applications from word processing to media editing even.  Clouds are compatible with the the always on, immediacy of mobile culture – software on demand as a service rather than the traditional local application model of download, install, maintain, update and secure. Cloud and mobile culture will positively reinforce each other.

Mobile will drive us green

The holy grail of mobiles is to offer all day operation from one battery – to achieve this while balancing size and weight  mobiles introduce a new energy economy by reversing Wintel processor power inflation and focusing instead on better energy efficiency. Like better miles per gallon rather than just speed we will be expect our mobiles to go further before having to fill up.

Mobile will drive us social

In-situ mobile access is more natural and discrete than traditional styles of sitting at a desk eyeballing a large screen. On-line personal social interaction through mobiles is already normalised – people expect to txt, tweet, Facebook etc when and where it happens. People also to expect the same level of interaction at work which does after all involve interacting with other people.

Mobile will drive us knowledgeable

If you want to find out about something you no longer need to wait until you get to a book or traditional computerjust Google or Goggle it from your mobile or ask your social network – again from your mobile. We now have instant access to an abundance of information – we can all know anything as long as we have a mobile. Today”it’s not how intelligent you are, but how you are intelligent” – less what you know than how you know it.

Mobile will drive us to a new reality

Using its sensors (location, audio, visual, orientation, tactile etc) a mobile can interact with you and the environment in new ways and a mobile that knows where it is can better contextualise responses With traditional computing people entered new reality inside the computer – places like second life. With mobile the computers enter our world – we bring our computers with us into a new reality – an augmented reality where computers add to our in-situ experience.

Mobile will drive us squared

A new paradigm will emerge from the combination of mobile drivers – a fast changing, real-time, any-time, any-where, green, social, knowledgeable, sensory, cloud, augmented reality. Tim O’Reilly and John Battelle described and named this paradigm as Web Squared – “when web meets world”. O’Reilly and Battelle describe the trend – 1990-2004 was the match being struck (Web 1.0), 2005-2009 was the fuse (Web 2.0) and 2010 will be the explosion(Web Squared).

Mobile will drive us.

Mobile will eventually change the way we work, learn and play – traditional organisation moved people to work, learn and play but with mobile work, learn and play can be moved to people and this may have profound effects on social organisation.

Predictions for 2010

The growth of cloud computing, real-time and social are well predicted and will become even more established. Below are some less predictable predictions….

User interfaces

By the end of 2010 there will be some radically interesting new user interfaces driven by mobile.

The stalled tablet interface will get seriously cool if Apple shock it back to life with an Apple tablet and the usual apple design flair in hardware and software. Others will learn, the bar will be raised and tablets will get interesting. Expectations are high.

The small size of mobiles will necessitate innovation in interfaces – I reckon that data glasses will be on Santa lists next Xmas.

I’m imagining that at sometime we will get IT designer clothing but maybe not until 2011 when we may be able to buy Apple and Google Glasses?

Augmented reality

During 2010 there will be exciting consumer applications for augmented reality (AR) that will lead to explosive growth and great demand from the general public due to the advantages and fun it will bring. Consider the Tesco visual search application for example. AR tech will be on Santa lists next year. Expect to see AR mentioned in adverts.

Some unknown development from combinatorial effects

Something emerging from interfaces, systems and social- Goggle Wave Glasses and waves perhaps?

January 1, 2010 Posted by | future, IT and society, mobile, predictions | | Leave a comment

I Never make Predictions and Never Will: IT Predictions For 2009

William Gibson’s quote “The Future is Already Here – It’s Just Not Evenly Distributed” is a powerful and practical idea for working out what is going to happen in the short term – extrapolate from current edge and current trends. Using my crystal ball to throw the light of the recent past into the near future I see network effects creating exponential growth in certain areas and it is on these areas I have focused on below.

Cloud Applications Get Very, Very Good

Google Apps became serious in 2008 and improved as the year passed – they demonstrate the potential of on-line applications with new abilities that come naturally from being on-line (collaboration, web integration and data lookup), platform neutrality (work on Mac, Linux, Microsoft) and are free!

In 2009 Microsoft will be releasing some form of on-line application – the probable result will be to validate the model and expand the market. Microsoft’s activities will be influential and important to bring the cloud to the awareness of mainstream users. The next version of Office is expected to have “cloud additions” like Office Live – which allows you to store and share files in the cloud but you still need local Microsoft application software to use them –Software plus Service (Microsoft software plus Internet service). This approach is useful -Microsoft will be able to sell software (and this would be a compelling upgrade) and the “normal” Office user will get cloud access within the comfort zone of their familiar Office environment – the common Microsoft extend and embrace strategy. More interesting will be the browser based Microsoft office that is due out in 2009 although Microsoft say it will offer “light editing” of office files many expect it to be a very slick operator.

We need competition in the cloud but the scale and resources required needs major investment and infrastructure – competition in this area really needs to be among the really big companies (apologies to Zoho who have a very extensive and nice cloud suite). The competition between Google and Microsoft will be good for cloud applications and the expectation is that Google have major improvements planned as a response to Microsoft’s moves.

Although Google apps are already very good my expectation is that by the end of 2009 cloud applications will be very, very good.

Lifestreaming Becomes Mainstream

During 2008 Twitter achieved its billionth message (tweet) went exponential and was adopted almost everywhere e.g. in  Government, Politics, business.  Like many major developments Twitter is relatively simple and this is what has driven its growth – it is easy to start, easy to use, easy to use in different ways and is highly extendable, for example the Twitter API carries 10 times the traffic of the visible Twitter site – this is used by 3rd party twitter user interfaces but also for systems interfaces – e.g. to feed into Facebook. A suggestion of what of what to expect is the way web sites and blogs are now embedding twitter streams and for a change Twitter themselves even produced Twitter badges to assist with this. Increasing participation is speeding up the Internet and simple lifestreaming systems like twitter give people a foot in the door and an important presence in a “Global Village” of 1.5 Billion that is growing at 20% per year. Whenever I come across someone I expect them to have Net presence – I expect them to have a Lifestreaming and a Blog. Network effects are important and as more people use Lifestreaming and Twitter in particular the more important it will become and the bigger it will become.

Devices Get And Use Senses

The Graphical User Interface (GUI) enriched and enhanced computing – it liberated us from the command line with a more natural mode of working and allowed “normal” people to work with computers. However, the very success of the GUI has blinkered our vision of other approaches.  As computers permeate our everyday lives and environments they need to be more responsive to our daily lives and environments. The Wii and the iPhone – both are less powerful in hardware terms than similar products but both have been wildly successful due to the new way they interact with the user and the environment and both have brought in a new set of users. The Google Mobile App for iPhone is already pretty amazing but even more suggests what will be possible. Consider the impressive list of interfaces already present on the iPhone – location (GPS), visual (screen, camera), audio (speaker, microphone), touch, tilt, proximity, vibration – we should expect further exploitation of these. Other manufacturers will be seeking to catch up and improve upon the iPhone – I think we will see some very impressive sensory applications for mobile devices in 2009 – I’m looking forward to be able to talk to and listen to the net e.g. “Phone – is there a traffic problem around here” and have it search traffic reports in my location and respond “yes – burst water main 1 mile ahead” for example. Microsoft tag and Amazon’s iPhone application suggest some ways in which we can use sensors in our smartphones. 

The Web Gets More Programmable

With the web getting more participative information is generated at a higher speed and in greater quantities – tools to manage and cope are essential and those tools need to get smarter – this could be more a wish than a prediction but there are signs that smarter tools (agents) will become available to us. The “ecology” developing around Twitter gives some good examples. Twitter provides only a simple web interface but the Twitter API is heavily exploited by third parties to provide a huge range of applications based around Twitter. These applications indicate what can be done for users –  Twitchboard which listens to your twitter account, and forwards messages on to other internet services based on what it hears or Shozu which provides a system to integrate many of your services from your mobile.  The more adventurous user may like to try Microsoft’s simple MASH creator Popfly while more advanced users may which to try Yahoo Pipes, the Yahoo Application Platform, Google App engine  or Microsoft’s Azure to create their own applications like this Twitter search using Google App engine or this Twitter search using Microsoft Azure. By the end of 2009 I am expecting to see more people using RSS, Integration services and even programming services.

Netbooks Go Massive

Small used to mean expensive but now small means affordable – the combination of economic problems and the need for mobility means that netbooks will be overwhelmingly popular – everyone I meet just loves them. The Asus Eee was like the punks who set a new fashion trend which was appropriated by the major fashion houses so that it became mainstream, now every manufacturer offers netbooks and there is now more of a continuum of models from the smallest to the largest so that the concept of netbook starts t lose meaning – is a 12in netbook really a netbook?

The Cloud Goes Massive

In the same way that mobile phones are given away as part of a network contract we see computers being given away as part of Internet contracts for what use is a computer without a network these days? With the Economic problems people will be choosing between computing (local compute power and applications) and networking – cloud computing is there at the right time to offer a solution with free (or relatively cheap) cloud services with free (or relatively cheap) local computing. Network effects will expend the cloud – as more people use it the more useful it becomes and the more people use it. Microsoft’s development of their Cloud services (Live), Office and Windows 7 will all “legitimise” the cloud for mainstream users and expand the market further.

January 11, 2009 Posted by | ICT, predictions | , | Leave a comment

I Never make Predictions and Never Will: Media Predictions For 2009

Many comment that in our on-line activities will leave little past, however it is certainly true that our recent past is better documented that ever before. You can access my twitter activity from this time last year here is my first tweet for example and you can see all my past blogs including my Predictions for 2008 to see how good, bad or ugly they were.

William Gibson’s quote “The Future is Already Here – It’s Just Not Evenly Distributed” is a powerful and practical idea for working out what is going to happen in the short term – extrapolate the current edge and current trends. Things usually get smaller, lighter, easier, cheaper and more functional and common place – computers and telephones are good examples of this. We must also beware of technological determinism – we have to consider the complex interaction of contextual factors (economy, culture etc) that can change the “trajectory” of any extrapolation.

Using my crystal ball to throw the light of the recent past into the near future – it all seems quite cloudy to me and everything I see is on-line. The big theme for the year will be on-line everything and as more go on line network effects will cause more to go on-line resulting in an explosive growth in on-line activity. Despite of (or maybe even due to) economic problems 2009 could be a significant year for the information age – when many 20th century physical industrial activities are moved on-line.

Let’s try to focus some of this.


The industrial processes of the 20th century to represent, distribute and consume information will continue to disappear – information is intangible anyway and so is ideal for on-line virtualisation.

Audio: Audio set the example of how information can move away from the physical the stories of Napster and iTunes are now history and the Nokia music service of 12 months unlimited free perpetual but protected downloads takes this model almost as far as it can go. With music content “infinitely” copy-able and accessible monetization has to move to an incidental model of distribution deals and sponsorship.  The SeeqPod service indicates that on-line streaming/access could be a significant development. It will always be useful to have off-line copies of your favourite music but the advantages of streaming are there for everyone. For consumers there can be an “infinite” range to listen to on-demand without management – just search. For the industry on-line listens can be instrumented (pun intended) and monetised with “incidental” and direct marketing. There is of course better control – music can be published free at source (e.g. from Sony), with the publisher monetising through “incidental” services but also allowing 3rd party API and streaming access for downstream services. I like the concept of on-line downstream “radio stations” such as, Lastfm and Pandora. Indeed Pandora offers an excellent example of the benefits of the on-line model in driving further interest by what could be described as audio surfing.

Video: Youtube and the iPlayer provides good examples of what we might expect in video. iPlayer has many advantages (on-demand view) especially with the BBC “transmitting” live on the net via iPlayer. Youtube in particular has become such a mainstream distribution method – standard TV channels, organisations, political parties and of course individuals are all there (e.g. BBC, Channel 4, Obama, Google and have a look at the Governator).

Words: Newspapers and magazines all have good on-line presence and for many their on-line activity is increasingly necessary and important. Pew research finds that the Internet has overtaken newspaper as a source of news for many people and for young people the Net is the main source of news. All the newspapers now offer excellent RSS feeds and various incidental services such as reader and journalist blogs, podcasts and various systems interfaces for systems such as Facebook and Twitter for example.  The New York Times indicates how “newspapers” may develop – with the news of their API development program to “make the NYT programmable. To start 2009 the NYT release Represent – it mashes geographical information with various web data to present information about the politicians who represent geographical areas in New York. Books I feel will also succumb eventually – the physicality of a book (cover, typeface etc) are much like the physicality of old vinyl records. During 2008 e-book readers became a lot better and the advantages for industry and consumers over paper became tangible. Although the e-book reader really is useable now it is another purchase and item to carry around and look after – I would prefer to access an books on my smartphone or laptop/netbook. I think that e-books will break the market in for consolidation onto standard equipment – a prediction for 2010 I recon.     

MASH Media

I can’t resist it but in 2009 “the medium is the message” (sorry). Possibly the biggest development in media will be the way it all gets mixed up – once they all share the same medium then they can mix and match. 2008 has seen the start of this and it is becoming increasingly common – 2009 will see a lot more of this. Already in 2008 we see newspapers with plenty of additional media content – the Guardian tech weekly for example has audio, video, blogs, Facebook, Twitter etc and text – the Bivings Report indicates just how active Newspapers are on the web – e.g. all have RSS feeds, 75% accept comments on articles and most now have free access.  Cross platform media outlet Current indicate how media may develop – in their US Election coverage they have been combining video coverage with input from Twitter, Digg and 12seconds.TV.

All this and I haven’t even covered how Youtube is going live and HD.

The message is – if you want media you need to get on-line.

January 4, 2009 Posted by | ICT, media, predictions | , | 1 Comment