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The Next Things, Big & Small

<![CDATA[The theme of the Red Herring conference is Top Ten Industry Trends 2004. The short list from the gang at Red Herring sums up next year this way:

Advertising Madison Avenue is waking up the the limitless new opportunities in digital media.
Communications The battle for voice/video/data subscribers get nasty.
Health Obesity becomes a big problem, and a big industry.
Computing Low-cost everything is the order of the day.
Regions Multinationals will have to be quick learners to stake a claim to China’s high-tech bonanza.
Culture DIG: Digital Immediate Gratification — In the move to make things digital, consumer electronics are changing the way we live — and think.
Intellectual Property Hollywood fends for its meal ticket as consumer appetite for digital content grows.
Venture Capital Angel investors are back, funding the small startups that will be tomorrow’s giants.
Security In a dangerously unstable world, security gets smarter and more tightly integrated into the fabric of networks and machines.
Management Outsource backlash. Once popular with cost-conscious IT execs, outsourcing has been shown to be full of security holes.
On the last point, I think outsourcing isn’t full of security holes, rather we haven’t found new business relationships and the mechanisms for arbitration that will make outsourced work a normal part of business. This is simply a lack of maturity, the stumbling that happens when young companies (virtually all companies) actually start operating in the global economy.

Taking it a step further, I was asked by a client of InnovationWORLD for a list of ten technologies that I think are worth watching in 2004. I wrote the following over the weekend….
There’s something arbitrary about this exercise, which comes at the end of every year, since society is always surprised by what has happened already. Here we are at the dawn of the third millennium on the Christian calendar, the 47th century of the Chinese calendar and middle of the 57th century according to the Jewish calendar, which dates back almost to the very beginning of civilization. We’re not very old as a species and, yet, we have cloned animals, understood and cured infectious diseases, visited the moon and can manufacture nano-scale machines. Yet, we always want to know what is next, which is the source of our capacity for innovation.
Here, then, is the list of 10 technical trends for 2004, starting in the computing industry:
64-bit computing. During 2003, the computer industry will consolidate recent technical strides to drive greater usage of network capacity, which is still available in far greater quantity than currently needed. 64-bit computing, based on new 64-bit microprocessors from IBM, AMD and Intel, will produce far richer application functionality—higher definition graphics on the desktop and immensely increased data processing capability. That translates into more data flowing over networks.
The first 64-bit processors made their appearance on the desktop in 2003 and will grow in market share at the high-end of the desktop market, especially in workstations and gaming systems, during 2004. At the same time, software developers will begin to roll out applications that take advantage of the added computing power, which will force 64-bit processors into the midrange market late in the year.
Real Simple Syndication. The underpinning of the blogging phenomenon, which has given rise to approximately four million personal publishing sites in the last two years, is Real Simple Syndication (RSS) (that’s a gratuitous link to Scoble, who is stirring up the dust in the RSS world lately), a convenient way to distribute information because it support subscription services and makes finding content one might be interested in a snap. RSS functionality will begin to find its way into other applications during 2004, as the convenience of information sharing makes itself critical to work.
As network connectivity reaches every corner of the world, RSS is a key technology for bringing people and information together in purposeful ways. Using RSS, a team can be formed across national borders and many time zones to tackle a project, start a company or form a political movement.
Ultra-Wideband Wireless. Ultra-wideband, or “UWB,” is the next and, maybe, ultimate step in making use of the airwaves. UWB is a descendant of the spread-spectrum radio systems that birthed the wireless data industry. Built on a mathematically complex transmission technology that encodes data by spreading it out over a vast swath of radio spectrum, UWB signals sound like noise to other radios—this allows today’s radio infrastructure to co-exist with UWB signals.
Because it uses such a broad range of radio spectrum, UWB can carry far more data that today’s wireless networks. Early versions of the technology can transmit hundreds of megabits of data a second over far greater distances, many times the capacity of today’s fastest 802.11 wireless networks—without the potential for interference that can disrupt today’s wireless data networking. UWB will make its first significant appearance in 2004.
In media, the trends InnovationWORLD will be watching include:
Time-shifting. The broadcast schedule is about to give way to a media environment when the audience will watch or listen when and where they want. Apple’s iPod, one of the hottest-selling products, is an example of the new media based on portable playback. During 2004, inexpensive writable video data storage will become widely available, spurring a revolt against the broadcast schedule. From radio programs to television series, we’ll be taking our mass media with us on the bus, the train, for a jog and to the office, this last to extend the professional learning that has become an essential part of work.
Time-shifting will accelerate the development of a new industry of micro-content delivered via subscription platforms for audio and video, such as Audible.com and through the aforementioned RSS for non-commercial content. New programming won’t look like today’s network television series, rather it will address very narrow interests and could come at a significant premium—consumers will be able to take classes or collect the performances of artists who sell directly to the public without a media company handling the transaction.
DVD-Recordable goes mainstream. For a number of years computer users have been able to burn DVD discs, but the cost per disc and the inconvenience of the software involved has kept most people from using this storage medium. No one has wanted to burn a $5 disc and have it ruined by shoddy software.
During 2004, DVD-R will find its niche with a proliferation of new devices, such as the tape-to-DVD decks introduced during 2003, feeding the consumer’s habit of recording video, audio and pictures for their friends. Everything in the consumer market, from the immense popularity of digital cameras and the transition to digital video, are militating to drive the adoption of a storage medium that can be handed around. Just as mix tapes and photo albums have been passed from person to person in the past, DVD-R is the logical basis for physical exchange of media.
Moving on to biotechnology, we think this will be a key area of technological transformation in the wake of the decoding of the human genome:
DNA screening. The availability of low-cost DNA screening technology, called micro-arrays, will make genetic testing a far more familiar part of clinical medicine. These devices, which combine biochips and DNA scanners that the chips plug into, can give a comprehensive picture of a part or all of a patient’s genome in a fraction of the time required only two years ago. When confronted with a genetic disorder, patients may find it becomes commonplace during 2004 to have a DNA screening to determine if they are at risk. Once screened, the patient might be proscribed a change in diet or precautionary medication.
Pharmacogenetics. Following in the footsteps of DNA screening is a novel pharmaceutical practice, pharmacogenetics. This field is based on the fact that some medicines can be profoundly powerful in the treatment of people with a particular genotype, a broad class of genetic characteristics shared by families and groups in the population. Unfortunately, these same drugs might be very harmful to people with a different genotype. The pharmaceutical industry is in the midst of a vast reordering of its development processes to address the pharmacogentic challenge.
Where drugs that could harm some people were not approved for use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the clinical trials process is being adjusted to target genotype groups in the population. This transformation will deliver more powerful drugs for people with diseases like cancer, and it will lead to a dramatic localization of the pharmaceutical industry as drugs targeting specific populations are developed and distributed.
Chronic, not terminal, disease. As the pharmaceutical industry changes, the way we think about disease will be transformed, as well. Consider how, in the developed world, Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) has become a chronic condition through the application of “drug cocktails” that strengthen what remains of the patient’s immune system and fights specific diseases, like Tuberculosis, that often kill someone afflicted with AIDS. This is just an early example of the change in the way disease is managed that is underway today.
Of course, the challenge is making the drugs available, but this is a profound change in our perception of illness.
Now, here are a couple of unconventional predictions:
Security for security’s sake will wane. The need for computer security technology has been taken as an inviolable truth for the past few years—the security industry and the pronouncements of government have virtually ensured that people approach their computers with fear of virus infection and identity theft. However, the fact remains that as much security is put in place the weak link in the security chain is the individual user or corporate policies that compromise good sense. The ideas that Bruce Schneier has promulgated at Counterpane are the enlightened approach to security that I think will be ascendant in the coming year.
Security has become the silver bullet for all sorts of problems that need to be addressed through changes in the way business is done. In the music business, digital rights management technology—a form of security applied to music—has created more barriers to the survival of the music industry than it has to renewed success. Only when Apple introduced its iTunes 99 cent download service for popular music did the potential for digital distribution of music come back into focus. Business models, as much as security regimes, need to change.
After the security spending spree, IT professionals are coming to the realization that users will often route around the technology meant to protect them. This happens because the technology isn’t designed right as often as it does because people are careless. In either case, the avalanche of security technology will give way to a new awareness that teaching people to be thoughtful about their own and their company’s privacy is at least, if not more, important than technology. This will lead to a leveling off of security spending relative to other application software in 2004.
Linux wildcard. Linux and open source software have made tremendous strides in recent years. Microsoft is several years from the release of its next generation Windows operating system, opening a new window of opportunity in the enterprise applications market for Linux and open source applications. The wildcard in this picture is the development of a business model for open source that accelerates the adoption of software and services.
Linux and open source software are uniquely positioned to create local software industries around the world. Where a copy of Windows can cost as much as a year’s wages in many countries, Linux and open source can be introduced for next to nothing and, since the applications will create service revenues, create a built-in software consulting industry in a developing economy. At InnovationWORLD, we believe a key indicator to watch in the development of the global economy will be the adoption of Linux and open source, which should race ahead of Windows in markets where personal computing hasn’t taken hold.]]>