I always tell my friends that I love working in the technology industry.
To me, this is the one industry where things never stand still, and the skills you learn today may become obsolete in a year while the hottest new trends you observe today may become passé in six months. Working in technology means many hours spent on keeping up with the latest trends and developments, in return for a work life where seemingly there is never a dull moment.
One particular trend which I have been following with fascination over the past couple years is the Consumerization of IT, where most of the innovation and advancement in information technology today is being driven by consumer market forces more so than the needs of business organizations. If you look back 15 or 20 years ago, almost all new innovation in IT was developed for specialized business sectors, then propagated to consumer markets over time (e.g. productivity software, email, Internet and client-server). Compare that with today, where almost all new innovation in IT emerges in the consumer world first, and subsequently gets adopted by business organizations (e.g. social networking, instant messaging, online web applications and smartphones). Therefore, in order to understand where technology is going next, we need to first understand what the next generation of digital consumers need.
Here are three things that digital consumers want, and the technologies that will enable them:
1. The digital consumer wants to be mobile – The digital consumer is not deskbound, and needs to be able to work (and play) at multiple locations using a variety of complementary devices in multiple form factors (desktops, laptops, ultrabooks, tablets, smartphones). In the next year, we should see the introduction of new portable computing devices powered by iOS, Android and Windows 8 which will all help the consumer to be more mobile. Personal cloud services such as Dropbox, SkyDrive and iCloud will continue to ensure that the consumer will always have all their data available with them, even when working on different devices and in different locations. Emerging wireless technologies like LTE and Wi-Fi roaming will also play a big role in ensuring the mobile consumer always has a high speed Internet connection, no matter where they are.
2. The digital consumer wants to feel connected – In our connected world today, the digital consumer expects the collective knowledge and power of the Internet to be available at their fingertips. It’s not only about the apps and games that you have installed on your PC or mobile device – it’s also about the Internet services that you are connected to. We will start to see more intelligent personal interactive assistants like Apple’s Siri, bringing the collective wisdom of the web to the digital consumer with an easy-to-use interface. Mapping and location services will also improve with new capabilities in indoor location and mapping. And augmented reality (AR) applications should continue to evolve from being merely gimmicks to truly useful navigational and informational tools.
3. The digital consumer wants to be empowered – Lastly, the digital consumer wants to feel that they are empowered to make a difference. It’s no longer about the little guy who was wronged and can’t fight back; everyone now has a voice and an opportunity to be heard. Social networking services like Facebook, Twitter and Google+ will continue to play a big part in amplifying the voice of the individual, while separating out the noise from the truly important signals.
This past year was an exciting year if you are a fan of consumer technology. This was the year when we saw record-breaking numbers from technology companies like Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, and Google, all driven by successful products and services that fulfilled the needs of the digital consumer. Thanks to the impact of consumers today in challenging the technology industry to continue innovating, 2012 promises to be an even more exciting year than before.
I can’t wait.