8 key trends and some foresights for the next 5 years
Every now and then I get tempted into actually formulating some fore-sights. This time, the preparations for my upcoming speech on "New Media Futures" at the RSA in London have egged me on to share a few key points with you:
1) We will soon see the emergence of many different kinds of iPhone-influenced Netbook-like devices; some will be Apple-made but most will not. These devices may be 2-3 times the size of an iPhone and will connect to the Internet in every conceivable way, i.e. 3G/4G, LTE, Wimax, Wifi etc. They will be touchscreen, zoom-interface enabled, cloud-computing, speech-controlled, location-aware, mobile-money equipped, socially hyper-networked, always-everywhere-on, HD-camera equipped and possibly project images and audio or even support basic holography.
In addition to the high-end, fully-loaded and perhaps still rather expensive versions that many of us in the so-called developed countries will gobble up, low cost and more basic editions for the developing markets will be sold in the 100s of millions (think India, China, Indonesia...). These smart gadgets will have very low energy consumption and therefore extremely long battery life, may even sport basic solar-power options, and may ultimately cost less than 30 USD, or even be 'free' (why bother to sell the box if you can make a lot more $ with selling services.... Nokia?).
It is these mass-market yet very smart and networked devices, together with cheap or free wireless broadband that will really revolutionize reading, newspapers, books and education; not to mention our music, TV and film consumption habits. Content commerce will be completely redefined as a consequence. As BTO told us a loooong time ago: "You ain't seen nothin' yet"
2) Very cheap or free wireless broadband - at fairly high speeds, i.e. at least 2MB / sec - will be available in most places, particularly in the booming new economies of Asia, India, Russia and South-America, and a bit later, in Africa. Funded by the likes of Google and by the future 'telemedia' conglomerates, governments, cities and states, wireless broadband will probably reach 3-4 out of 5 people on the globe within 5-8 years. User-generated & derived content (UGDC for those of you that must have an acronym ;), virtual co-production, mobile editing and instant network sharing will explode by a factor of 1000, making control of distribution a very distant concept of the past. UGC or UGDC may make up to 50% of the global content consumption by 2015. Consumers will be (co)-creators, marketers, sellers and buyers, and come in a hundred variations, from totally passive to totally active. Then, indeed, filtering, culling and curation will be the key to success.
3) Collective blanket licenses that legalize and unlock legitimate access to basic content services via any digital network will emerge, and are likely to take over as the primary way of content consumption, around the world (but in Asia, first). Just like water or electricity which is readily available when moving into a new home, the basic access to content will be bundled into access to digital networks, i.e. via ISPs, operators, telecoms, portals etc. This shift is starting with music (as already done by TDC in Denmark, and Google in China), and will be quickly followed by films, TV, books and newspapers. Access may often - but in local variations - 'feel like free' to the user but will in fact generate 10s of Billions of $$ via blanket licensing fees (yes... those pools of money), next-generation advertising and branding, data-mining & sharing, up-selling, re-packaging and many other new generatives. This topic will, btw, be the gist of my RSA presentation tomorrow - if you can't be there in person, you may want to listen to the live audio, via this link.
I think that governments around the world will call for and / or support the implementation of collective content licenses that wil finally legalize content usage on the Internet, similar to how governments pushed for the radio and broadcasting licenses approx. 100 years ago. Whether these blanket licenses will be voluntary or compulsory remains to be seen - in any case the only alternative is to perpetuate a severely dysfunctional telemedia ecosystem that criminalizes almost all users and stifles innovation while generating virtually zero new revenues for the creators.
4) Fuel-cells and other next-generation mobile energy sources are a certainty. A serious increase in mobile device power (and therefore, its use) will be achieved by employing next-generation technologies such as fuel cells that could provide for up to 500x the usage time that we have today. This is likely to become a reality in 3-5 years and will revolutionize how we use - and how much we rely on - our mobile devices, especially in countries where there the fixed-line power infrastructure is much less developed or non-existent.
5) Completely targeted and personalized advertising, delivered largely on totally customized mobile computing & communication devices, will turn the the $ 1 Trillion USD advertising and marketing services economy upside down. Behavioral targeting and user-controlled advertising will, of course, become an even hotter potato and a much discussed challenge, but the good old deal of 'I give you attention & personal data and you give me value e.g. content' will be even more pronounced on the Net. In fact, advertising as we knew it is already more or less outmoded and will, during the next 2-3 years, be completely reinvented. Privacy and Trust are the #1 issues here.
The implication is that if your data (within your specific sets of permissions and opt-ins) is used to bring you perfectly synchronized advertising, than advertising really becomes more like content, too. Watch this play out in the mobile advertising space, starting this year, and quite possible boost the global value of advertising-content by more than 100% by 2015. Google will be the main driver here, plus Facebook, Nokia and yes... Twitter (soon to be = Google).
6) We will witness the more or less complete decline of most forms of physical media within 7-10 years. The very definition - and thus the core economic business models - of newspapers, magazines, CDs, DVDs and books will be completely re-written, and new forms of content packaging will rapidly emerge. We can already see a preview of how this may work in the current mobile applications boom: content as part of software packages; paying for the packaging, the curation, the bundling, the personalization - not just for the zeros and ones that are 'the copy'. This trend is important not just because it will reflect the users' (or better... followers') new consumption habits but also because because of the increasing need to save energy and material costs - and moving from content products to content services will certainly go a long way in this regard. The total decline of printing in people's homes, and for personal use, will commence, as well.
7) Paying for privacy will become a distinct option. Today we pay to go online and connect; in the future we may end up paying for the luxury to go offline, disconnect, enjoy the quiet, and give our brain some rest. Maybe if we don't want to share our click-trails and usage data, we will be able to make cash payments instead - and the more you pay, the more private you can be..?
8) Travel 2.0: alternatives to 'actually going there' will explode: immersive, 3D video, virtual rooms, holography. This is a key development that will nurture new forms of entrepreneurship, education and group working.
Please talk back!