Predicting the Key Technologies for 2008, and their Guardians

The BBC (hmm, two posts in as many days…) points out five new pieces of technology that they think could come to prominence in 2008, and it’s an interesting mix.

Three of them are all to do with connectivity in some form another, be it the adoption of WiMax in the UK and Europe, the use of Voice over IP for communication, and access to the internet no matter where you are. Each one of these is making a big assumption; that the great gatekeepers of ‘data on the move,’ the mobile networks, will be more than happy to have these services sit alongside their current offerings.

Much as there is talk of mobile phone bills going down over time, my bills from 1999 are a pretty similar level to what I pay now. Except now I have access to 3G data, international SMS, handsets with the complexity and power in excess of the 486 sx25 I had in 99, and I can bypass all the network tricks with Wi-Fi if I feel the need. Is the network earning any more from me? No. Is it providing a lot more? Yes. Are they doing this grudgingly – I suspect so. Wouldn’t they rather keep more profit than build more infrastructure? Or is it not the capitalistic thing to ask?

So I strongly suspect we’ll be sitting at the end of 2008 going, so where was WiMax beyond Milton Keynes? Are Truphone and T-Mobile still in the courts for access and termination fee rights? The only potential light is Google and the US 700mhz Spectrum, but that doesn’t really help the rest of the world, does it? He-heh.

Looking at the other two technologies, again they have a lot of promise but I think that missing the point. The Ultra Mobile PC does give you a bundle of power in your pocket, and access to information, but the fact is our fingers are going to stay the same size. The revolution won’t be in a small form PC – after all if that was the case the Psion Netbook would be a runaway success. The closest I think we’ll get to a mainstream UMPC is potentially either a 10″ MacBookPro or an A4/Tablet sized iPhone-a-like. Anything innovative that’s going to happen here is going to be in the user interface rather than in hardware.

Finally, the myth of IPTV. The idea that we need another television channel when we’ve got so many we need PVR’s and EPG’s with predictive recording baffles me. And then relying on the data to be pushed to a small screen via a mobile network when the Freeview signal in the UK provides a perfectly serviceable MPEG-2 stream in the air for any receiver to work with is laughable. And the times when I have appreciated carrying a device with video has mostly been on trains (you know… natural faraday cages), or while on transatlantic trips (arguably out of mobile coverage unless it’s Air France). And it’s been TV or Films, where I could spend some time on them.

Personally, I think the key technologies are going to be in two areas. The first is search, and the continuing refinement of not presenting a bundle of relevant results, but in providing two or three results personally tailored to the user, and the continuing perosnalisation of services so that each user gets something slightly different to everyone else, but something that enhances that service for them.

6 Responses to “Predicting the Key Technologies for 2008, and their Guardians”

  1. [...] we just call them small laptops?) and IPTV coming of age. The list is royally and expertly fisked by mobile expert Ewan Spence who points out that all the talk of the rise mobile data is still predicated on the mobile networks [...]

  2. John Connell says:

    “Wouldn’t they rather keep more profit than build more infrastructure?”

    I don’t think these are mutually exclusive, Ewan.

  3. Ewan Spence says:

    John,

    Indeed yes, you are true, and point taken. But when a lot of the focus is on short term quarterly profits sometimes I do wonder if fidicury responsibilities can act as an inhibitor in a few cases.

  4. Huw Leslie says:

    From the mobile networks’ point of view, as far as I can tell the big struggle is in reducing churn, and I suspect that that will provide an impetus for innovation, or at least an attitude that is open to innovation from others. They are all struggling for a unique selling point – vodafone has their unlimited music thingy, three has the skypephone, for example. Maybe I’m being too optimistic, but I think there is sufficient competitive pressure on networks to produce good results for consumers.

  5. HeavyLight says:

    Maybe the economics of WiMax roll-out are different in the States but I’d agree that in the UK it stands little chance of any impact. Err, outside of Milton Keynes anyhow.

    But you’re sceptical about mobile internet take-up?

    Perhaps I missed something but don’t all those “great gatekeepers” (well okay, all bar Orange) now offer some form of flat-fee “unlimited” internet access?

    My experience is that even the normob masses are primed to swamp the airwaves.

    Fisked? Nah, barely a tickle!
    :-)

  6. Ewan Spence says:

    Huw,

    The problem with USP is you have to choose which USP you can do without. And I think that this is the big problem of 2008 – how do you choose, in many cases in advance, what you want. I’m not taking about the switched on2.0 people, but the more sedate but tech savvy user. Which leads me to…

    Heavylight,

    I think the big challenge, still, is to make these small, fiddly pocket computers usable to the masses. A good case in point is Dean Whitbread, who;s documented on Seesmic why the N95 just does not work for him, is not intuitive to a new user, and just does not deliver. It’s no good providing flat-fee data if you can’t actually make good use of it. And of course, once you’re on flat fee, you’ll pretty much demand flat fee wimax if it arrives. or IPTV downloads. Or Skype calls. And the investment required there is going to be the problem IMO.

    And I never said Fisked, Mike did.