Technology is our friend: The real question is just WHEN
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July 18, 2011

The real question is just WHEN

Anyone who deals with technology and internet comes to the point when predictions have to be made, wether it is asking yourself or being asked by friends or a client. We have 15+ years experience with the world wide web now, and I think there are patterns we can learn from, from Moore's law of exponential growth in technology to accelerating change as we can see in this chart from RWW:

There are more apps downloaded than songs. Nearly unbelievable, but true. This probably has not only to do with the amount of smartphones sold but also with music going to the cloud - streaming instead of downloading on Pandora, Spotify and yes, also Youtube which is used as a Juke Box by many users.

We can learn a lot from music as the first major media area to be digitized:

  1. Every industry that CAN be digitized, WILL be digitized (sooner or later). This goes for television as well as ticketing and cinema and newspapers and books all others. We will not use physical material for non-physical products.
  2. Every industry based on downloads and "owning" files will end up in the cloud. File sharing will be sharing streams. Yes, bluray 3D movies will be in the cloud and streamed with no buffering or timelapse whatsoever.
  3. Device/system independent usage will come. Eventually, even the big platforms like Android and iOS might either work on interoperability or be damaged by HTML5 and similar technologies. On the long run, we will not divide our world in users of this or that operating system, device or access channel (in the early days, Apple tried to close you in on ipods by making the music accessible on their devices only - didn't work). 
  4. Everything will be connected on commonly used standards. Just like with music that is accessible anytime, anywhere by any hardware, we will end up in a smiliar scenario with all sorts of data.
  5. Everything will be social. Services and sites will be built around people and sharing rather than the pure 'objects'.
Just look at this statistic from Cisco, taken from an infographic published today:

We are talking of a development that took place in max. 4 years - 2008 to end 2011. Things go fast in the digital world, but in the end, we are humans and we tend to take things in our direct environment for granted when we have them for a week or so. We don't really recognize how fast things go.

When we ask ourselves about the future, whatever we can think will be built and developed. Whatever digitization can do to an industry will happen. We shouldn't be asking ourselves if people will 'really' be using ebooks or if someone will 'really' stream their TV program and movies. These are not the right questions. The only legitimate question is WHEN, and 'digital strategies' need to focus more on when and how to influence a transition period rather than trying to find ways around inevitable developments.