3D printing for the masses?
Although I don’t like making predictions, and a single year is usually not enough time to identify significant trends – I’m going out on a limb with a few things that I believe won’t change in the coming year. I’ll frame it in the DEEPEST context and offer some thoughts about what it might take to bend the trend or even some potential game changers. So without any further ado, here are my predictions of the obvious for 2013:
The Graying of the Workforce will continue as the Baby Boom generation celebrates another birthday. Those Boomers fortunate enough to have kept their jobs through the Great Recession will likely hold on to them for at least another year, even those eligible for retirement. The long-suffering GenX will have to wait still longer for their opportunity to move up the ladder while the GenY Millennials struggle to understand why they have to show up at a particular time and stay all day.
What might change? A sudden surge in the stock market that restores the value of retirement accounts lost in the Great Recession might encourage Boomers to leave the workforce – although because many are still vigorous and healthy, they would likely seek some other form of employment such as part-time or volunteer.
Gasoline prices will continue to be volatile, but swinging within a fairly narrow range between $3 and $4. “Fracking” will drive the price of natural gas a bit lower, but the environmental concerns will begin to emerge more strongly. As a result, there will be some movement away from “dirty” energy such as coal, but no significant new development of new “clean” energy such as wind.
What might change? A crisis in the Middle East involving Iran, Israel, Syria, Egypt or even Saudi Arabia could send oil prices skyrocketing.
In 2013, several areas will experience a drought while others will have flooding. It will be hotter than normal, except where it’s colder than normal. Hurricanes will threaten the coast and tornadoes will tear through the midwest. In other words – a normal year. Some experts will blame any unusual weather on global warming, while others will point out that any single weather event can’t be attributed to any single cause. There will be no significant pollution or climate legislation passed (see Politics.) 2013 will end up as one of the warmest years on record.
What might change? It is possible that another Katrina or Sandy hitting a major metropolitan area could bring climate change to the forefront, but I see that as unlikely (the conversation, not the weather event.)
The gridlock in Washington will continue unabated. Major political/economic disasters will be avoided (fiscal cliff, default) but just barely. Any agreements between parties will be narrow, short-term and less than necessary, kicking the proverbial can ever farther down the road. Although there may be more open discussion about the need for moderation and bipartisanship, the hard-line, ideological, partisan voices will still dominate, drowning out more moderate voices on both sides of the aisle.
What might change? A failure to reach any agreement on a significant issue could result in real political or economic damage to the US. The popular backlash could be enough to force both parties to engage in true negotiation and compromise. On the other hand, a significant external threat to the country (North Korea? Iran?) might shift the focus away from partisan bickering to uniting for the good of the nation.
The recovery will muddle along, with consumer confidence slowly growing and unemployment slowly shrinking – but nothing anyone will get excited about. The stock market will continue to reflect political rather than economic realities, rising and falling based more on what’s happening in Washington or Berlin than in Greenville and Franklin.
What might change? Greece and Spain could implode, sucking the rest of Europe into another recession or depression – with serious implications for the US. Or the Congress could choose to default on the debt (see Politics,) sending the US economy back into recession.
The “culture of celebrity” will continue with everyone from the royal baby to Honey BooBoo receiving front-page coverage. So-called “reality” TV will still make stars out of the worst examples of “ordinary” people and we will still express our distaste for their exploitation – even as we tune in each week.
What might change? Some reality show or celebrity gossip could cross the line either by showing something taboo or causing some tragic event. That might then cause a backlash from the public and a rethinking by the entertainment industry.
The proliferation of handheld devices will continue, with a few challengers to Apple’s iDominance. There will be more tablets sold than laptops in 2013 even while the line between tablet and cellphone blurs. More and more people will do business online, and will expect instant access to their own information, instant service, and increasingly, instant delivery. Facebook will continue to grow, although its prominence may recede somewhat due to the growth of other social media such as Pinterest.
What might change? A new “Apple-killer” device or software could come on the market, significantly changing the way people interact with the technology and with each other.
So there you have it! It’s pretty easy to predict the future when you expect that tomorrow will be just like today, only more of it.
But we know that’s not how it works. TrendSurfing is about taking what’s happening now and imaging what it would take to change things, and more importantly what to do to prepare for whatever might happen.
May your 2013 bring you only happy surprises!
My wife shared a Facebook post with me yesterday. Seems a former co-worker’s daughter was turning thirteen. The mom offered to allow the daughter to start a Facebook page (which the parents would monitor.)
Her daughter replied (in what I’m sure was the classic 13-year-old tone:) “Oh Mom, Facebook is for old people!”
I figured this would happen! I found Facebook when my high school graduating class was planning its 30-year reunion and Facebook was the primary mode of information sharing. Once the parents start using some technology, the kids are going to find something else as fast as they can.
So if not Facebook, what social media are “young people” using now? What implications does that have for you and your business?
The New York Times did a story recently on the future of the RIM BlackBerry called “The BlackBerry, Aiming to Avoid the Hall of Fallen Giants.” The article lists several products that were once the pinnacle of technology – everybody either had one or wanted on – but were superseded by other disruptive technologies.
For now the iPhone and iPad are the giants. I wonder what’s lurking just over the horizon that might make them obsolete?
From the article:
SONY WALKMAN (1979-2010) Before the Walkman, “personal audio” meant holding a transistor radio to your ear. Sony’s invention created an entire category of devices and helped make the company the technology leader of the 1980s. New models (Thinner! Auto-reverse!) were eagerly anticipated, the LP was relegated to the attic and tender moments spent listening to mix tapes from that certain someone proliferated across teenage bedrooms. Sony seemed incapable of putting a foot wrong. It successfully moved the brand into compact discs with the Discman, then bought record labels and movie studios to bring about that illusory marriage of technology and content. When the digital revolution hit, Sony was too beholden to its proprietary formats, as well as to the inertia inside its media companies. Enter Apple and the iPod.
PAGERS (BORN 1951) At first, pagers were attached to people who worked in fields where lives were on the line. That usually meant doctors, though the group expanded in the late 1980s to include drug dealers. Early beepers displayed only numbers, giving rise to a numerical lexicon that included codes like 911 (call me back immediately) and 07734, which resembles “hello” when read upside down. Pagers briefly gained fame in early 1990s hip-hop, showing up in songs like “Skypager,” by a Tribe Called Quest. The pager’s fall was attributable to the disruptive and destructive powers of another technology: the mobile phone. Why beep when you can talk? And a pager message is so tiny that it makes a tweet look like “The Iliad.” The beeper does live on, in limited circles: its network remains more reliable than cell networks, making it useful to E.M.S. and other rescue workers.
PALM PILOT (1997-2007) Filofax brought personal organizers to their analog apogee in the early ’90s, but Palm brought them into the digital age. Palm Pilots were dazzling when they first appeared: all of your contacts, calendars and notes in one slim, pocket-size device. A touch screen, which required a stylus, made navigation easy. And you could add software, bought through an online store. Want a Zagat guide to go along with your personal data? No problem. In later years, Palm even added telephone features, creating a compelling, all-in-one gadget. Despite boardroom dramas that affected the company’s name and its ownership, Palm’s reputation as a source of innovative hardware and software endured until Jan. 9, 2007. Why that date? That’s when Apple introduced the iPhone.
POLAROID INSTANT CAMERAS (1948-2008) Edwin Land’s invention of instant-developing film in 1948 put a darkroom inside a handheld camera. That achievement gave his Polaroid Corporation a distinct advantage over traditional film cameras. By 1980, Polaroid was selling 7.8 million cameras a year in the United States — more than half of all the 15 million cameras, instant and traditional, sold that year. In 1985, it won a major patent-infringement suit, forcing Kodak to abandon its own instant-camera efforts. The victory was short-lived. The late ’80s brought the rise of the digital camera. By 2000, digital cameras began appearing on cellphones, placing cameras in millions of pockets. Polaroid declared bankruptcy for the first time in 2001 and stopped making instant film in 2008. Kodak declared bankruptcy on Jan. 19.
ATARI 2600 (1977-c.1984) It wasn’t the first game console, but the Atari 2600 brought video games into the home and popular culture. Over its life span, more than 30 million were sold. Pong, Combat, Pitfall and Frogger soaked up children’s afternoons. Then came the PC, which could play games and do much more. Atari rushed out games, assuming that its customers would play whatever it released. They didn’t. Millions of unsold games and consoles were buried in a New Mexico landfill in 1983. Warner Communications, which bought Atari in 1976 for $28 million, sold it in 1984 for no cash.
This post was spurred by one I stumbled across at The Scholarly Kitchen blog calledWhy E-books Are Turning the Library and Publishing Worlds Upside Down (thank you WordPress!)
After reading that post I got to thinking about the similarities between what happened with the music recording industry with the advent of the mp3 player, file sharing sites, iTunes and cheap digital recording and editing software. At one time, the big players in the recording industry controlled what got recorded, released and promoted. If you wanted your music to reach a wide audience you had to jump through their hoops and play by their rules. They based those decisions on what they thought would sell and what artists would make them the most money.
Now, almost anyone can make a near-professional quality recording, sell it on iTunes and promote it world wide on the web. There is still a recording industry and they still play a role, but it’s much more open now. What was once the sole province of “experts” and “professionals” is now available to nearly everybody.
Or consider photography. We heard of the giant of the photo industry, Kodak, declaring bankruptcy. Funny thing is, Kodak was largely responsible for taking photography from the hands of “experts” and “professionals” and putting it in the hands of everybody. Where Kodak missed the boat was its reliance on the physical over the digital. Their business model assumed that a “picture” was something that you could hang on a wall or put in an album. Just as mp3s overwhelmed records and cds, jpegs (and such) overwhelmed film and prints.
So, where does this leave the book publishing industry? If the trend is always toward the digital over physical, then e-books are the wave of the future. I think publishers are catching on, but I don’t know if their business models will support the shift. The other trend is shifting production from experts and professionals to the masses. I don’t know if the publishing industry is at all ready for this. If the tools for making digital books are readily available and easy to use (InDesign, iBooks Author), and channels exist for making those books available to the public (Amazon, iBooks), and authors are willing to create and use their platforms to promote their work (websites, blogs), then why bother with going through all the hassle to get a book published by one of the big houses?
That’s not to say that books as we know them will disappear, or that Random House is going to go bankrupt any time soon. There will always be a market for paper and ink, just as there’s still a market for vinyl records and film photography. It’s just that the market will be shrinking and becoming a niche rather than the mainstream.
So what else will be impacted by the “physical to digital” and “expert/professional to masses” trends? Will it affect your business? Are you ready?
It’s official. A study released by Google yesterday shows that mobile devices, and smart phones in particular, are now the dominant means of Internet connectivity in five key global markets.
Google conducted the study of smart phone versus feature phone ownership rates throughout last year, pulling data from the USA, the UK, France, Germany, and Japan. It found that, while smart phones were were quickly pushing out older feature phones—as you can see above—together, a full 10-percent more people own these connected mobile devices than PC’s or laptops (78-percent vs 68-percent). Tablets were counted separately and are owned by an average of 13-percent of people in these markets.
Wired Magazine featured a story on “Why the Clean Tech Boom Went Bust” using the Solyndra failure as a case study. A long read, but well worth it, particularly if you believe that “clean and green” energy is just around the corner. I think this paragraph sums up the main point:
Perhaps the biggest force working against not just Solyndra but clean energy in general is this: Because natural gas has gotten so cheap, there is no longer a financial incentive to go with renewables. Technical advances in natural gas extraction from shale—including the controversial practice of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking—have opened up reserves so massive that the US has surpassed Russia as the world’s largest natural gas supplier.
Clean Tech isn’t going to replace fossil fuels just because it’s a good idea and better for the environment. As long as traditional energy is cheaper to produce and use, clean & green will remain on the edges. Large investments in clean tech haven’t produced the breakthroughs needed, and fossil fuel prices haven’t reached the tipping point where consumers will demand alternatives in profitable numbers.
Do energy prices impact your business? What do you think it will take to make clean & green viable?
By now you’ve probably heard about Kodak filing for bankruptcy protection. For years – generations even – Kodak was synonymous with photography. My grandmother even called any camera a “Kodak”. How did such a dominant company miss the digital photography wave?
Well, they didn’t really. Sorta.
Kodak actually invented and holds the patents on much of the technology that enabled digital photography. They demonstrated the first digital camera in 1975. At least some part of the company recognized that a new wave was coming, even if they couldn’t tell how big it would be. Meanwhile, the company as a whole continued to ride the camera/film/print wave they had surfed for years.
As the wave grew, other companies like Sony and Canon positioned themselves to ride it. Kodak eventually did too, but it was late to the game and they really were trying to ride a different wave.
Kodak believed that, even though people would be taking digital photos, they would still want a “picture” – a tangible print, something they could frame or put in an album. Their “EasyShare” line of digital cameras were designed to connect to a printer to make it easy to share (!) your pictures without a computer. And even though Kodak bought one of the early online photo sharing sites, Ofoto, they seemed to think of it as a place to hold photos for printing.
So, like a surfer late to a wave, or not paddling fast enough to catch it, Kodak missed the crest of the digital wave. And when the film & print wave crashed, so did Kodak’s business.
What might this say for your business? What wave are you riding now that might be nearing shore? What ripples or swells are out on the horizon of your industry that might turn into a big wave? How can you make your business agile enough to be in position to catch that wave if (when) it comes?
The first is a Kinect-type 3D visualization tool that will allow online shoppers to virtually “try on” clothes:
The ability to try clothes on at the store has been a benefit catalogue or online channels have never been able to compete with. But now, the sophisticated depth-camera behind Kinect is being used to reveal how the clothes fit on your body-shoppers can evaluate a heat map output to see where the item is tight or loose fitting.
The second is a sort of indoor GPS that will allow shoppers to find specific items in a store and allow retailers to “push” information to consumers’ smartphones:
…enables in-store navigation to help the shopper find what they’re looking for with significant accuracy. The opportunity to have customized offers and loyalty rewards based on our proximity to the shelf will be transformative for both marketers and shoppers.
The third is printable MEMS:
Microelectro-mechanical systems are basically just very small electronic devices and they’ve redefined what even the tiniest of objects are capable of
While MEMS are not new, due to advances in printed electronics, they are increasingly enabling sensors in a range of devices and products. Nike Plus, Jawbone, FitBit and now Motorola have launched products that track your physical activity with precision. However, using MEMS for exercise, mood, sleep, and nutritional purposes is just a start. Expect to see printed sensors appearing on durable goods and disposable products – imagine the wine bottle that shows if it’s been kept at optimal temperatures, or the ability to combine automotive data with your purchase history to help you make smarter, more efficient shopping trips. Watch out because when it comes to shopping, micro sensors, not robots will inherit the earth.
Virtual dressing rooms, smart stores and smart stuff – coming soon to a retailer near you!
Apple announced today that it is getting into the e-textbook business. Will students in the future trade a backpack full of textbooks for an iPad?