At the kind invitation of HP/Microsoft through Waggener Edstrom, I attended a panel discussion and ideation exercise titled “Future Is: The Online Community Talks About the Future of Things”. Held at the Giraffe Restaurant at the Istana Park across the road from Plaza Singapura, it was attended largely by bloggers, tech entrepreneurs, and students with a new media interest.
Featuring purveyors of tech like Daniel Tsou of Tech65, Willis Wee of Penn Olson, Nicholas Aaron Khoo of C-Net Asia’s Geekonomics, fashion blogger/editor Mina Sunico and Brian Ling of Design Sojourn, the session was a good refresher for me on what’s new and what’s hot in the world of technology.
There were several good points raised during the session which I thought was worth highlighting:
1) The relentless march of technology will continue to shrink computers down to ever smaller dimensions while increasing their processing powers. This process of miniaturisation will also come with increased user-friendliness and simplicity in complexity.
2) Mina highlighted that the democratisation of fashion journalism – and perhaps food and travel journalism I might add – will result in the rise of the fashion e-cons (electronic icons) as well as the levelling of the playing field for enthusiasts. Examples in Singapore include Fashion Nation, ieatishootipost.sg, Chubby Hubby and Travelerfolio. Generally speaking, most mainstream media players are slow to catch on except perhaps Vogue magazine with its Style.com.
3) Despite the progresses in the miniaturisation of technology, there is still a trade-off between the richness of the experience with mobility. True, you can view a blockbuster like Avatar on your iPhone one day, but I can guarantee you that it won’t quite be like that immersive 3-D encounter in the theatres.
4) Interestingly, there is a backlash against the current information overload as people are leaving the digital world in droves and ambling back to more archaic analog activities. I can certainly vouch for this. Many of my geek and nerd friends who were pioneers in the social media space have now withdrawn partially to more pastoral pursuits. Perhaps what’s more important is that people are mixing online interactions with offline get-togethers. Nothing beats seeing somebody face-to-face, shaking their hands, and hearing their voices in the flesh!
5) Willis spoke about the iPhone revolution and how it has changed the game. With the iPhone making smart phones ubiquitous (even coffee shop uncles are carrying them now…), it appears that opportunities arise for marketers in the mobile spaces. With 85,000 applications, iPhone has deftly handled its competition from competitors like Nokia, Blackberry, Motorola and Google. Other than mobile ads and mobile apps, the downloading of songs (iTunes), ringtones and games represent a potential market to watch out for.
6) Nicholas coined an interesting term for the future: bub pfuse, which stood for Bleak, Uncertain, Bright, Personalised, Fun, Unexpected, Social and Exciting. I like how he balanced between being optimistic about what technology promises in the years ahead as well as its drawbacks for those who are disinclined to go digital.
7) On the question of what drives certain technologies to be adopted faster than the rest, it was argued that design, cool factor, value, social acceptance, entertainment, social network effects (ie the more people use them, the greater its utility), localisation and simplification are some key reasons. The adoption of the mobile web in Asia is far more prevalent than the US. For example Google’s office in Japan had staff using mobile phones as opposed to laptops or netbooks!
8) A new term called Simplexity – simple products with complex functions and usability – was coined. The iPhone probably best embraces this concept, but it can also be found in many day to day white goods like refrigerators, microwave ovens, and food processors.
9) Preetam Rai raised a good point about how the use of technology is often coupled to making money. He cited that in Sichuan province in China about six years back, farmers were already putting up photographs of their farm animals on forums to attract tourists from the cities! In addition peer to peer communication technologies like Skype and MSN Messenger were adopted fairly aggressively by countries like Vietnam for business purposes unlike Singapore.
Overall I found that the session was a good attempt by HP and its partner Microsoft to encourage greater dialogue and interaction in the social media spaces. While some of these ideas aren’t exactly cutting edge, they do help to open my mind about the possibilities which the future brings.
Oh yes, there is a great contest called Blog A Trend where you can win cool prizes like a HP Touchsmart PC and HP Minis. Just create a blog post (of at least 300 words), or create a photo story, or produce a video clip about the most compelling vision of the future. Once it’s up on your blog, email your post to HP with the permalink to futureis@ waggeneredstrom.com by 28 February 2010. .
Do you have any views on what the future holds for technology?
Update: Check out this comprehensive photo coverage of the event by techielobang.com.