On May 17th, the Churchill Club held a panel discussion, "The Next Wave of Technology: Iterative or Incendiary?" Paul Saffo, director and Roy Amara Fellow at the Institute for the Future (click here for my audio interview with Paul prior to the event), was the moderator. The panelists included:
- Craig Mundie, CTO, Microsoft (click here for my audio interview with Craig prior to the event)
- Farzad Nazem, CTO, Yahoo!
- Phil Wiser, vice president and CTO, Sony Corporation of America
From left: Craig Mundie, Farzad Nazem, Phil Wiser
(The complete program is available as an MP3 that can be downloaded or, if you’re already subscribed to ZDNet’s IT Matters series of audio podcasts, it will show up on your system or MP3 player automatically. See ZDNet’s podcasts: How to tune in).
The discussion was expectedly more about interative waves rather than anything "incendiary"--which is a strange choice of words, given that it goes up in flames rather than rising like the Phoenix from the flames. Saffo didn't make up the title of the panel and used the term "non-linear" to describe a major paradigm shift or discontinuity or disruption or revolution, etc. In any case, there was an absence of flaming or fire breathing from Saffo and his panelists. The panelists discussed everything from broadband and China to ringtones and personalization, focusing mostly on what's missing as opposed to what's coming. You'll also hear various explanations as to how Apple (Steve Jobs) managed to corner the market on digital music sales and whether telephone companies will be successful in squashing metro Wi-fi. Here are a few of the highlights:
Saffo: There is a shift from information to media and from mass media to personal media. The old media order really is collapsing. (For more on this topic, check out my audio interview with him.)
Mundie: There will be some fundamental changes but they won't happen overnight. New technology won't arrive deus ex machina--most things needed to create change are already here and now it's about reaching scale (e.g., high speed access). Planet-wide there are enough connected people and a young population to reach a tipping point. The biggest missing piece is the fact that the missing piece is not the same all over the world and the lack of cost effective broadband in the U.S. is frustrating.
Nazem: Grandma and the teenager should not see the same page in the same way. Personalization and relevance are key as people move their lives on-line. The missing pieces is low-cost broadband in the U.S. and the fact the Yahoo's new music service doesn't work on all devices (iPod).
Wiser: The enterainment business, especially for consumer electronics, is about the quality of the experience. Personalization has to look at individuals' interests and predict what they would want to do, which is not what traditional enterainment companies are good at. People who predict what would work well for consumers in the 25 hours a week they typically devote to entertainment will be winners. Some technologies, such as WiMax, may be disruptive to the content experience, and going into homes and delivering something out of band will change dynamics of entertainment market. Improved display technology is the next big driver for video content. Over the course of the next ten years, there will be an explosion of new brands. An open wireless broadband connectivity is needed for entertainment--a combination of wireless technologies and silicon so you can roam seamlessly.