Steve Jobs has the art of the keynote down. Part Silicon Valley, part Hollywood, he’s able to enthrall audiences not just with desirable products, but with the right market timing, anticipation building, mood setting, even the stage lighting. Impressive stuff.
Here’s a collection of his product launch keynotes, in case you ever need some inspiration.
1984: The Macintosh
1998: The iMac
1999: The iBook
2001: The iPod
2004: The iPod Mini
2006: The MacBook
2007: The iPhone
2007: The iPod Nano
2008: The MacBook Air
2010: The iPad
The full keynote is broken up into 10 parts. It’s a bit much to embed all 10 parts here, but if you want to view them, you can see them on YouTube: part4, part5, part6, part7, part8, part9, & part10.
You know what would be cool? If there was the ability to create software just with thoughts.
Imagine sitting at your desk. Looking at a monitor. Electrodes on your head. And seeing your thoughts translated into code.
Just by thinking of a piece of logic or object, it appears. Or picturing a button or form elements, and a user interface is created.
This would just be version 1.0 of Thought Programming, or course. Future versions would allow higher level thinking, much like pseudo code comments. You wouldn’t need to think up each line of code. Thinking in pseudo code would be good enough.
Future versions wouldn’t need electrodes either. And any visual interface into a computer could do, be it your monitor, mobile device, or eyeglasses. You just have to be trained in Thought Programming and have the hardware & software necessary to understand it.
There’s forever been a debate on the best programming language, or syntax, or IDE. Why not remove all of those barriers and formulate code from its most natural state, your thoughts?
The benefits to physically-impaired individuals would be huge too. Maybe the next Facebook or Twitter (or whatever will be huge in the future) will be thought up by such an individual.
Speed would be another advantage. Ever get frustrated because your hands can’t type as fast as you think? Yea, me too. It would be cool to just think of this entry and have it all transcribed.
There is already nascent technology that reads and interprets brain waves. Methinks such sci-fi imagination may not be that far off (relatively speaking). Maybe not in my lifetime, but the next?
In his article, Singhal asserts that phone numbers will go away because of these facts:
No control. Anyone can dial your 10 digits, including your ex-girlfriend, a political campaign worker, or a solicitor. Unlisted numbers, Caller ID and do-not-call lists all tried to solve this problem, but these solutions still don’t prevent unwanted calls.
Phone numbers are tied to a device, not to you. Everyone has multiple numbers, yet your home line is shared, leaving callers guessing the best way to reach you.
User experience is very limited. The phone was designed as a utility—dial a number, have a conversation. It’s remained this way since its inception. It’s not optimized for other experiences, which is why voicemail and conference calls are tedious, and why checking flight status is worse than a root canal.
He sees them being replaced with social networks such as Facebook. “If given a choice between Ma Bell and Zuckerbell as our operator, we should choose Zuck,” he writes.
Perhaps he came across too “sensationalistic” as one commenter criticized. Though I agree with Singhal’s prediction, I would frame it differently. Here is the core reason why I believe phone numbers will lose their utility:
Phone numbers are a poor unique identifier
This seemingly random string of numbers is meant to represent you – or specifically, one of your devices, as Singhal points out. It is a holdover from the telecommunications industry and is a viable solution if you:
only need to call a handful of people often
those people don’t change their numbers often
The cognitive load of a handful of numbers is adequate for some people. However, many people need to be in contact with a wider number. And many change their numbers several times in their lifetime.
If you’ve ever kept a manual phonebook, you’ll know what I’m talking about. Ever try calling an old friend, only to discover their number has been disconnected? That’s what I mean.
I don’t know if Facebook is the appropriate solution, but conceptually, there is a definite need for a way to uniquely identify a person, so he/she can be contacted by friends easily. What are some other ways to uniquely identify a person?
Unique identifier alternatives
There are quite a few ways to uniquely identify a person:
Social security number
License plate number
A name is the simplest real-world identifier. That’s how you identify your friends & family in a crowded room. There’s more here too, which I’ll get to after I go over the others.
Username & email address
Usernames & email addresses are both are common in the Internet. They are used on social media sites, community forums, instant messengers, etc. They are not a great solution, however, because they have limited namespaces.
For instance, there can only be one person who uses the username “mikelee.” This leads to usernames like “mikelee13″ and “mikelee2010.” The meaningfulness of “mikelee12345″ is small. Did you mean to contact “mikelee12345″ or “mikelee12346?” Same goes for email addresses too.
And, for phone numbers as well. New area codes are created all the time to address the growing population, but conceivably, we will run out of available numbers one day. That’s a huge, obvious problem, if you ask me.
Usernames & email addresses have the benefit of nearly unlimited lengths, while phone numbers are limited. That’s a slight advantage with the former two, but because it’s easier to remember shorter identifiers, namespace conflicts still exist. Long identifiers aren’t just more difficult to remember, they are more difficult to display too. Imagine trying to display “mikelee-from-newyork-now-in-sanfrancisco” on your communications device. Jeepers.
OpenID is a technical protocol that is used in user authentication. It’s more for an individual to log into a website, than for you to contact and connect with that individual. So it wouldn’t help in this context.
Social security number
This number is a little too important to be used casually. As a government-issued unique identifier, it can lead to identity fraud if used maliciously.
It’s arguably a poor unique identifier as well. I would love to see the government use a different one. But there are few viable alternatives for them. Facebook sure wouldn’t work. Maybe something biological? I don’t know. That’s a tougher problem to solve.
Driver’s license & passport
Being physical items, it would be difficult to use these in a communications context. Their numbers – which are really alphanumeric – are more portable than the physical items themselves. Being of a limited length, these numbers suffer from namespace issues as well, though the use of alphabetic characters extends them a bit.
But who’s realistically going to memorize or write down their friends’ driver’s license and/or passport numbers? They aren’t even as good as usernames and email addresses. People can select their own usernames & email addresses; driver’s license & passport numbers are issued seemingly at random.
License plate number
I included this one just to highlight its absurdity. A license plate number is a unique identifier for a vehicle, not a person. It’s about as helpful as a phone number, which is really a unique identifier for a mobile device, not a person. The only difference is portability; it’s easier to bring a mobile device with you than, well, a vehicle.
Fingerprints & DNA
There are a whole host of biometric unique identifiers, from physiological (fingerprints, DNA, retinal patterns) to behavioral (voice, gait, typing rhythm). Sure, these can uniquely identify a friend, but how would you realistically use a friend’s retinal pattern to send them a message? Keep a copy of your friend’s eyeball on your keychain? Gross.
Ideal unique identification traits
Obviously, most of the unique identifiers listed above wouldn’t work in a communication context. What would work? The perfect identifier would be:
It’s got to be unique, of course.
It should also be meaningful. “mikelee12345″ isn’t terribly meaningful, but it’s possible to achieve some kind of meaning in such an alphanumeric string. “mikelee-from-newyork” perhaps? Long and unwieldy, but more meaningful.
It should be scalable. Limited-length strings have a, you know, limit. The only way to scale those is to increase the limit – which has its pitfalls (the constraints of limits, I mean). Think Y2K. Someday, we’ll have a Y10K problem.
It should be portable. Some unique identifiers, like physical items and biometrics, aren’t portable. That’s why alphanumeric strings have been used in the past. It’s easy to store such an identifier in a communications device.
With these limitations, it’s easy to see why phone numbers and usernames have been in use. But is there a better way?
Contextual real-world unique identification
I briefly touched on how real names are the simplest real-world identifier. In a crowded room, you can use a person’s first name to identify him/her. For a common name like “Mike,” a last name is necessary. And for a common name like “Mike Lee,” you need to add an extra layer of context, because by themselves, real names aren’t unique enough.
What is a useful layer of context? There are several kinds. You can say, “Mike Lee from New York,” “Mike Lee, who used to work at Yahoo,” or “Mike Lee, that hairy Chinese American guy.” Current location and hometown are common contextual items. Vocation and employment is another, especially in the US. A physical or personality-based description is another.
Some social networks realize this. LinkedIn uses a real name, photo, current employment, and a self-chosen tagline. Facebook uses a real name, photo and a network. On a mobile device, both default to the simplest pair: a real name & a photo.
That, to me, is the key. A real name & a photo. The real name is a natural identifier, and the photo adds context. Together, these are unique, meaningful, scalable (a photo is rich visual representation with a nearly infinite set of pixel combinations), and portal (a photo image file is also small enough to be stored on a mobile device).
Phone numbers vs real names & photos
I consider myself a humanistic technologist. I believe that technology should be centered around the interests, needs, and behavior of human beings. Technology is a tool and shouldn’t be a hinderance, as it often is.
This is what Singhal was trying to convey. Phone numbers surface technical constraints. They are an unnatural way to reach your friends. We’ve put up with it because realistic alternatives haven’t existed. The advent of social networks and mobile devices may finally be offering a viable solution.
Within the code of a LinkedIn or Facebook account, each individual is represented by a numeric (or perhaps alphanumeric) unique identifier. And that’s okay. That’s how programming languages can most efficiently handle a unique entity. But the presentation of that information should not reflect technology’s constraints. It should reflect your actual mental mode of that individual. Such as a real name & a photo.
Most even carry their phones everywhere they go. It’s not just a virtual connection to friends & family, but an entertainment center and life-saving device. I’ll bet most people even find it hard to imagine a time before mobile phones.
Essentially, mobile phones have become anytime, anywhere devices.
And not just a simple mobile phone. A smartphone. As computing power increases and technology costs decrease, smartphones will become commodities. Someday soon, everyone will have a one. That means everyone will be carrying a lot of computing power in their pockets.
What will this mean? Lots of things, though there’s one I want to focus on today:
Social 4D Awareness
Mobile devices will offer a social 4D view of a person.
With a mobile device, we already know:
Where they are in 3D space (latitude, longitude, and altitude)
When they were there in time
With mobile software, we also know:
Who they communicate with in their social network
How they are connected to each person in their social network
How frequently they interact with each connection
Knowing a person’s latitude, longitude and altitude gives us a 3D view of their location. Adding time to this equation gives us a 4D view of their travels. We can tell where a person is and has been, much as Google Latitude’s Location History (GOOG) currently offers.
Every person has several stores of social graphs: their email’s address book, their mobile phone’s address book, their social networks, and their connections on other social media sites. The one device that could harness all of those stores is a mobile device, especially a smartphone that offers email and third-party app capabilities.
This has many applications:
If we watch a person’s location over time, we can determine that person’s velocity. Plot that movement against a street and public transit map and it will be possible to determine the mode of transportation, be it by walking, car, bus, train, or boat. It wouldn’t make sense to get a notification of a nearby sale if you’re on a train, right?
A history of visited locations can offer a detailed view of your preferences and behaviors. Also, how long you’ve been at someplace is just as, if not more important than where you’ve been. Will you be dining at your favorite restaurant? Or just picking up some take-out? Were you at an event (assuming we can get event data), or just using the bathroom at a convention center? An always-on location tracking service doesn’t have the benefit of a conscious check-in, so determining a location’s relevance may be a factor of time.
True Social Network
A utility that is aware of who you email, call, text, and interact with on various social media sites – and how often – would have a vary accurate model of your true social network. Couple that with who you interact with offline, judging by who is in your same location for some length of time, and the accuracy improves significantly.
There may be times when you want to run into friends and acquaintances, such as at a concert, during an industry conference, when you’re traveling, etc. A mobile device that is location-aware and socially-aware can offer this, as evident in the large number of services already doing this. The same could be done for a customer’s favorite locations or chains too, of course.
People are too complexed and nuanced for a one-size-fits-all model. Products that are customizable are generally preferred. However, not everyone will take the time or know how to customize a product. That’s where products with intelligent automatic personalization will win, provided they offer the ability to adjust, refine, and opt-out. Having a social 4D awareness of a person will equip a product with the intelligence for such features.
Having this depth of knowledge means preferences can be inferred. If you travel to a new city that has your favorite restaurant, we can suggest it to you. Or if friends with similar tastes have frequented a restaurant in that new city, we can suggest that too. Same goes for movies, hotels, products, etc. In addition to external suggestions, internal suggestions of features within a product or service can also be made.
This depth of knowledge doesn’t only offer preference inferences, but behavioral predictions as well. If you tend to attend sci-fi movie premieres, we can offer a range of related activities based on that predictive inference, such as upcoming sci-fi movies, nearby restaurants, nearby friends with similar interests, etc. Or a nearby landmark that was used in the movie, if you’ve visited landmark sights in the past.
As you can imagine, any device or business entity holding this much intimate data about a person raises serious privacy concerns. Can you trust that entity to treat this data with respect? Will they offer reliable ways to opt-out and erase this data if you so choose?
Although some companies have mismanaged their privacy controls, I believe there is tremendous value to be had with predictive features. This assumes we handle your data with respect, offer total transparency, maintain crystal-clear communications, provide opt-out and deletion controls, and follow the Bill of Privacy Rights for Social Network Users.
P.S. The scientific side of me knows the label 4D isn’t entirely accurate because time isn’t considered the 4th dimension anymore. The marketing side of me realizes that most people don’t know this and still consider the 4th dimension as time, however. So for ease of understanding, I opted for the older definition of 4D.
Bonforte has a slightly different view of Geoffrey Moore’s Technology Adoption Curve. Instead of looking at just the psychographics of each user group, he adds an additional layer: the driving emotions of each user group. Here is how Bonforte’s user groups map to Moore’s:
The Lovers = Innovators
They purchase something new because they believe it is cool and feel passionately about it. Determining product or service offerings on them can lead to misleading results because their motivations are very different from the other groups.
The Irrationals = Early Adopters
They purchase something new because they are very frustrated with a problem this product or service aims to solve. Their purchase decisions are driven by the same emotions as the majority, but with more intensity. This means their purchase decisions are not always economically rational.
The Efficients = Early Majority
They purchase something new because it solves their problems in a practical way for a reasonable cost. Essentially, they are driven by the same emotions as Irrationals, but with less intensity. Thus, their purchase decisions are more pragmatic.
The Laughers = Late Majority
They purchase something because it is proven, readily affordable, and easy to use. Like the Efficients, they are driven by the same emotions, but at a low, muted level.
The Comfortable = Laggers
They feel their current solutions are good enough and don’t see a good reason to purchase new solutions. While they may have the same problems as the others, they don’t mind.
New technologies tend to attract Lovers and Irrationals alike. However, for the longevity of your business, you should target Irrationals and not Lovers. If you don’t distinguish between the two, you might accidentally build features for Lovers, leaving Irrationals unserved and disappointed. Why is that bad? As Bonforte puts it:
Lovers are the worst possible people in the world from a product manager’s perspective. …they mislead you one hundred percent of the way. Lovers buy a Prius because they like the battery technology.
On the other hand, Irrationals buy a Prius because they love the environment so much they’ll spend $22,000 over the benefit of the environment. They could just buy carbon credits and carbon neutralizers themselves, or they could get a motorcycle, but they overspend on the solution because they’re passionate about the problem they’re trying to solve.
…You really need the Irrationals to slingshot your business into the Efficients and the Laughers. Without that emotion from those irrational people you don’t get the passion that carries the product over the chasm.
If you have a new product, does it target Lovers or Irrationals? How can you tap into customers who care so passionately about the problem you’re trying to solve that they’ll pay a premium for your offerings?
Got the itch to travel? And the desire to meet colleagues from other states? And perhaps catch an interesting talk or two? How about an industry conference?
Within the world of web startups and internet businesses, there are a dizzying number of conferences. I’ve attempted to list all of the major ones here. Upcoming dates are included if they’ve been announced. Many of these conferences have already had their 2010 events, so perhaps I’ll have to create this list again early next year to catch the 2011 events before they happen. If I’ve missed anything, please let me know.
This event started as an Austin, Texas-based music festival in 1987 that added the film and interactive conferences in 1994, all of which have become some of the world’s largest industry events in their respective fields.
Started this year mediabistro.com and All Facebook founder Nick O’Neill, this event aims to unite social app developers to discuss solutions and best practices for building applications in the rapidly expanding social web economy.
This event was started in 2008 by Edith Yeung after a conversation she had with Gary Marshall from the Small Business Administration, and aims to be a conference that inspires entrepreneurs to create and grow their business with the help of technology.
Next date: Already past, no new dates announced yet
Founded by Dave McClure & Dan Martell, this exclusive, invitation-only event is dedicated to educating and helping the next generation of internet startups around issues of fund raising, option pools, and term sheets.
The First Wave was personal computers and the wave of disruption that caused. The second wave was the Internet, ditto. We are now, says Doerr, in the Third Wave.
What exactly is the Third Wave? It’s the tectonic shifts we’re seeing in mobile platforms (read his post here about the iPad), the social graph (particularly Facebook), and online commerce. All of these things are related and being accelerated by each other (Facebook is the largest mobile application, Zynga leverages Facebook and also stokes Facebook growth, Groupon is social/flash commerce, etc.).
John Doerr’s Waves of Disruptive Technologies
To summarize, it sounds to me like Doerr is saying:
The First Wave is personal computing
The Second Wave is the internet
The Third Wave is social media & mobile devices
Common Traits of Disruptive Technologies
When I look at these waves, I see several common traits. Each subsequent wave builds upon one another. Also, each wave:
Increases the level of communication the previous technology affords. These advances, to some extent, mirror real-world interactivity, and extend beyond it. For instance, real-world interactivity only happens at a specific time, a specific location, and by the specific people who are present. Online interactivity can do this, and be at any time, at any place, and by multiple people in real-time or delayed-time. Additional information about the other person can also be shared, such as location, work history, and favorite restaurants, providing a context that real-world interactivity may not.
Decreases the distance & friction between two or more parties, consumer-to-consumer, business-to-consumer, consumer-to-business, and business-to-business. Each of those entities can be plural as well. This means the velocity of communication has gone from weeks to minutes to immediate. This also means traditional layers of hierarchy have broken down. A grade school student can contact a CEO or the President of the United States, for example. Or a fast food franchise can send a coupon to your phone if you walk by one of their restaurants.
Increases the utility of the previous technology for the user. The personal computer allows a person to write reports, spreadsheets, and presentations. The internet allows a person to conduct research on any topic in the world. Social media allows a person to communicate with friends, family, customers, and more. Mobile devices allow a person to conduct any of these operations wherever that person is located. It is becoming easier, faster, and in some ways, more effective & efficient, to accomplish all the tasks you need to accomplish.
Increases the level of intimacy of the technology, while conversely decreasing the level of privacy. A personal computer enables a person to publish print newsletters and reach a limited, yet known audience. The internet enables a person to publish websites and reach a vast, yet unknown audience. Social media enables people to publish thoughts, opinions, and self-expressions, and reach a vast, yet selective audience. Mobile devices enable people to publish anywhere, not just at their laptops, but on a train, plane, or even the toilet. The Third Wave allows you to share your intimate thoughts during potentially intimate moments, though the services are still struggling with the appropriate levels of privacy.
Increases the relevancy & clarity of the message. As the intimacy level increases with each wave, the sender is able to know more and more about the receiver. This enables the sender to customize and personalize each message, making it more relevant and useful to the receiver. A skilled sender will also know how to use the latest technologies to send a clear message that can prompt action and be measurable. There is still value to broadcasting a common message to the masses, though sending customized messages to targeted individuals will yield a higher conversion rate & return on investment.
Predicting the Fourth Wave
When placed in this light, I think it’s possible to draw tentative conclusions on what the Fourth Wave may look like. Some trends that I foresee are:
Predictive computing. Communications have sped up to real-time now. How much faster can you get than that? How about happening before it even happens? There are indications that predictive computing may already be here, so perhaps this will be just another trait of the Third Wave. Facebook already has a data science team that may know who you may hook up with. Ferreals.
Life action streams.Foursquare allows you to publish where you are when you are there, though it’s just a single message and not an exact note of when you arrive and when you leave. Miso allows you to publish what you are watching when you watch it, though it doesn’t let anyone know if you are tuning into the commercials or channel-surfing. The Fourth Wave may offer a continuous stream of all your actions. It’s a bit scary, but I could see its usefulness in ethnographic studies, television ratings, and perhaps tracking your children when they are at Disneyland with you, in case they get lost (mobile phones with GPS can already do this though).
Bio-sharing. Devices could be implanted into us to provide someone with immediate information about our bodies. To some extent, this is already being being done in the medical community, like the pacemakers that transmit a heart’s condition in real-time. But how about a device that monitors how well the body is holding up to chemotherapy? Or how happy or angry you are at a game? Could be a good predictor of riots. I suppose some enterprising individual could foresee social media uses too, like sharing when you’re hungry and when you’re sleeping.
If there was ever a doubt that ebooks would be the wave of the future, now’s the time to cast it away.
When I first heard about the Amazon (AMZN) Kindle, I had high hopes. I saw the coupling of the Amazon marketplace & the Kindle akin to Apple’s (AAPL) iTunes Store & the iPod, and hoped a similar success could follow.
I even put my money where my mouth is and purchased some AMZN stock, which I’m happy to say is up over 50% right now. Hells yea!
I still have high hopes, though the competition has certainly stiffened. And that’s a good thing. Competition makes products better. It also validates a market. With all of this competition, there’s no doubt in my mind that there’s a market for ebooks now. A report by Global Industry Analysts even puts the ebook market at $9.5 billion:
Driven by growing popularity of online shopping, lure of discounts offered by retailers, faster delivery, free shipments, and the convenience offered by home shopping, the market for online books is projected to reach US$9.5 billion by 2010.
United States is the largest market for online books worldwide. The market is estimated at US$4.8 billion in 2007 as stated by Global Industry Analysts, Inc. Europe is the second largest regional market with a projected value of US$2.76 billion in 2009. The US and Europe together account for close to 95% of the global online books market.
Imagine how much larger this market will grow once non-English ebooks are released & made available. Big international growth opportunity here.
There have been other small indications of market growth domestically too, such as:
The iBooks app on the Apple iPad. Some people love this app and it’s been getting a lot of buzz lately. Whether or not you believe the iPad will break into the mass market, the iBooks app is still a significant milestone in the ebook timeline.
The upcoming launch of Google’s (GOOG) ebook store, Google Editions. With their scale & resources, this is bound to make some kind of an impact, though lots of questions still remain: Will they support the ePub format? Will their ebooks be downloadable to ebook readers? How many ebooks will they have? Etc.
Stanford University’s preparation of a “bookless” library for cost reasons. I have a feeling other universities are watching closely; if Stanford pulls this off successfully, others will surely follow. If college students across the country become comfortable with ebooks, they are surely to become ebook consumers once they graduate.