Every year about this time I try to predict the technology trends for local government that will influence how we do business in the coming year. This year, I am doing something a little different. I am starting with an article that covers some of the changes that we have seen in the past few years that will define trends for 2012. This is the first of two articles for Trends 2012.
We are living in one of the most exciting times in technology. Products and services introduced in the last few years have truly changed the way we live, work and play. We have information, entertainment and communication all at our finger tips. Computing has become powerful and ubiquitous.
As I look over the past ten years, there are many companies that have introduced new and amazing technology. However, I feel four companies have really changed the way we live and interact with that technology. These are Apple, Amazon, Google, and Facebook.
I think there is little doubt that the iPhone and iPad have changed the way we use and interact with technology. These powerful devices have defined the user experience and moved it to new levels of power and ease of use. One only has to watch a two year old with an iPad to see how intuitive it is to use. That and the lightness of the device have made it a choice of many from business to the home. Steve Jobs even went on to propose that we have entered the “post-pc” era. The initial reaction was heated and filled with resistance, but that seems to have changed as time is proving him correct and more people are using tablet devices as opposed to desktops.
And Google, what would today’s world be like if we could not “Google it”? Google has literally become a tool that we cannot live without. It allows us to search and find information on any topic we can imagine. But in addition to being a search engine, Google has introduced a lot of technology that has been game changers. They were one of the first to introduce the cloud and hosted products for the office. They are in the operating system business with Android and the major competitor for the Apple iPhone. And they are one of the few that can seriously challenge Facebook in the social media world with Google+.
That leads me to the third company, Facebook. They have changed the way we interact with one another. Developed as a tool for college students, people from all age groups, and backgrounds, now use it to communicate and share information. Facebook has led and dominates the social media world. With over 800 million users, their services are engrained into the lives of many of us. And with every update of their software we share a little more of our lives with the world. With Skype partnering with Facebook and Google + having built in video, we are moving to a social world online in which friends may never be in the same place. Face to face video is here. Combine this with Timeline, and all of a sudden we are close to having our entire lives stored and available to the world in a digital format.
The fourth company is Amazon. They have definitely changed the way we shop. Order something today; enjoy it being delivered to your door tomorrow. They have removed the hassle of going to the mall and offer better prices. They have also revolutionized the book market and how we buy and read books. Their latest reader is designed to deliver all types of content right to our finger tips. And if you will note, all four of these companies are poised to deliver content to our devices.
And what about technology itself, what is changing there? Let me start with a controversial one, email. Sheryl Sandberg, COO Facebook made the statement that email is probably going away. She was citing the fact that the younger generation is using other means to communicate. However, there are also other signs that indicate this may be true or at least, email in the way we know it now may have to change. There are several CEOs of major tech firms stating that it is inefficient and wastes precious resources in its present format. CEO Thierry Breton of Atos has banned his employees from sending internal email forcing other communication tools to surface. This is a technology that is changing.
Another technology is the cloud. It was the rage in 2011 and it is definitely changing the way we currently do and will do business. There are many successful players in this arena and lots of great technology services. As I mentioned above, Google was one of the first companies to really be recognized for its cloud offering. However, Microsoft with the most used Office products are there too. Apples iCloud offers services that are a little different and offer more of a consumer touch. Regardless of the provider, this technology offers tremendous potential for the future.
Wireless devices are also changing our world in ways they never did before. In 2011, the number of wireless devices in the US exceeded the entire population of the US. These include smartphones and tablets. They allow us to be in constant contact and access information from anywhere. Current numbers for the end of 2011 indicate sales in excess of a 100% increase over 2010. They will definitely have a big impact in the coming years.
2011 also saw Internet Explorer (IE) fall below 50% of the browser market. Web developers in the past could program to this standard and not worry. However, IE is now being challenged by Firefox, Chrome, and Safari on the desktop. In the mobile world, IE is rarely used. This market is dominated by Safari Mobile, Opera Mini, and Android browsers. This offers a challenge for providing services via the web.
The last technology that I would like to highlight is Siri. Apple introduced Siri with the iPhone 4s in October. While some would argue that this is just another voice recognition software, Siri is a lot more sophisticated. Siri builds real intelligence into the voice recognition. Siri is able to look at services on your smartphone and interact with them. If Siri cannot find your request on the smartphone, it will look to the Internet for help. This includes huge databases at Apple that are tied to Google and other search engines. One of those , WolframAlpha, is a powerful search engine from the mathematics world. This is another game changing technology that will have a huge influence on how we interact with our devices.
As I stated in the beginning of this article, these are some of the companies and technologies that I see influencing government technology in 2012. They definitely do not represent all of the fantastic products on the market but they do represent some of the ones that have significantly impacted our lives and how we deliver services. Check out the next blog for my predictions for 2012.