Monday, July 1, 2013

What if Big Data is about more than detailed analytics? HP's ultrapersonalized Indigo printing

Big data: touted as a way to know more about consumers than ever before.  But twist the idea just a little, and you get new opportunities to personalize data and product delivery in ways never before possible.

HP Indigo digital presses allow Coca-Cola® to get personal


This page from HP demonstrates how digital techniques scaled out the big data idea to 800 million labels for Coke:

Personalization and big data are both examples new abilities to be granular at incredibly detailed levels.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Secure data, not perimeters, as we move to the cloud-based stateless future

Image from Cloudpro.co.uk

Cloudpro: Security at the Edge of the Cloud

This article makes a clear point about the need to evolve security models with the proliferation of multiple inroads to computing.  BYOD and cloud, author Davey Winder says, make the old style "secure the castle" security model unworkable--because there is no longer just one castle.  Instead, he argues, secure the data itself when you must deal with multiple perimeters.

This idea goes hand in hand with the decoupling inherent in the stateless idea:  data, apps, and device, once decoupled from each other, lend themselves especially well to the multi-perimeter security model.  Further, if a device like a Chromebook is run pure cloud, with virtually everything stored away from the device, the need to secure the machine itself is dramatically reduced.




Thanks to tech writer Ron Miller on Google+ for the heads up on this article.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

All Google Glass apps to be web based: tidbit hiding in NY Times Bits Blog

Google Glass image from NT Times Bits blog
Google Emulates Apple in Restricting Apps for Glass - NYTimes.com:

This story from the Times' tech blog, is about restrictions on developers, but the real news for me was this:

"The apps, which will be called Glassware, will be cloud-based, like Web apps, as opposed to living on the device like cellphone apps. "

So, it appears that Google is going with the stateless future for Glass, a good sign, and an indication of their commitment to an ecosystem of web-delivered applications.


'via Blog this'

Monday, April 15, 2013

New York Times reports: the biggest cable network isn't cable, it's streaming video

More Cracks In TV’s Business Model - NYTimes.com:

This is an excellent article examining "unbundling," when consumer choice overrides the current business models of TV networks and other media outlets.  If you're read Infrics.com for a while, you'll see two big themes here:

--Greater consumer power and choice about media: The Era of You
As author David Carr points out, "Historically, once the consumer decides, it doesn’t matter what stakeholders want. They can’t stop what’s coming." 

--Decoupling of content from distribution and consumption: statelessness
Like many forms of media, legacy behavior is to preserve high profits by linking the art you buy (TV show, movie, book, application for your computer, music) to some form of distribution method (cable, iTunes, Google Play, physical DVD or CD) and to a fixed location or device for consumption (home TV set, movie theater, downloaded copy on your specific computer, tablet, or phone.)  

Unrealized across the board in the emerging scenario is the massive business and profit opportunity in digital content licensing that works with the stateless model, and allows the license purchaser to consume the art via the distribution model and on the device of their choosing.  

Let's keep watching this story: there's much more to come.



Friday, April 12, 2013

Mary Meeker calls us the "Asset-Light Generation." Consumers do their best to live stateless, even though the future is still arriving

Will we be burdened by technology, or will it free us?
Slide from KPCB
Kleiner Perkins analyst Mary Meeker has used a new term to describe our emerging tech world: "asset-light."  The slide shows us this idea in a snapshot. You can know a lot and do a lot with few encumbrances, and consumers are adopting asset-light behaviors rapidly.

With that idea, she has given a name to one of the central concepts of statelessness.  In the stateless future, data, applications, and device have been decoupled from each other. Because everything's always available, on every device, asset-light behavior is a natural outcome.

My take on that idea is this: consumer behavior is already anticipating that future, but our applications, operating systems, and devices have yet to catch up.

It's a simple concept; asset-light behavior is setting our expectations, creating the next wave in our bigger "life with technology" picture.  To fully realize those expectations,  it takes stateless apps, data, and devices.  The stage is set for an explosion of "everything, everywhere, all the time."

The next wave?  In 1980, Alvin Toffler's "Third Wave" postulated that humanity has gone through major eras, which he called "waves." Toffler said we have been through waves one and two: agricultural and industrial. We were all embarking on the third, the information age, which is still emerging.  Computing, central to the information age, has had waves as well.

  1. Mainframe: You go to your stuff, which is immovable and unshareable.
  2. Client-Server: I carry all my stuff with me, often spread across many devices.
  3. Stateless future: I don't carry any of my stuff, but I can get all of it whenever I want.
This "whenever I want" idea drives the benefits of statelessness.  It's the thing that makes it possible for us to be "asset-light." In the stateless future, everything you own is available on every device in every location: phone, tablet, laptop, TV, store, car, airplane.  Because everything you need is everywhere you are, you and I will no longer be bound by the need to lug it around.

Once the apps and data are independent of the device, no one need ever again carry a complete data center with them. When you think about it, that's really the the central idea of fat OS laptops, tablets, and phones; they're all little self-contained packages of computing power, operating system, apps, and data: legacies all the way back to the first PCs and sneakernet file transfers.   There are two early exceptions, stateless devices from Google (Chrome OS) and Mozilla (Firefox OS.)  The stateless future promises we'll have all our stuff with us without the burden of the packed briefcase carried by the businessperson on the left in the photo above.

Asset-light behavior--acting stateless but with "all my stuff with me" technology--comes at a huge cost.   The legacy of the client-server model shackles each of us to security risks, incredibly frustrating app and OS updates, needless cost and complexity of devices.  Even with media and data files in the cloud, synchronizing multiple local copies to support the old model is practically stone age.

The thing is, almost the entire mobile and consumerization movement, which appears revolutionary, is still just a kludge to get us to asset-light stateless behaviors because the background architectures of applications, data rights, storage, and operating systems have not caught up with the way many of us already live.

This is a fascinating way to think of technology.  We have created the tech equivalent of cognitive dissonance; the way we live and the technologies that we use to make that life possible are not in line with each other.  In my opinion, the idea of an asset-light generation is a solid marker that the stateless future is destined to become real.

Meeker's presentation, from last December at Stanford, is here.  The description of the asset-light generation begins on slide 59.
2012 KPCB Internet Trends Year-End Update from Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers

 This link will run a search of all the Infrics.com coverage of the stateless future, sorted by date, most recent first. 










Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Google Think: Creation, Curation, Connection, Community define "Gen C"

Gen C illustration from Google Think
Introducing Gen C - The YouTube Generation – Think Insights – Google: "Gen C is a powerful new force in consumer culture. It’s a term we use to describe people who care deeply about creation, curation, connection, and community. It’s not an age group; it’s an attitude and mindset defined by key characteristics. 80% of Gen C is made up of millennials, YouTube’s core (though by no means only) audience."

Here is a link to the report as a .pdf

I'm not sure we're quite ready for yet another "Gen (insert letter of choice here,)" but the 4 Cs do capture a lot of what seems to be going on in our use of technology and our consumption of content.

Synchronous content consumption and communication: in decline or on the way out?

This made me think a little more deeply about a couple of related artifacts of daily life I've noticed lately, and they both deal with synchronicity:
  • The days of consuming content in a synchronous fashion, like tuning in to a network broadcast of a sitcom every week at the same time, seem terribly old fashioned now.  It's much more "at the time, in the place, and on the device I choose."  Have you also noticed the growth of chunking out time and consuming TV series in multiple episodes all at once?

    This does not portend well for TV networks, cable companies, and satellite providers, but it fits in perfectly with the idea of the stateless future, in which we've blown apart the old links that tied content to specific storage, delivery, and consumption mechanisms.  There is probably collateral damage to in-theater movie viewing as well; when you can see a movie in HD at home on a big screen with excellent surround sound, streamed on the internet at the time of your choice, that has become a highly-viable option compared with the big screen (and social) experience at the theater.

    Asynchronous content consumption is yet one more sign that business models built on tight links between content, delivery, and consumption are in danger.  If they don't change to accommodate this emerging reality, their days are likely numbered.
  • There is a new mode of personal communication I see more and more often Instead of purely synchronous, like a phone call or video conference that happens in real time, or asynchronous, like e-mail, but near-synchronous.  This is the text message effect: "I will answer you quickly, but don't interrupt me without notice for a phone call."  I find myself resenting phone calls that come in unannounced, and cautious about initiating one myself without texting first to check "is this a good time to talk."

    We are more connected than ever before, but also seem to demand a greater level of control in just how we divide our time among the screens, keyboards, and speakers of our daily lives.  The "I am multitasking and will get back to you soon" near synchronous effect could be our means of handling those demands.



Monday, March 11, 2013

5 things that won't exist in the (stateless) future

In my opinion, the trend markers for technology and business point to a future that is stateless: one in which data, applications, and the devices that interact with them are all decoupled from one another. Some of the current top-level predators of the tech world are endangered species.


Cloud computing is fundamentally stateless.  So is all the banking you do on your bank's website. The Chromebook is the first stateless laptop, with a stateless phone OS on the way from Firefox.  My coverage of stateless includes business cases, impact on licensing, apps, and digital rights, and a 5-step "try it now" guide for businesses:

The Stateless Future


As that future emerges, these 5 things are endangered:


  1. Fat operating systems: MacOS, Windows, iOS, and Android are all built on a central idea of the tech past, that operating systems, applications, data, and device are tied to each other.  The OS future belongs to lightweight systems that move beyond that concept: they provide connection to the net, user interface for web apps and data, and almost none of the other client-server complexity that fat OSes entail.

    Today, the only two OSes that reflect that future are Google's Chrome OS and Mozilla's Firefox OS. The old-fashioned operating system vendors may one day play catch-up, but their legacy operating systems are already extinct.
  2. Local applications, app downloads, app updates:  all of these disappear when web-sourced applications reach maturity.  App stores as we know them will likely continue, but the apps they sell will be web-sourced, not installed locally.
  3. Branded, device-specific media sales and delivery: iTunes and Google Play have a terminal illness.  They are efforts to keep users locked in to ecosystems of music, applications, written word, and video that perpetuate a business model based on outdated technology concepts.  As such they're both easy targets for stateless rights management, and the disintermediation of Apple or Google; unless they change profoundly, and fairly soon, they will both be irrelevant.

    Who is most closely aligned with the future?  Amazon.com, with their HTML5 web app, their retroactive cloud-enablement of CD music bought in the past by their customers, and their willingness to meet customers on any device, any place, any time.  Amazon doesn't have to care about OS or device, as long as you buy from them.  
  4. Cost as an indicator of the power of your device: Once, tech status came from the speed and power of your PC, laptop, mobile or tablet.  Processors, RAM, storage space, all those markers of your tech cred no longer matter when the power is in the web, and essentially unlimited.  See Google's Pixel Chromebook as the harbinger of this effect.  It's expensive, but where is the money? In the display and user interface, and in the construction, which looks good enough for an executive to show proudly in the boardroom.

    The $1400 Pixel has faced critical disdain because it scarcely does anything more than a $250 Samsung Chromebook.  But that is exactly the point.  The Pixel reflects the stateless future, and a wave of technology democratization.

    The need for social and business positioning has always been with us; for the last 20 years or so, the device you carried gained status from what it could do, and how much you spent for it.

    When tech ability ceases to differentiate, other status markers come into play.  Possible outcome: status-branding of devices, such as a Coach mobile phone, or a Mont Blanc laptop.
  5.  Device encumbrance: a clumsy term, but an important idea.  Your entire world of contacts, data, apps, and all media need no longer be connected to any specific device in your possession.  Forget your laptop?  Lose your phone?  It no longer matters, beyond whatever status your specific machine brings you (see #3 above.)  Buy a $10 cheap temporary phone, log in, and everything you ever had is with you again.

    NONE OF YOUR STUFF resides on the device.  The security benefits of this effect alone make a hugely compelling business case for enterprises.  
This list is intended to be provocative, to challenge ingrained ideas about the nature of our devices and about ownership of the content they currently hold.  The old concept is that data, application, operating system, and machine are tightly linked; let go of that, and every one of these outcomes is not only possible, but likely. 

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Salesforce.com "customer company" video, more era-of-you in action


Earlier this week, I posted a link to Appirio.com's blog post on the new "customer company" approach at Salesforce.com.   Here is their own video explaining and celebrating the idea.  Know more, in more places, and have ever-more-powerful choices.  That's what the era of you is all about.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Personalization matters: three articles speak to the heart of "the era of you"

When I first started talking in 2011 about "the era of you" as one of the big ideas driving our tech and business future,   I wrote:
The era of you: a great idea revolutionized by 21st century technology
Image from the Palm Springs Automobilist Facebook site

"It’s partly about the way the internet and social networks are changing our sense of what a community means. It’s about the increasing ability of end users in enterprises to choose and deploy their own technology solutions. It’s about the flattening of power structures in business and the increasing power of consumers to interact with businesses. But none of these by itself expresses the big idea; each of these trends is a part of the bigger concept:



Technology is enabling individuals to know more, in more places and situations, and have increasingly powerful choices about the way they live and work. We are entering the era of you."

The era of you stakes are getting higher, reshaping business models and business strategy.  Here are recent articles that drive the point home:

--from Fast Company
Why Companies Now Have to Romance the Same Customers They Once Bought


--from cloud integrator Appirio, on Salesforce.com
Salesforce’s shift in message is a recognition that consumers have more power than ever before in a connected world. No longer are they at the mercy of companies that treat them poorly; they have a loud, far-reaching voice with real power in the marketplace.

--from CIO.com
Gartner finds that CIOs now identify Customer Relationship Management (CRM) as their top IT spending priority

Finally, here is my report on what Disney's "Beauty and the Beast" can teach us about the power of technology. It can personalize business relationships and reintroduce the small village metaphor on the stage of the whole world:

We can now use technology to re-introduce highly personalized services that feel like village life in its most idealized form. Who will dream big enough to bring it to us? As Belle said, “there must be more than this provincial life.”

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Touch, biomechanical sensors, heads-up: human-machine interaction news

Interface moving beyond mouse, keyboard - SFGate:

Leap Motion supplied this photo for the SFGate article:
replacing the mouse with gesture control.
OK, "thinking out of the box" has become an incredibly trite, overused term to describe innovative approaches.

But new ways of interacting with machines--computers, displays, 3-D projections--mean there IS no box.  This short Bloomberg update published by the San Francisco Chronicle summarizes what's on the horizon.

I think the muscle-sensing Myo device from Thalmic labs  (video at right) is an especially interesting idea: worn on your forearm, it senses muscle motion down to precise finger movements, and translates it into ways to interact with displays or projected images.  I saw Microsoft labs demo an early version of this idea in 2010 at MIT's EmTech conference; as a for-instance, say you are wearing Google Glass, and want to enter text by typing, rather than voice (a PIN, or something personal.)  Glass could project a virtual keyboard into your field of vision, while the Myo device senses you typing on any surface with your fingers, translating it into a virtual image of your hand at the projected keyboard.

As technology gets better, it disappears.  Our behaviors of interacting with tech can become more transparent and more subtle.  This is an amazing area of rapid development in technology.


Friday, March 1, 2013

These 10 trends are hiding in plain sight: decoding technology triggers

--If we learn to ask the right questions, and apply the right tools, we can see important technology and business events before they happen: these "hide in plain sight" trends are technology triggers.    

First, here is the concept:

When Phillips introduced the compact cassette tape in 1962, they didn't foresee that Sony would use the idea in 1979 to bring us the Walkman.  The cassette made music portable and easy to copy at home.  The Walkman introduced us to the idea that we could hear what we wanted anywhere, and no longer be at the mercy of a radio station programmer when we weren't in front of our record player at home.  Cassettes were a technology trigger; why didn't we see it coming?


  • it took time for the tech to get better, 
  • and it took genius for someone to see it as a new business opportunity.  


Sony went on to rule the personal portable music business for many years, until other triggers made the cassette obsolete.  Except that Sony didn't see that coming, and lost its market dominance.

That's the nature of triggers, they're often cool in their own right, but rarely appreciated in real time for the true impact they will have. One trigger begets another; without the Walkman, would the market have been ready for the idea of the iPod?

Can we do better at that "real-time" part, and be the early Sony with the Walkman instead of the Sony that got blindsided by the iPod?  Can we think of triggers in ways to jumpstart innovation, or give our business a competitive advantage?

Maybe.  I've put this tool together and shown it before, based on the idea that you can take elements of a big idea--in this case, music--and look at the evolution of the ideas as horizontal timelines.  Back away, and the verticals reveal the big shifts brought on by trigger technologies or events.

Here is what it looks like:


We can track the cascades of trigger technologies through the entire reshaping of music sales and consumption.  Beyond cassettes and Walkmans, we had compact discs digitizing music, and home PCs powerful enough to rip, store and copy at very high quality: trigger.  Perhaps the ultimate trigger event was broadband to the home, enabling frictionless sharing, real-time streaming music, and online digital music stores.

So that's the background.  There are triggers in play at this moment, here are 10 I think are worth watching:


  1. Maturity of machine voice recognition and interaction-by-voice Voice interaction is still crude, hindering its adoption for hands-free machine operation, customer service, text entry.  Maturity here triggers a world of possibilities. Impact: Automobile interaction, digital personal assistants, customer service, almost all mobile services and social interactions.
  2. Computer image recognition and taxonomy Computers still do a poor job of recognizing things, and an even worse job of detailed identification.  The ability to say “what building is this?  What kind of plant is this? Who is that?” will extend the power of search to the entire visual world. All the workarounds we use to take the place of simple recognition, like barcodes, RFID, QR codes, can simply disappear. Impact: shopping, education, travel, social interaction, manufacturing, digital personal assistants. #3-5 deal with the major trigger effect of artificial intelligence as it matures and comes into daily life
  3. AI: context The ability to infer meaning by context is a crucial enabler for digital personal assistants and other more sophisticated computer tasks.  A spouse learns quickly not to talk about Aunt Marge’s boyfriend when he’s around her ex, a contextual simplicity that still baffles computers.  Success here is easier to identify by example than by descriptor.  
    Contextual AI would know that a traveler in NYC who says, “directions to airport” would want JFK instead of LaGuardia because of his existing flight itinerary for that day. We are seeing glimmers of this trigger in Apple's Siri and in Google Now.
  4. AI: nuance Beyond context, the use of artificial intelligence to derive the more fine-grained nuance of a situation is a necessary enabler to unlock high value computer services like excellent machine-based customer service, and the use of computers to automate currently-tedious but vital tasks like data cleansing. There is a huge range of tasks currently using disengaged, low-paid and low-job-interest humans simply because the nuance trigger has not matured in the AI space. Impact: customer service, digital personal assistants, security.
  5. AI: enterprise data and application integration Businesses already know how much master data management means. They are aware how important it is, how impactful if they could seamlessly work with data across many situations, applications, and languages. But even if all new products were designed to work together out of the box, this fact remains. When it comes to the "as-is" state of data and apps, corporations must deal with high expense, little agility, and the "IT says no" mentality. It's due to the burden of the programs and services that are already installed and handling day-to-day business, and the business model pressures of vendors who would be endangered if you could plug and play applications from anyone. Once this AI trigger matures, we can apply computer speed to data concepts like this: "customer," "client," and "name" can mean the same person. This ability takes both contextual awareness and a fine sense of nuance--including the appreciation of the proper time to call for human help. But once it emerges, there is hope to manage that data nightmare with speed, accuracy, and transparency--to make it appear that those systems are cooperating because AI is applying real-time integration that makes it happen.
  6. Stateless apps, data, and devices Anyone who has read my posts on Infrics.com will see this as a soapbox topic for me. Data, applications, and machines have historically been linked, tied to one another like members of a chain gang. Once you decouple them from each other, you can use each to its best advantage, at the time you want and on the device that makes the most sense. Data is available everywhere, applications work seamlessly on any device, and the machines themselves can be dramatically less expensive. The "lightness" that the stateless decoupling enables is revolutionary; it is the source for the slogan on the masthead of this site: "everything you need is everywhere you are." As the stateless idea matures and gains market penetration, the trigger cascades into modular, just-in-time application development and delivery, to revolutionary models of rights purchase and ownership, and to radical agility in the development and deployment of devices.
  7. Digital rights management and rights ecosystems Hopelessly fragmented, driven by efforts to preserve legacy business models, contentious, and volatile, our current system of digital rights is a mess.  Ownership and licensing rights involve three layers: creators, sellers, and buyers. Of these, buyers of music, video, books, and applications are the least well served in the current model.

    The trigger-to-come: the separation of rights control from its current tight links to those who sell and deliver content. An independent third party rights unifier serving the buyer will explode the existing business models, and bring new opportunities for sales, storage, and delivery of digital content.
  8. 3-D printing Kudos have to go to Jackie Fenn at Gartner, who has told us for at least 10 years that 3-D printing is an important idea.  

    I have to say I agree, but as cool as 3-D printing sounds as a concept, I believe the true impact lies beyond the "wow" factor. Where we'll see revolutionary change lies in the businesses and related technologies it will trigger.  The state of the art is still crude, slow, and expensive, but so were laser printers in the 80s.


    The closest analogy I can think of for the most profound trigger effect is that this digitizes things in the way that CDs brought us digitized music.  Who will profit and who will lose when you can “rip” an object, make a perfect copy, store and transmit it online, and share it at will? Some clear impacts: manufacturing, including supply chain; extreme personalization of "made" goods; and the new importance of rights management for objects that can be printed at will.
  9. Social authentication Tech security to date relies on two things: something you have (key) and something you know (password.)  We are very close to the ability to allow a return to the most fundamental, earliest form of authentication: who you know.   Social authentication will enable a huge shift to make security technologies transparent and invisible.  Just as you once ran a tab at the corner restaurant because they knew you personally, that small-village ability could soon spread to our entire online and in-person lives.
  10. Ubiquitous broadband It’s not “you can never be too rich or too thin,” it’s “you can never be too fast or have too much bandwidth.”

    Broadband connections, primarily mobile ones, are immature but growing fast.  This one trigger sets of a cascade of abilities from stateless computing to emerging economy enablement to social revolution. We saw one such revolution in the trigger breakdown illustration for music shown above. This is a case that is less about the technology itself maturing than about its deployment worldwide at higher and higher speeds and at lower and lower cost.
As I've said, trigger events and technologies can be stealthy. I think these cover most of the ones on my radar right now, but I'd like to hear from you. What else is hiding in plain sight? What will we look back on in 5 years and wonder, "why didn't I see that coming?"

Infrics.com coverage of tech triggers will continue, and I'll be working to expand several of the ones listed here into separate, more detailed articles. Broadband is first of the list, look for that report very soon.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Firefox OS is to mobile what Chrome OS is to laptops: update from ZDNet

Mozilla's Firefox OS eyes mobile domination - with tablets to follow | ZDNet

As shown in this slide from Kleiner Perkins' Mary Meeker, there are about 5 billion mobile phones in the world, but only 1 billion of them are smartphones.  The entire presentation is available online.

This is a perfect opportunity for the stateless model, in which a simpler, lower-cost device handles your connection and user interface, but all data and application activity is in the cloud.  Mozilla's Firefox OS is nearing readiness to seize that opportunity space; this ZDNet article provides an update, and useful insight into the way Mozilla sees the stateless model as applied to ownership and rights licenses.

Mozilla VP of mobile engineering Andreas Gal is quoted by ZDNet on this idea: "You sign in with your identity and when you purchase an application you really purchase the application for that identity and not the device. For example, if I sign into my identity and purchase the New York Times app and then go to my desktop browser and assign the same identity, I essentially take that content with me," Gal said.

"Content is no longer bound to one specific device, it is now bound to my identity that I can take with me to all these different devices."

This is precisely the decoupling of device, data, and application I've evangelized for almost two years.  The battles of the future are not between legacy operating systems like Mac and Windows, iOS and Android. They are between different stateless delivery models and the ecosystems that support them, now reflected by Chrome OS and Mozilla OS.  These are going to be interesting times. 


Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Design firm Ziba: 12 trends for 2013. How many does your business know?

The 12 Trends That Will Rule Products In 2013 | Co.Design: business + innovation + design:

How does your company value customer-facing employees?
Image from vogue.it
Here is another set of predictions for 2013, this time from design/innovation company Ziba by way of Fast Company. Their insights are worthy of attention by technologists and business strategists, because they remind us of one really important idea: some of the most important news that impacts tech and business is not directly about either one.

These four stood out:

#2: Customer-facing employees are your brain and your backbone. "Technology in 2013 will focus on helping (frontline) employees do more, more intelligently, and the wisest organizations will invest in this wholeheartedly."

#4: Worth is determined by philosophy, not price. "If two competitors spend equal amounts on production, the one whose ideals resonate with the target market is the more valuable.  Your values are a competitive advantage."

#7: Technology moves too fast to care about.  I've written many times that corporate IT will achieve true value when it essentially disappears, when those who consume IT's work no longer have to know or care how it was achieved.  Ziba's take: "...it’s become too much, too fast. The Internet runs on an alphabet soup of languages and protocols, and only a slim population of early adopters counts pixels or processor speeds anymore. The rest of us just want to know what it’s like to use."

#9: Brand loyalty is how we escape decision fatigue.  "...our options have multiplied rapidly, and it's wearing us out."  It's like asking a really trusted friend, "which one should I buy?"  The difference is, loyalty to your brand could take the place of that friend's advice.

All of this is pure Era of You impact: business success driven by personalization of service, tech-enabled social business and relationships, and corporate concern for users and customers.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

A different take on "top 10 emerging technologies" for 2013, and it's not all about technology

The top 10 emerging technologies for 2013 | Forum:Blog | The World Economic Forum:

--from the WEF blog article, an image of a wristband
made on a 3D printer
Yes, this report is from those global movers and shakers who meet in Davos.  Some of the ideas are to be expected, like 3D printing.  But there are also predictions about healthcare, energy production, and medicine.

As buried as we get in thoughts of applications, mobile devices, and the like, this is a worthwhile look at an even bigger picture.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The "Anti" technology trigger: DRM and 3D printing

Here's a scenario from, perhaps, 2015.

I just bought a $25 case for my phone with a clever new mounting bracket to use in the car. Cool, this is really useful.  To surprise a friend who has the same phone, I take pictures of the case from three different angles and upload them to replicators-r-us.com, who convert the photos to a digital file for a 3D printer, send it to the printing station at my local Kinko's, and store a copy in my Google Drive inbox.  An hour later, I pick up an excellent copy of the case for $5 and present it to my buddy.  By 2018 or so, costs will have come down so far, I'll do the printing at home instead.

The CNET video shows a similar scenario already in production, just not commercialized yet.

When you or I can do that, what has happened to the business model of the original manufacturer, and the designer of the case?  Disintermediated.  Those in the CD industry knew your pain years ago.  Just as we created the ability to digitize music, we will soon have the ability to digitize things.  That means we can store and move them online, we can share them, and replicate them at will.

Yes, 3D printing is not very sophisticated yet, but who can doubt that it is a temporary thing?  Like music, video, books, and applications, some objects are about to become stateless--not permanently bound to one means of storage, delivery, or consumption.  Patent trolls have already figured this out.  Click through to this article from extremetech.com last fall:

How DRM will infest the 3D printing revolution

That is why the title of this post refers to the idea of an "anti technology trigger."  Some developments trigger new uses of existing abilities; some--like imperfectly resolved rights management--hold those new uses back.

This behavior is typical, and expected, whenever a new technology threatens existing business models and profit streams.  Just be warned.  3D printing has profound implications for manufacturers, both as an enabler for your supply chain (parts created just in time, or the ability to recreate archive parts at will) and as a threat to now-secure ownership of creative and manufacturing processes.  We saw firsthand what it did to the music industry, an upheaval that is by no means settled even yet.

Remember, in times of change and controversy lie business opportunity.  One such opportunity, a multi-billion dollar business that doesn't exist yet, is Digital Content Identity and Access Management.

What are you thinking about 3D printing?  Still more hype than delivery? Or are we going to see it in widespread use so quickly we'll have to catch our breath and put it to work?

Monday, February 11, 2013

Before Big Data, clean data | TechRepublic

I've been hesitant to hop on the big data bandwagon while the term is ascending into the buzzword sky like fireworks.
Big Data: sparkly, but remember what it takes to get there
image from public-domain-image.com
Why?  Because I see in the hype the rush to leap right past the unsexy, heavy-lifting work that most companies need to do in order to make sense of the data they already have.  To think you can leap boldly forward without getting your house in order first is largely fantasy: great meat for research companies to pounce on, but hardly a true thing for business.

Furthermore, big data and the associated analytics it promises are tools.  Big data is an enabler for the dramatic personalization promised as part of the "era of you."  That is the important idea, that we can know more, in more places and in more situations, to bring the power of intelligent action to bear in ways that were not possible before.

Before Big Data, clean data | TechRepublic:


Saturday, February 9, 2013

Forrester: 15 emerging technologies to watch

There are many ways to group related ideas in the near-term tech future; this is a pretty good version from Brian Hopkins at Forrester Research, and a report from the enterprise architecture community on their emerging tech predictions.

He completely misses the upcoming revolution in artificial intelligence (AI)-driven digital personal assistants.  One aspect of the AI tsunami I'm just starting to be aware of is its potential to make sense of big data in a human-like manner (understanding context, relationships, data cleansing,) but at computer speeds.  We'll see these ideas show up in new releases of Apple's Siri, and in Google Now.

Also not even mentioned: 3D printing.  I'm not certain if we will see it impacting business in a big way by 2018, but the implications of "print to order" parts and products could well be important.  I'll write more soon about another 3D printing effect I haven't seen mentioned anywhere:  what happens when you can store things digitally, share them freely online, and create-to-order?  Will it bring about an intellectual property revolution like the one we saw with digital music, books, and video? What will happen when we can treat physical objects as part of the stateless future, in which content, storage, and delivery are decoupled from each other?

Let me know in the comments if you think there are other big topics in the 5-year horizon.

Forrester's Top 15 Emerging Technologies To Watch: Now To 2018 | Forrester Blogs:

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Thursday, February 7, 2013

Clueless in Chicago: Crate and Barrel ignores the entire Android user community

C&B to the entire Android world: we don't want your business
This is such a facepalm moment.  Crate and Barrel is the Chicago-based asprirational home lifestyle retailer and web merchant. They seem to understand some parts of modern marketing very well, while remaining utterly clueless about missed opportunities and wrong signals to customers.

The good: they're on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.  Last month I praised them for including the story of a gay couple in their catalog.  They do bricks and clicks really well.  And their products are great. My own home has C&B scattered everywhere, from a stockpot I bought there in 1975 to my everyday melamine dishes from their hipster spinoff, CB2. I'm writing this partly to highlight a huge social business fail, but also as a longtime friend of the company who would like to see them do better.

Crate and Barrel meets you on your phone or tablet, with a variety of apps to plan things, have fun, envision their products in your home, even a measuring tool app.  And cool music downloads to accompany the great life you'll have while using their products.  That is, if you use iOS devices and Apple iTunes.

The bad: Android users, you're out of luck.  In the entire C&B marketing universe, there is one Android offering, a bridal registry app.  So I wrote customer service:  "Hey, Crate and Barrel, why do you ignore me and everyone else who is not an iOS user?" I got this reply:

"Dear Donald Ham,
Thank you for your email.

We appreciate your comments about Android users and thank you for taking the time to write us. We are constantly striving to make improvements and value your opinion. We have forwarded your comments to our corporate office.

We understand your disappointment and regret we were not able to provide you with the positive purchasing experience we wish for all of our customers.

We hope to serve you better in the future.

Should you require further assistance, please reply to this email or contact us at 800-967-6696."


Translation: "I took 15 seconds to pull boilerplate answer #3b/Android, now go away."

That in itself has an important takeaway:  One of the effects of social business is that the inquiry you get from the web site--the person you just blew off--just might be someone who's going to blog about your company, and share it with a large audience.  The failure to grasp that the customer/frontline service relationship has profoundly changed is endemic.  Of course, United Breaks Guitars is the classic example, which triggered a $180M drop in United's stock valuation.

So what is going on in Chicago?  I am guessing that a) folks in Crate and Barrel's marketing and art department are squarely in the universe of those to whom there is no tech beyond Apple.  And b) none of Crate and Barrel's senior management is aware of these two research studies by IDC:



One last point: my twin 11-year-old stepdaughters just disposed of their iPhones in favor of Android.  We really thought that coolness factor and peer pressure would make that a no-go.  We were wrong.  The vote from 11 years old: iOS has lost its edge as a statement that you are cool.  

If only Crate and Barrel had heard the news.


Tuesday, February 5, 2013

MIT's John Mooney on the inevitability of the cloud, and what to do about it: 9 min video

Essential Practices for Embracing the Inevitability of the Cloud « Center for Information Systems Research - MIT Sloan School of Management:

This is a short talk from MIT's Center for Information Systems Research (CISR.)  The implicit:


  • it's time to move beyond thoughts of cloud computing as a way to save money in the data center
  • Instead, think of the cloud as a springboard toward a mindset of services management,
  • Speed-to-user-benefit is a key driver
  • So is a move toward deployment of human resources to higher value work.


You can create a free account at the CISR site, and access some excellent research reports.  For more on low-or-no cost ways to supplement your research portfolio, see Tech research without spending big bucks: four information streams for business.

Monday, February 4, 2013

from Fast Company: The 5 Questions Every Company Should Ask Itself

The 5 Questions Every Company Should Ask Itself | Co.Design: business + innovation + design:

This is an excellent article, part of Fast Company's coverage of design; The article contends that the 5 questions require you to back away from the heads-down, task oriented way business is done every day.

"Why are we here?" "What if we started this company from scratch today?"  These are big ideas, and concepts that should be at the foundational level of any consideration of corporate or IT strategy.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

With pure HTML5 app, Amazon deftly sidesteps Apple content and app control for iOS

In jab at iTunes, Amazon releases iOS-optimized MP3 store - CSMonitor.com:

Image: Christian Science Monitor
It's not an Apple app store app, it's an HTML5 optimized web app, anyone on an iOS device can use it whether Apple likes it or not.

More evidence that stateless delivery of applications and content changes the rules--and the business cases--for a lot of companies.

And it reminds me of Princess Leia in the original "Star Wars" to the emperor: "The more you tighten your grip, the more star systems will slip through your fingers!"

I think it's Very Interesting that the last two pieces of important news about digital content (this, and the debut of the Auto-Rip service to make physical CDs purchased now or in the past digitally available) have come from Amazon.com.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Amazon Auto-Rip, a positive step toward unified online digital rights management

from Mashable
Amazon's AutoRip Gives You Free MP3s for CDs You've Purchased:

My Amazon Cloud Player. There are double arrows beneath
the albums added automatically today by Auto-Rip
I got this news on Mashable today.  Amazon has gone live with a service that closely mirrors the digital ecosystem ideas I recommended a few months ago.  Auto-Rip mines your account for the record of all the physical CDs you've purchased from them since 1998.  It automatically adds digital access for that CD content to your online library via the Amazon Cloud Player. You don't have to manually rip or upload anything yourself,

The breakthrough idea is this: Amazon has decoupled the rights to the content from the delivery mechanism.  They effectively acknowledge that the money I spend for content--the music--means I have rights to it on a CD, online, or as a local download to my personal devices.   This is a cool service, but it's part of a Big Idea, stateless data, applications, and devices.

Take note: especially if Amazon extends this idea to video, books, and applications, they will have changed the game and the business model for content sales.  Why would I buy from anyone else unless they recognize that I'm buying rights to content, not the physical thing that holds it?

The next logical extension will apply to third-party streaming of content I've paid for.  Pandora, for instance, can mine my digital rights and steam me my own content without paying a broadcast license fee to do so: it's microcasting, not broadcasting.

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Monday, January 7, 2013

From the NYT: coming to Disney World, extreme personalization, smartphone integration, and WiFi over a 40-square mile area

At Disney Parks, a Bracelet Meant to Build Loyalty (and Sales) - NYTimes.com:

Integration of technologies to know more is a two-way street, and a reflection of one of the biggest tech trends, the era of you.

Typical of era of you effects: extreme personalization of experiences, ultra-granular collection of data, and the disappearance of technology.  By getting out of the way, tech does more.