Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Coming Technology Revolution and the New Economy

I have a Samsung Galaxy S3, and it's an awesome smartphone. It's fast. Incredibly light. Incredibly thin. It has a vivid, large display. And it does just about anything I want it to do. But I almost never use it to call people.

Our smartphones aren't phones anymore. Hardly anybody my age ever uses the actual phone portion of the smartphone. According to my billing cycle, I used 113 minutes last month. That works out to less than 4 minutes a day. That's maybe 5% of the total time I spend using my phone.

In the rush to declare the PC dead, tech journalists apparently forgot that things like smartphones and tablets are nothing more than smaller computers in a different form factor. The things we used to do on our desktop and laptop computers we now do on our smartphones and tablets.

We are fast approaching a time when we can integrate our smartphone with anything. We're going to stop carrying our keys and wallets, because our phones can store them. Your IDs? Just open your digital wallet on your phone. Cash and credit cards? You can store your bank and credit card information on your phone and conduct transactions using NFC.

What about your home and car? Soon enough we'll start unlocking doors and starting up engines with our phones using NFC as well. Televisions and home computers? Control them using your phone. We have the technology to do it today. But it'll take a few years to make it effortless and widespread.

There's already a term for this phenomenon, when anything and everything can be controlled via a tiny chip. It's called zero compute, and Intel thinks we're going to arrive there in 8 years. Because computer chips are getting smaller and cheaper, we'll be able to jam them into anything. Doors, TVs, lights, AC units, cars, cabinets, furniture, you name it, and it'll probably have a chip put in. Even our clothes will have chips in them.

This is what's going to spur economic growth in developed markets like the United States. Everybody is going to rush to make our lives easier and more convenient with more and more "smart" consumer electronics. So who's going to profit off of this?

Industrial designers, software developers, electrical engineers, computer engineers, and the entrepreneurs and venture capitalists willing to bankroll and develop the ideas of the aforementioned.

Apple got onto something big. It's no longer a "computer company" or even a "technology company". It's a consumer electronics company. And as the smartphone and tablets rapidly become commoditized, Apple is going to have to find new products and services in order to continue making obscene profits. And that means building things like iLamps and iBlenders and iTVs with all of it controllable via your iPhone.

The next company or companies that find a way to seamlessly standardize and integrate everything with computer chips is going to be obscenely rich. We're already starting to see examples of the future with things like Nest.

The next 10 years is going to be special. And it will turn us all into lazy idiots.

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