Ah, the wonders of technological nature, as its spews out newer technology & products. Witness the offspring develop into experimenting teens and confusing pregnancies. And eventually, maturing into headstrong giants. Although the latter phase of life is the shortest and they wither rather quickly, with only a small remaining dedicated user base cheering for them until their inevitable death.
It would be an amusing television show for sure, David Attenborough standing amidst the CES in Las Vegas describing the underlying tension between different technologies as they defend their territory. But I’m not joking. Technology truly has its own circle of life. And viewing it as such, helps you identify new and decaying technological trends.
And as with all things, it starts with birth.
The wonder of birth
Often new technological developments are born during the teen years of another tech, often one that’s already doing well and was born in the previous decade. Being a teenagers is a messy phase if you’re a technology. There is a lot of experimenting going on and more often than not one of them ends of pregnant! Luckily, this is isn’t the kind of drama that attracts MTV, the offspring of a technology means the birth of a new tech and new possibilities!
Take for example the birth of digital music as effect of the spread, growth and popularity of the personal computer in the 90s. In its baby years, a few companies latch onto the promise what this new tech entails. It spawned new incentives of capturing digital formats on portable devices and after battling against some other kindred usurpers, claiming to be the heir, the mp3 player was born!
Now, as stated before, teenagers are a messy bunch. And it doesn’t take long before it becomes popular and floods the market with all sorts of unwanted devices, everybody is experimenting. Remember the mp3 players in y2k? Shops had dozens of different mp3 players with all sort of grotesque designs and useless features. But eventually, you will see a few of these kids standing above the crowd. Naturally the Apple iPod was one of them, Microsoft tried to play along with the Zune but it was already too little too late. The market already selected its best suiter.
And those that survived, thrived. The iPod optimized and perfected its key functionality and everybody was happy. A few copycats and companies who were late to the game tried to compete but the market already selected its victor. Although victory in the circle of tech-life is often short lived. The offspring of previous generations teen-pregnancies are slowly hitting their own teen years and the market quickly switches teams. So the victor’s victory is short felt, but don’t think it’s all gloom. The iPods legacy lives on in its brother the iPhone and competitive friends, a mesh of different tech births (smaller/better LCD displays, stronger SoCs, cheaper flash memory) heavily inspired by the orginal iPod when it was hitting his teens.
So that’s it, the circle of life in technology. The Length of the circle is different per tech. The Personal Computer for example is still thriving, but we can already sense the presence of more portable, cloud optimized hardware. It may be with an interim solution, or may even jump the gun all together to your smartphone. But I believe the smartphone itself will be affected by a new candidate in a not so distant future. The iPhone inspired its competitors and it thrives in its adolescence. But the current innovative developments are now slow and small. The teen experimenting days are over. And these, actually not so smart- smartphones already gave birth to some goofy teens that are in their early experimenting days.
Room for the new
Luckily, the circle of life gives place for new competitors. Like IBM and Commodore stood as giants in their age, it was the same with Motorola and Nokia before their kids pushed away the giants of ol’ for the mega corporations that are now Google and Apple, companies that weren’t relevant 15 years ago.
I don’t expect this to be an eye opener for you, but perhaps it’s a fun and entertaining way of viewing such cycles.
To leave you with, I ponder what will happen too other technologies;
Web – Remember Myspace and websites completely build in flash? We’ve come far into an age where we require and request formats and templates compatible with multiple solutions. Flexible CMS systems now function regardless of what theme is chosen.
So the web is finally heading towards the its adolescence, but how long will it stay in its current form?
Do we really need a portal for every request of information? Surely we can develop a more efficient and functional system without having to understand/learn the design heuristics that each site conforms with.
What if we could strip the web from its branding and solely use it for its information purposes. Couldn’t we tap into that information portal without the need of browsers, web design, interaction and more?