Even though it’s only April, it’s already clear 2015 will be looked back on as the year cord cutting (replacing cable TV with internet streaming) started going mainstream. HBO is finally allowing non-cable customers to stream HBO content without requiring a cable subscription. Apple is expected to launch a TV streaming service later this year. Existing internet streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, Sling TV, Hulu are all growing rapidly. Netflix alone already accounts for a third of all US internet traffic. Just this week Verizon got so aggressive in how they unbundled ESPN they’re getting sued for breach of contract. Not a move a company like Verizon would have attempted even a few years ago.
I’ve always liked year-end lists and predictions. They help highlight where we’ve been, and where we might be going. That said, I consider tech predictions as fundamentally problematic, and not to be taken too seriously. In that spirit, I’m grading my predictions from last year.
This week CVS and Rite-Aid turned off Apple’s mobile phone payment system in their stores. Apparently this was because of contractual obligations to support a yet to be released mobile payments competitor called CurrentC, created by a consortium led by Walmart. The reaction to CurrentC from tech blogs and twitter has been brutal.
Update: Stephen Ballot pointed out on twitter this post should refer to “user input method” rather than “user interface”. Great point. With this clarification I’ll leave the rest of the post as originally published. Thanks for reading.
If you analyze computing eras by circuit type you might get: vacuum tubes, transistors, ICs, microprocessors. By architecture: mainframes, minicomputers, microcomputers. By networking: ethernet, TCP/IP. That’s all great. But there’s a lot to be said for analyzing tech eras by user interface. As in the list below, taken from this post.
Identification using fingerprints dates to the 1890’s. But automated commercial biometric identification is much more recent. Some dates: automated fingerprint recognition (1969), hand geometry (1974), iris (1995), face (2000), vascular (2000). That last one is vein pattern recognition, typically done using IR sensors on the back of the hand. Continuing the trend, IBM put a fingerprint reader in a laptop in 2004, and India’s biometric identity program dates to 2009. With that said, I’d argue mainstream consumer adoption of biometric identity only happened in 2013 with the release of the fingerprint reader in the iPhone 5s. These things take time. And because they take time, they arrive gradually and unappreciated. Touch ID is more than just how to unlock your phone. Biometric identity is here. Attention must be paid.
Celebrity nude photos pilfered from iPhone accounts. Ferguson. Body cameras. Deemed the surveillance society or the transparent society, the rise of camera surveillance seems unstoppable. The parallel I’d like to draw is to the rise of equality, as observed by Alexis de Tocqueville in his 1835 classic Democracy in America. From Tocqueville’s introduction:
Everyone loves a sure thing. And for Wall Street a sure thing is a monopoly. I’ve written about this before, e.g., The stock market blindly lusts after exploitative monopolies. But the siren call of monopoly is an evergreen topic. Especially as software eats the world, and natural monopolies become more common. So it’s worth a quick revisit.
One angle of attack on Clayton Christensen’s disruption theory is that it’s often stretched beyond it’s range of applicability, to the point of becoming unfalsifiable. For example, Benedict Evans tweeted: “‘Disruption’ Christensen reminds me a little of Marxist historians. Over-enamoured of the One True Theory, tempted to make the facts fit it.” And more recently: “Popper’s notes on predictive theories in social science (always seemed to me to fit Disruption very well).” Then he quotes from Karl Popper’s famous paper Science as Falsification:
Long time Microsoft analyst Mary Jo Foley says the next release of Microsoft’s Windows operating system will “try to undo the usability mistakes made with Windows 8.” The release, currently code named “Threshold”, is likely to come out in Spring 2015 as Windows 9. As you’re undoubtedly aware, Windows 8 has a hybrid user interface that switches back and forth between a touchscreen Metro mode and a mouse/keyboard Desktop mode. And that extra complexity has led to poor adoption by Microsoft’s core constituency of corporate desktop customers. Here’s the full quote from Foley’s article: