What’s Hot?

Shouldn’t any entrepreneur with gumption be pursuing their dream, not trying to do some “me too” venture-capital-bait “hot” company?

Well, yes, up to a point. I’m not convinced the world needs more entrants into the local-coupons-generated-socially-and-delivered-over-the-web space. Or another mobile-photo-sharing site, if it comes to that (see http://twitter.com/#!/the_tech_bubble if you can bear it).

But – trends matter. They show you where new problems need to be solved, and what opportunities exist to reshape or uproot established systems. Running with the right trends makes it much easier for a startup to have an impact, if you can catch the trend at the right time. Even venture guys know it, bless them.

So what is hot? Well…

  • Mobile. I still remember sitting in some seminar in – oh – about 1997, the topic was the relative merits of home-power-line networking and WiFi. There was much discussion on the technical challenges of cost-effective WiFi, discussion that I was barely qualified to understand. Eventually, they asked me for a comment, and, while acknowledging my limited grasp of the physics, I said something like “Wireless and mobility is always more important than you think, and that will overwhelm everything else.” (*) I still think that’s true, wireless/mobile will overwhelm the PC industry, traditional entertainment, communication, collaboration… it’s still much bigger than we realize. This is the mega trend of the next 20 years.
  • Connecting everything to the cloud. I’m a skeptic on the importance of the proprietary-app vs. web-app debate (will write on the reasons for this separately), but I think we can already see the application structure of smart client code, providing a responsive and simplified user experience, while maintaining its authoritative configuration and state in the cloud and using the cloud as a communication and general API interchange. “Connecting everything to the cloud” drives major demands in client-side frameworks as well as all kinds of cloud infrastructure.

OK, so those are the mega, “If I could say just one word” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CsrLHP26zvk&NR=1), trends. But there are a key mid-level things, too:

  • 4G Wireless and video. In 2011, 4G will arrive, at least in the developed world. The application is video. That means video content available wherever you go; the ability to record and transmit realtime video wherever you are; and real-time video communication available whenever you want it. How will events and interactions be affected once multiple good-quality video sources are available everywhere?
  • Device proliferation. Consumers will have multiple devices, and there will be a lot of cheap devices. Problems of management, consistency, usability, service and data access…

Then there are the thousands of trends supposedly identified in the tech blogs, some imagined, some backward-facing, and a few actually real. For example… “Over the top” entertainment delivery (constrained by business-model issues, and content-vs.-tech-industries mutual suspicion), mobile money (does it matter?), location (is it just going to be coupons and finding your friends?), clean-tech (quite government-dependent, which is scary), Internet of Things (real, eventually), Big Data, return of banner ads, eReading (real already), new new media, absolutely anything to do with Facebook, absolutely anything to do with Apple, web apps and web APIs (real already), low cost Android phones (good chance of becoming real at least outside of U.S.), Android tablets (more cheap knock-offs?), dual core Tablets, anything to do with tech in cars, 3D TV (please, no), controller-free body-sensing gaming (real), the decline of Google, the rise of Google, the transformation of Google, long-form writing (real for 3000 years), near-field communication, in-house media sharing and distribution (somewhat real – Sonus, but may have promise), old people (been around for a while), Africa China India South-America Eastern-Europe (anywhere but Belgium?), mobile scanning (see coupons), smartphone cameras (already a done deal), mobile video calling (if you must), cloud storage, cloud auto-deployment, cloud management, …

And OK, if I was to throw in one stupid second-tier idea of my own – voice activated micro devices – phones especially – not happening yet.

(*) True Story. Really!

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