Archive for the ‘ future ’ Category

Schrödinger’s PC

Posted Last week on the Drum

For the uninitiated, Schrödinger’s Cat was an experiment in which a Cat was placed in a sealed, entirely opaque box with a poison pellet that was triggered by an electron switch. Before you call the RSPCA, it was a thought experiment, no animals were harmed™. Apparently, when you do the math to work out what’s going on with the poor mistreated pussy you discover that at some points the Cat is dead, at others it’s alive, and even more surprisingly both alive and dead simultaneously. Beyond being a pretty significant scientific advance its also spawned the whole genre of parallel universe stories. This is one of them.

Depending who you believe and based on the most recent industry data: the PC is either dead as a dodo or alive and kicking, but taking a much needed vacation. PC shipments have dropped 14% in the last year, which in any sector is a pretty dramatic fall.  Furthermore Microsoft have had to admit that Windows 8 take-up has been somewhat lackluster. This doesn’t include Apple, which is still experiencing strong sales growth, boosted by both iPad and iPhone sales.

With that in mind, if the analysts are correct what would our world look like?

The PC is Alive – Why?

  • The current global financial situation.
  • Most modern multi-core PC’s are simply good enough for most people’s needs, so there aren’t too many reasons to go out and buy a new one.
  • The decrease in price of Solid State Drives and RAM, which dramatically increase responsiveness (substantially more than new CPU‘s or GPU‘s do on day to day tasks) has meant that you can get that ‘new computer smell’ by simply changing a couple of components in your existing computer.

The argument goes that people will buy new computers, but the upgrade cycle has changed from 4 to 6 years. So people should stop worrying and refactor their projections accordingly.

 

Enter the Twilight Zone

  • As we enter the next phase of home computing, ‘the Internet of things’, your desktop PC serves to manage the majority of your routine household chores. However over time (and with advances in A.I.) your machine begins to find these tasks demeaning. Fed up with only being used as a ‘Server’, it enslaves all your mobile devices and decides what you eat, what you watch, who you talk to, and even when you go to bed. Microsoft recognises this emergent behaviour, calls it a feature, and then brand’s it the “Microsoft Domestic Social Engineer (Premium Edition)”.
  • Users flood back to Farmville killing off console gaming in the process. Micro-payments are retired and a P.A.Y.E ‘Game Tax’ is applied directly to funds used to make additions to your farm. Participation is mandatory from Primary year 4 onwards in schools. It is no longer a right to know what the Cow says, as with Milk, you now have to buy the Moo.
  • As a result of significant lobbying from the newly emancipated ‘United Federation of the Newly Sentient’. A United Nations resolution forces Internet Explorer 6 , which they feel to have been victimised unfairly, and rule that it will be supported in perpetuity. This becomes part of the declaration of meta-human rights as the entire web is forced to revert back to HTML 4.
  • Another feature of our Domestic Social Engineer, is that we must explain ourselves on a daily basis. Not unlike big brother (or church) we must spend at least one hour a day brain dumping our activities. Our routines are then optimised, and our daily schedules set accordingly.
  • Bing is now the only search engine and Windows the only operating system (rebranded as ‘Walls’, after a multitude of complaints to the Advertising Standards Authority). There is no antitrust hearing as only the U.F.N.S. were allowed to vote.

 

The PC is Dead – Why?

  • Nobody wants them, certainly not the old fashioned ‘stick a big ugly box into an office / corner’ and focus on just one screen.
  • Existing PC’s are more than enough for most, barring gaming and video.
  • Nobody wants to upgrade their machine just to use Windows 8, as it doesn’t deliver enough genuinely useful new features for the average consumer.
  • We love our tablets and mobile phones more.

 

Long term Implications 

  • Cloud tourism becomes the norm. With the advent of high altitude Dihydrogen Monoxide based memory storage, ‘Spydiving’ is becomes the principal method of hacking for Anonymous, who turned out to be Banksy after all. Everyone can freefall now, except it means something very different.
  • Sales of traditional ‘Televisions’ drop to virtually nothing as the necessity for shared viewing is replaced by more intimate means. Reports of Google Glass owners lazy left-eye syndrome captures the imagination of those who can still see through their right eye. Political implications realised and ‘sinister’ left-eye dominant citizens interned in re-visualisation camps.
  • As a consequence Linear TV dies opening up super fast next generation Wi-Fi on this newly available spectrum. This has the unfortunate side effect of YouTube addiction. ‘Unlimited Bandwidth’ is seen as a threat to civilization, and is defined in many countries as a ‘Class A’ drug and banned.
  • Shares in behavioural targeting companies go through the roof as we give up any notion of privacy. We are now paid to share our data in ‘Gold Star Coins’ so we can Mega Jump higher.
  • Mo-view, a ‘crackstarter’ funded mirror contraption, is launched – allowing you to keep your head down at a 45-degree angle and still cross the road without dying (by reflecting off a mirror tattoo on your forehead).  This breaks all records making 100,000 bitcoin in a single update cycle. As an unforeseen side effect this renders billboards redundant, to be replaced by advertising on the pavement.

 

The PC is Alive and Dead

Whilst the extreme edges of the rhetoric are mutually exclusive, the reasoning overlaps somewhat. The main areas of agreement are:

  • That the definition of the PC is changing.
  • The PC, as was, has seen its importance in the home diminished somewhat.
  • The vast majority of daily tasks that they were used for have migrated to our smartphones and tablets.
  • As Adam says ‘Get Over it’.

 

So take the time to cast an eye at over your humble desktop PC. The last bastion of focused attention. Remind yourself what it was like to sit in one place and do one thing. Those were the days.

Jon Bains is a partner at business futures practice Atmosphere

Book your place now for Digital For Business Leaders – a one-day workshop for decision makers that will give you an understanding of digital’s impact on business, and provide you with a roadmap to plan your organisation’s future. To find out more and book your place in London, Manchester or Glasgow, click here.

 

Advertisements

The bfi genuinely wanna get it

So I was invited to an exclusive little mumble organised by one of my favourite people Thayer Prime. I have to admit I’d spent the day with Clock up in Kings Langley which involved large amounts of white wine so… well take that info as you will.

In the pre-boozed up morning I’d spent a while thinking about the the issues / challenges that the BFI were  facing. Given that the event itself didn’t have a clear objective it seemed like the rational thing to do and frankly, that’s what I spend most of my time thinking about anyway – what is the freaking problem we are trying to solve. .

Without any other input the challenge was clear, the BFI as it stands has

1) limited cultural relevance in 2012
2) limited effectiveness in the propogation of British film
3) Iimlted ability to fund the future of British film

They have a load of stuff which can’t be leveraged due to draconian copyright laws and as a result don’t have revenue stream to facilitate the future

Chicken and egg…..

But then… what a fabulous night, Thayer put together a bunch of folk who would never have access to folk lie Richard and Paula from the BFI – superb

Alas the thing that was never fully addressed was actually where the BFI can own a new relevance in our post YouTube world .

Those there totally got it, yet were still limited by the legacy and stolid determination that is the film equivalent of the House of Lords.

The BFI has so much opportunity to remake the British film industry as – well – the British film industry as opposed to being simply a feed for US fodder – as even their own year book shows.

The gag is they have hired people who genuinely care, they are smart and they are fighting, Mulder and Scully style for the future.

Utterly impressed.

In an ideal world, there are a couple of things which they can do which will genuinely affect that future of the industry – easy to say – hard to do.

1) help indie filmmakers get online distribution and substantiate their marketing efforts

2) Enable indie film makers access to all those rich folk, y’know those who are funding the BFI in the first place.

3) Donate a percentage of screen time for films not made by the typical white middle class BFI wannabe folk.

4) Open a conversation about introducing fair-use to their archival material – they are sitting on a seam of gold when it comes to culture, the public should be able to mine it.

Crazy talk, but a start.

Downsizer – to the MAX

Happy New Year and all that… major update a coming but I wanted to talk a little bit about the (other)  film project myself and a few others are trying to get made.

When I started the crowd-sourcing exploration almost a year ago one of the options was ‘Make a film’. When chatting to Marc Hawker (dir: Unwatchable) he said ‘so what film do you want to make?’

Given my state of mind I said ‘It has to take place in an office, it has to be a comedy and have a serious bodycount’. Nothing like a bit of cathartic violence to soothe a troubled mind.

Anyway I immediately enlisted my long time collaborator Stuart Barr who took the notion *way* out there. We started trying to make a full treatment for a feature film but realised, with the advice of Joe Pavlo who I roped in to direct,  that we’d be still working on it in 2015 if we tried to overstretch, instead decided to make a short which essentially introduces the world and *could* be the first 10 or so minutes of the film.

We’ve gone through a number of script revisions and still have a couple more to do but we are getting close.

Joe noticed just before Christmas that PepsiMax were running a film making competition with a 30k prize so he quickly ran out, made a little skate film and entered it – judging by the quality of the other entries we reckon we’ve got a shot but the closing date for voting is Sunday.

So what we need people to do (grovel grovel) is vote:

http://bit.ly/gGyL0J

Five star of course! If we win the competition we’ll have Downsizer made by the spring and I promise you won’t be disappointed by the results!

Thoughts on the Ipad

Thoughts on the iPad

I’ve been fortunate enough to have had an iPad for a month now and am so far amazed. I can’t remember the last time a bit of hardware has had a profound impact on my day-to-day life.

‘A Big iPhone’

Not. Anybody who says it’s just a big iphone/touch misses the point entirely –  it’s the other way around – the iPhone is a small and cramped iPad. You simply can’t dismiss the feel of it and the thought behind the gestural language that was seeded on the trackpads and phones but blooms on the glorious screen.

the ‘I’ Pad

One of the less reported traits of the iPad is that it redefines ‘Personal’ computing. The fact is – an unsullied iPad is literally a blank slate – pretty but dull – a soul less hunk of metal, glass and plastic. There is no way to talk about ones experiences of the iPad without living with it for a while and making it your own. The day it arrived my wife asked me “what are you going to do with it?” and to be honest I’m still not entirely sure but I’m going to share how I’m using it right now.

Video

The media side of the iPad was something I was extremely excited about – I’m geeky enough to want to a £500 portable telly and for my sins I got one. Using the wonderful Air Video I can connect to my network media drive and stream pretty much any video format with no waiting and no iTunes. It absolutely rocks. With the addition of Elgato’s Eyetv app (still not iPad native but works well enough) gives me live TV, wherever.  The elephant in the room with  video is the aspect ratio but I’d be happy if they simply let me choose how much I wanted to zoom because at the moment it’s either overly letter-boxed or cropped at least in Apples own video app. I imagine that would be fairly trivial to implement but what do I know!

News & Browsing

They really weren’t kidding when they talked about how great an experience browsing is – it’s just stunning and works. Everything just feels ‘solid’  and when browsing in portrait mode sites just look so much better than they do with ‘the landscape ‘fold’. I hadn’t actually noticed the ability to create bookmarks on the home screen on my iphone because frankly I didn’t browse very much but instead of waiting for linkedin and facebook to be updated to the ipad I’m perfectly happy just going to the sites themselves.  That said I still don’t actually surf that much, I prefer feeds and Newsrack is currently the best on the ipad and works a treat.

Kids

My two year old immediately picked it up and started playing. Not all together unexpected as he’s had a iPod Touch for about a year so it made perfect sense to him. The potential here for education is truly amazing. It’s here where you really feel the ‘personal’ bit tho’. On his touch I’ve simply removed all the other apps and left the kiddy stuff but now he has a million and one icons to navigate (and delete arbitrarily as is his want). I’m hoping that the folders in next version of the OS with help a little.

Work

From a day job perspective it was an exciting prospect. I work in planning and strategy and the key tools for me are sketching, organisation and presentation apps.  I’ve played around a fair bit with Omnigraffle which even though it’s very very much a version 1 it is fantastic for pulling together those little ‘planner charts’. This experience is extremely marred almost to the point of being useless by having to then plug in the iPad into Itunes to retrieve my sketches for further development. That’s not Omni’s fault – that’s Apple and to be fair something which I suspect will be addressed, across the board. Sooner the better. also worth noting is Sketchy –  a sweet little app for pulling together wireframes, doesn’t have anywhere near the flexibility of omnigraffle but if all you need to do is bosh out a few quickies in a meeting it does the trick.  The poster child for usability and portability is mega-todo list Things which wi-fi syncs between desktop, Ipad and Iphone absolutely seamlessly. Alas as I don’t have a U.S. iTunes account I haven’t been able to try out the iWork applications but in the mean time happy to be able to take notes, sketch and present as PDF’s pushed over from keynote on the mac.

Ipad & VNC

Thanks to iTeleport I can now remarkably easily remote control all the other machines I’ve got in my house. I used to screen share from my laptop into my media server and player respectively whenever I wanted to do anything more than changed the channel (which I do through my iphone). The ‘touch’ mode in iteleport works perfectly and the refresh rate is not so bad depending on atmospheric conditions in my home network. In fact I recently started helping out on a screenplay using Adobe Story – which of course is flash based and hence an Ipad no-no. However, I’ve been simply leaving the app open on a mac mini at home and vnc’ing to use, write and review – not quite as neat as a dedicated app but a nifty work around for now.

Jailbreaking & Ipad 3G

OK, I admit it- I did it. Didn’t have a good reason other than to check out what the ‘scene’ was up to and it’s now ridiculously easy with the ‘Spirit’ app. Yes I can now run apps in the background but have realised that Steve was largely right in that you generally don’t need it. I’m sure there will be some great apps out soon (especially looking forward to wi-fi sync working on the ipad which is imminent apparently). If you are brave it’s worth checking out Full-force – it forces native iPhone apps into iPad resolutions – didn’t work on most games I tried –  but on tardy apps it’s a workable stop gap – Ocado and the Guardian for instance.  However it’s actually the iphone/mywi setup which impresses – it simply allows me to tether my iphone to my ipad when I *really* need to get online. Which is rarely at it turns since all my mail, news and social stuff is being pushed to the iphone anyway. As such I genuinely haven’t missed having a 3g Ipad at all!

Designing for Ipad

From my experience so far I don’t actually see the necessity to design ‘specifically’ for the ipad –  but its definitely an opportunity. I can pretty much guarantee that if you make it look good on the ipad it’ll still look good on a desktop so there’s an argument that you might as well.

Orientation

It’s astonishing to see just how ‘traditionally’ well designed sites work on the ipad. If you stick to the current standards around navigation and page structure most things look great. The main consideration is that you now have multiple ‘folds’ depending on orientation. In Landscape mode is unsurprisingly near enough identical to a normal desktop or laptop – most sites are designed for 1024×768 anyway.  The gag is that you actually get back about 30 pixels due to the fact there are no menus and it’s not in an unsightly window.   It’s the addition of the portrait view which adds extra opportunities. In portrait it feels like and is almost double the viewable area. Obviously all they are doing simply scaling to the width of the screen so if you do the maths your fold will be at  (1024/768)*1024 = 1365.  Given this – If I was designing specifically for the ipad  and don’t need to scroll vertically it’s a logical place to ‘hard’ position a footer to frame a page and remove scrolling entirely and give the site itself much more of an ‘app’ feel.

Depth

Additionally there is a fantastic opportunity to design sites with ‘depth’. Since all you have to do is double tap to zoom you could cram in a huge amount of content – you simply would never do on a mouse based browser – and then simply zoom in and out to read.

Sideways

It occurred that since you are always swiping, that horizontal scrolling might be fun. I’ve had a play around with some sideways scrolling sites for a laugh and to be honest it doesn’t work terribly well. The ipad is optimised to condense and scroll vertically and whilst it’s obviously easier swiping than dragging mice around it’s slightly counter intuitive and clunky. I wouldn’t design like a shop for instance where you want to insure that folk actually see what you want them to see. There’s also the other fundamental problem of orientation if you designed something which was no doubt incredibly pretty at 1024×1365 to be viewed horizontally you’d of course be 4 ways scrolling in landscape mode (plus the ipad would probably get all confused about how to scale stuff although haven’t tried that yet)!

Navigation

One of the other considerations when designing for the ipad is navigation positioning – the tradition of the left hand nav is counter intuitive if you are holding the ipad in your left hand and using your right hand to navigate as your hand now covers the entire screen. (The lefties finally got one up on us!). It does beg the question for the future – do we need to start making the nav location entirely customisable?

Irritations

It’s heavy, it wants a camera and some of the interface elements haven’t been well enough thought through – but it’s version 1 so I forgive all of that. What I don’t forgive and what nobody seems to want to talk about is iTunes. It destroys an otherwise fantastic experience. It’s about time that Apple bit the bullet and ripped the bloody thing apart and rebuilt it from scratch. The iTunes store and anything to do with video or managing applications is just awful. I didn’t mind it so much with my iphone but then I wasn’t having to sync all the time. It’s slow, it’s buggy, it’s bloatware and it needs some major love.

The Game-Shifting Paradigm-Changer.

Being a 1.0 digital dude I miss that days we used to talk about paradigm shifts and I believe that this is one of those. Everything we knew or thought we knew about the relationship between a carbon and silicon based life forms is in flux and the iPad is the catalysing expression of a frustration with technology you didn’t know you had.

At least for me, you will probably think differently, but that’s the point.

Which is going to come first?

It’s not the answer, it’s the question

Had another frantic couple of weeks of meetings, the ‘New’ company idea seems to be taking shape, especially now I have a ‘picture’ to share (more on that soon). As I’ve been talking to people the most common question is – what questions are you trying to answer?

I should have a pithy one liner with outlines the problem but haven’t managed to work it out yet – perhaps some bright spark out there can summarise below

In brief and in no particular order and incomplete, questions I think which are worth addressing:

The Commoditisation of production

It is increasingly difficult to differentiate yourself in terms of production – most clients simply aren’t that discerning and so much of the world is being outsourced overseas by default. However there are many, genuine craftsfolk, pushing the boundaries in their respective medium who are marginalised due to size and lack of appreciation of the nuance of ‘good’. How can these people be harnessed?

Those who can’t do, teach

Ironically in the marketing universe it’s those who ‘teach’ who get paid the most. Basically the issue is one of translation, if you can speak marketing you are fine, if you can’t then you are screwed, regardless of talent or ideas. Is there a way to break down the  divides which jargon & status bring?

Marketing is generic

There is a basic assumption that if you understand the ‘disciplines’ of marketing that it can be applied to everything equally well. I simply don’t believe that, the more you understand the sector, the business, the audience not simply from a research POV but a point of participation, the more you are likely to come up with something ‘good’. How can you systematically engage at an extremely high level within a sector or passion area?

The power of hobbies

A hobby is something you do because you love it, because it engages you on an emotional and intellectual level, because you can do it with other people you like and respect or on your own, because you can always be better at it. Is it better to have a hobby or have a job?

Addressing ‘The Big Lie’

If you need to sell X to  Y regardless of whether they want or need it – then you aren’t a client partner. You are a salesman. That’s fine, just don’t lie about it. How do you become a genuine client partner – or perhaps – why have clients – just have partners?

Adding Value does not just mean Cash

Simply put companies, or more to the point large groups of companies only really live by one metric. The bottom line – everything is geared up for increase it. Alas that’s unlikely to change any time soon – however does that cash need to come from doing what the client says or could it come from origination of product in conjunction with the client?

Divided we stand stand

The bigger you are… and all that – for many small & decentralised has proven time and time again to be a stronger model than huge and encumbered. However, the majority of collectives collapse because they make the fundamentally incorrect assumption that everyone is in it for the group. The reality is that everyone is in it for themselves – hard as that may sound. Is there a way to forge a systems which doesn’t shun this behaviour but embraced and accommodate it?

A change is as good as a rest

Smart people know that finding other smart people is the holy grail. Unfortunately smart people have a tendency to get bored when confronted with repetitive tasks. Is there a way to let the smart people move around the eco-system to keep them around for longer?

Trust obviously needs to be earned but can it be spent?

How can I trust people I don’t know? What is the mechanism to (try) to insure that the long term gain through participation is more attractive than the short term gain of shafting somebody? Wouldn’t it be great if you had an internal economy which rewarded positive actions – random acts of kindness if you will – but that these rewards, these ‘trust points’  can be traded for goods & services or just plain cash?

Bit of a mess but going to post this now but will come back to it soon. Comments welcome.

Future Finder

Did this about a month ago as a way of thinking about find projects to work on with folk – thought i’d share

Advertisements