Questions about 2012

Trying to think through some trends, would appreciate your thoughts, thanks.

I believe we’re on the verge of tremendous changepocket screens, universal, all communicating… tooling, already familiar, tuned to the change… the Dawn of a New Design.

The first screen was custom-fitted to its content… a book, a painting, another artifact… moveable type and desktop publishing, movie screens and recordings, all kept lowering the costs to make new artifacts to hold new content.

The second screen was dynamic, the PC which could display any content, even content which did not previously exist elsewhere. The third screen was when these PCs could communicate with each other, the Internet and its most familiar application, the World Wide Web.

Now we’re on the verge of the biggest of them all, the ever-handy personal screen of nearly every human, and the larger social screens these personal devices can control. It’s coming, massive as a freight train, faster adoption than print or PCs or Web.

By 2012 we won’t have seen the full scope of this change, but we will have much clearer evidence of its directions. What do you think we might have seen by then?

Adoption

It’s a safe bet these screens will become part of daily life quicker than PCs did, quicker than the WWW did. They’re far less expensive and will reach far more people. We’ve already seen how explosively people in any region adopt pocket voice or pocket text. And pocket screens are simply better toys.

But what will “adoption” mean? It can’t mean just “smartphone or featurephone”, because different brands and lines will have different abilities… that’s too simplistic a metric. Should we measure audience support by particular features, such as multitouch or device orientation (GPS, magnetometer, accelerometer)? But what then when two machines of similar capability are on different networks, and are permitted different experiences?

Illusions of inevitability aside, just how will this whole ecology grow?

How will we measure “adoption”? And how fast do you think people will carry around good, functional pocket screens? How are you planning on making decisions in this area… what will be the trigger for you? Thanks in advance for any anecdotes, perspectives.

Regionalism

PCs started in affluent pockets of North America and other urban centers. The Web started from more locations, but was still centered early-on in North America and Europe. Mobile voice and text, on the other hand, grew up in Japan, Korea, Australia, Norway, while North America was the laggard.

But this next generation of devices… it’s not just a local thing. Capability will be available everywhere in the world where the economies and networks can support them. Some even think it will grow much faster in depressed economies such as Africa, because phone-sharing can unite neighborhoods of people with the world. We’ll deal with global markets much sooner than we did with PCs or the Internet and Web.

How do you think you’ll approach strictly local markets, or multiple local markets, or global markets? Will you make more use of imagery and video, less of text and audio? Will you make your projects with external language assets which can be readily translated into other languages later, or just hardcode English into the app? Will regional development styles emerge?

What are you thinking about how regional, how global, your future work will be? If you looked back to today from the year 2012, what type of advice do you think you might be giving yourself?

Cost per action

What makes a project worthwhile to do? Usually how much it costs, compared to how much it accomplishes.

Every communication has a goal, whether to persuade someone to push the “Order” button, or to seek out a certain brand in a store or election, or even just to watch the next episode of a creative work. Audience reach is an important metric, but the real key is audience conversion, getting them to do the thing that you hope to persuade them to do.

(That’s one of the reasons “rich media interactivity” works… it has a higher conversion rate than just text.)

So… to get one desired action to occur, how much does it cost you? It’s not just initial development costs, “I coded that in only 20 hours”. There are also support costs, maintainence costs, and, at the end of a project’s lifecycle, the migration costs to get the data and user habits into a more modern setting. Smarter projects use analytics of some sort, to test and refine how well the project works for its intended audience. The total cost of development is much bigger than just the cost to develop.

For some of us these calculations are easy — a developer for hire just needs one client to sign a contract, and they’re good to go. But what makes the client sign the contract? Some don’t think of one or the other of the above costs, but most savvy ones do.

Some clients will be satisfied with a small attractive market which requires custom coding. Other clients, like governments, will need to satisfy diverse audiences. Different equations will fit different situations.

How are you looking at your full development costs, the total costs of a project, compared to how many people it reaches, and how well it reaches them? If you could put yourself in your 2012 shoes for a moment, what type of advice might you give your self of today?

Broader effects

This is the fun one… imagining the unexpected. ;-)

I’m already keen on ARAs, BSIs, VEAs… whether you’re in Vegas or Beijing you can already see stupefyingly big shared screens, which could handle interactivity from pocket screens just as well as they can handle today’s linear video. And using handhelds as, not just a “window to the world” with remote experiences, but a “mirror to the world” with location-aware interactions… don’t get me started, it’s very exciting.

If you would, I’d appreciate hearing outlandish visions you may have, of how we just might be using these devices in 2012. If this transition is as rapid as logic seems to dictate, then what types of surprises might we, somehow, quite reasonably expect…?

If I could ask you to daydream for a moment, and try to put yourself in 2012 looking back, what types of things do you think might be good for us 2010-lings to know? Silly question, I know, but what types of things come to mind for you…?

[Comments: Software wars elsewhere, thanks.]