Friday, February 19, 2010

Killer Apps and Devices of 2020 Are Not Knowable

What will the killer apps and devices of 2020 be? About  80 percent of experts surveyed by the Pew Center's  Internet & American Life Project agreed that the “hot gadgets and applications that will capture the imaginations of users in 2020 will often come ‘out of the blue.’”

"The experts’ record is so lousy at spotting key technologies ahead of time that there is little chance they will see the killer gadgets and applications of 2020," Pew says. "If you had asked this question a decade ago, no one would have predicted the iPhone."

In other words, we don't know.

But some trends are clear, because they already have begun: Mobile connectivity and location-based services will grow in the next decade.  Still, it takes a generation to figure out which technologies have real impact and which are just fads, so many other application and device trends we now see might, or might not, be actual "killer apps."

 Significantly, just 61 percent of respondents suggested the Internet would remain a place where any user can communicate directly with any other user. About 33 percent think “the Internet will mostly become a technology where intermediary institutions will control the architecture and content, and will be successful in gaining the right to manage information and the method by which people access it.”

A significant number of respondents they argued there are too many powerful forces pushing towards more control of the internet for the end-to-end principle to survive. Governments
and businesses have all kinds of reasons to control what happens online, Pew reports.
There will be alternative networks for companies and individuals that prefer to have a more controlled environment for sharing and consuming content, many believe.

The future will produce a hybrid environment with a bit more control exercised in the core of the internet for some purposes, but for other purposes will enable end-to-end practices, researchers at Pew conclude, based on the responses. "Some things will have to be managed, especially if the capacity of the current internet becomes strained," Pew analysts say.

"The dictates of business will shape large parts of the online experience and more pay-to-play business models will affect information flows online," Pew says.

"The needs of users themselves will sometimes drive changes that bring more control of online material and less end-to-end activity," Pew notes. There will be “content service providers” who are gatekeepers of many users’ online experiences.

The point, one might argue, is that although the "open, end-to-end" Internet will continue to exist, so will many relatively closed experiences, sites, networks, applications and devices.

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