A good commentary makes one think, challenges ones beliefs and can even change them. It puts things in perspective and provides insights into both the past and the future. It can simplify a complex topic to bring an a-ha feeling as one reads it. For the better part of our lifetime, writing commentary to be shared with others has been the domain of a few. But blogs have changed all this. There is now a diversity of thought which is more easily accessible because writing on the Web has become so much easier and syndication delivers it to us without is having to go looking for it. As we look ahead to 2005, I decided to compile together what I think were the best commentaries of 2004. Many of these selections come from bloggers writing not in print but on the web. Hopefully, these will help add more perspective to the year just gone by, and provide inputs and insights for the year that lies ahead.
Well start by summarising the key trends that we saw emerge in 2004 and which will continue to impact us in 2005.
Search: Googles IPO was one of the defining moments of 2004. With a business model that focuses almost entirely on connecting advertisers to interested consumers, Google also redefined what free means with the launch of its 1 GB email service. Going ahead, we are likely to see more and more services being offered centrally some on subscription-basis, and others funded by advertisers and merchants. Search has become, for many, the interface to Web. There is now plenty of innovation that is starting to happen, even as the three majors Google, Yahoo and Microsoft get ready for bigger battles to come.
Devices: The cellphone is emerging as the uber-device. It has become the one device that we carry everywhere with us. The result is that more and more features are being integrated into the cellphone. From photography to music, from computing to television, the mobile phone has the capability to do it all. While there will be a market for specialised devices (Apples iPod is an excellent example), the relentless improvements in semiconductor and storage technology will push for a single omni-purpose device that we can carry and which is always connected to a network.
Triple Play: A single service provider which offers voice, video and data access is the direction we are heading in. Voice is increasingly being carried on the Internet, and we are moving towards flat-rate telephony. Cable companies are bundling voice, while the telephone companies see television as part of their future. As broadband networks get deployed, the triple play for a fixed monthly price becomes increasingly closer to reality.
Asias Rise: With growth stalling in technology in the developed markets, the focus now is on the emerging markets. Here, China and India are on the forefront with their billion-plus population potentially offering a huge captive customer base. Even as China is now seeking to translate its manufacturing prowess by moving up the technology value chain (as evidenced in Lenovos purchase of IBMs PC business), India is becoming a critical component in the services value chain. With South Korea and Japan already offering a glimpse of the future with their 3G networks and abundant, cheap broadband connectivity, the region is set to be the innovation driver for times to come.
Tomorrow: Trends (continued)