9. Voice calls are becoming free. For telecom companies, it is their worst nightmare come true. Voice, which has sustained their business models for decades, is now becoming near-free on wired networks, thanks to the likes of Skype and others. Even in India, there is talk of creating a flat-rate for nationwide long distance calls, eliminating the earlier practice of distance-based pricing. It is only a matter of time before the Internet makes voice just another service on the digital infrastructure. The implications of free voice are many. For example, one could not just click on an ad to go a website but click to be connected to a person at the other end. Distance means little as loved ones can now communicate more often irrespective of where they are. For telecom companies, it means reinventing themselves as we are now seeing them do.
Update: Skype continues to grow, extending its voice application to also support video. In India, telecom costs have fallen dramatically. While not exactly free, pricing is now at a rupee a minute for long-distance calling within the country on landlines and about double that on mobile phones.
10. Software-as-a-service is happening. Yet another old model is being reinvented. Google did it to Search and online advertising, while Salesforce.com is doing it for software delivery. The traditional model of licencing software is giving way to making applications available over the Internet for companies to use. This is especially useful for small- and medium-sized enterprises who can now automate business processes without necessarily having to make big upfront investments in expensive hardware and software.
Update: SaaS continues to grow, though it has still to make deep inroads into India. One of the bottlenecks is the lack of cheap, reliable broadband connectivity. But I do expect it to grow, as Indian companies automate operations. They can skip intervening generations to go directly to the SaaS-based world. This will likely be seen in small- to medium-sized enterprises first who have no legacy to worry about.
11. Emerging markets are where the action is. Because their infrastructure has been so pathetic, emerging markets will leapfrog to the new world faster. We have already seen this in India with the mobile infrastructure. Emerging markets are going to decide technologys next big winners (and losers). Even companies like Vodafone are now betting on emerging markets for their own continued growth. The next billion people are finally getting integrated into the marketplace and that will create its own challenges and opportunities. I believe that the next Google will come from the worlds emerging markets.
Update: This is accepted even more now than ever before. Cisco is moving some of its senior staff to India to capitalise on growth. Motorola is betting on India for its future mobile business growth. One of India’s leading mobile operators, Hutch, has seen its valuation jump almost 75% in a month as bidders vie to get a piece of the action. The next Google is yet to emerge, but perhaps it has already been born somewhere!
TECH TALK 2007 Tech Trends+T