In Have We Already Entered a ‘Post-Smartphone’ Era? I suggested we’ve entered a time when innovation, customer expectations, and creative marketing no longer serve as the focus of an increasingly commoditized and standardized smartphone industry.
I say that without really knowing what companies like Apple have “up their sleeves” in the coming year. But let’s assume its true, that we really are in a “post smartphone era.” If so, what’s next?
I think what’s next is that people, companies, and government agencies must decide how comfortable they are with the network and cloud-based service companies that sit between them and their friends and customers. This is especially true given the increasing diversity of wearable and embeddable interactive and control devices now entering the market that are cloud-dependent for both network access and content.
Companies like Google, Apple, Yahoo, Facebook, and Microsoft are, of course, way beyond just serving as “dumb pipes” that neutrally support how people interact with the world. These companies have their own “axes to grind” regarding how data on online interactions by their customers are captured, manipulated, stored, and used. It’s more important then ever that users of these services know where their and their friends’ and customers’ data are, how those data are used, and who has access to the data. Those who have already gone through such deliberations in connection with security reviews of potential network based vendors will be a step ahead of those who have not bothered to ask such questions.
While there are certainly privacy and “national security” issues at play here, we also need to be concerned about control. If an important communication channel you need for interacting with, say, a paying customer is controlled or influenced by someone else and the actual content of your interaction can be analyzed and manipulated in ways that may not align with your own goals, then how you and/or your customers derive and receive compensation for value derived from your relationship could be vulnerable and at risk.
We’re already seeing examples of this in possible pushback from non-U.S. companies and countries over the NSA/PRISM revelations (e.g., see U.S. cloud industry stands to lose $35 billion amid PRISM fallout). Such concerns are bound to worsen for U.S. based companies and were probably discussed at the recent “secret” White House meeting. Partly as a result, adoption of emerging wearable and embedded interactive devices might be slowed due to fragmentation of infrastructure and government regulation. Given the vast increase in analyzable data that the “Internet of Things” might be generating (see Jon Collins’ GigaOm Pro report, The internet of things: a market landscape), the loss of potential revenue by U.S. companies could be substantial. This translates into lost U.S. jobs.
The bottom line: in a post-smartphone era, the more we know where our data are and how they are used the better off we are. Network companies — or governments — that resist making such data more accessible will be disadvantaged in the marketplace. Users of networks that ignore the interests of their customers will likewise be disadvantaged.