And now the future is no longer - only - mobile
Jan 20, 2013
And now the future is no longer just mobile: Google's shift towards physical gadgets and the "internet of things" raises concerns and possibilities for a Matrix-meets-Terminator future.
It's not new news - the PC has been counted out for years - if not decades - but finally in 2013, the open grave can be seen even by those who do not want to. In history, there has never been a 7% decline in sales in a single year as happened in the previous twelve months. But before even thinking about a world where everyone interacts digitally from their phone, forget the idea. At most, our addiction to swiping our finger on the phone will be temporary. In the war rooms of technology armies, smartphones are only part of the arsenal. The future is not just mobile. It is wearable.
The reader may object by saying that wearable equipment (here in English due to lack of adequate translation - no one deserves to have to say “wearables”) are also mobile. True. But although there is no difference for the user, for the industry the detail is fundamental. In the first case, practically any digital industry - more or less linked to technology - is capable of competing; in the second case, only corporate giants have a say.
In a piece in mid-January, the Economist magazine addressed the change in strategy that Google has been taking recently. What, in 2011, seemed like a simple patent portfolio purchase evolved into an investment trend. If before, big purchases were closely linked to the domination of the search market - the company's core business - the American company now shells out hundreds of millions of dollars each time to leave the virtual world and take the customer by the hand.
For example: in 2007, Page, Brin and Schmidt's company left $3 billion on the table to acquire Double Click, specializing in web advertising delivery intelligence. There is also the case of the aforementioned Motorola, paid more than four times the value of Double Click. But it was thought that it was still a focus on digital products - no one thought Google was going to worry about making cell phones.
And it certainly didn't. The company continued - with special determination in 2013 - buying creators of "physical" equipment, from the real world. In 2013, NestLabs (a company that develops thermostats and smoke detectors) changed owners, going to Google. The same thing happened with Boston Dynamics, a robot developer in Massachusetts. And with its own talent, it has already developed Google Glass, special glasses that allow the use of services while you do other things (like seeing the GPS map while driving, virtually projected on your lenses).
Google's change of ambition seems clear and reflects other changes of course taken by competitors in the technology world in recent years. Because of an infinite bank account and a devastating domination in its original business, the Californian company decided to go further. Google operates its future strategy in businesses that are absolute science fiction for most human beings. A GQ editor questions whether the company doesn't intend to be the real-life Skynet (if you don't know what Skynet is click here).
Technology is a market with greater volatility than others, probably due to the levels of innovation and disruption inherent in it. A person in their 40s has seen, at least three or four "largest companies in the world", which seemed to be in an unattainable position when a few years brought them back to the real world. It's funny to think of Microsoft as a "decadent" company (which it isn't, because it's ridiculously profitable and a leader in several sectors) - but it's definitely not a cool company anymore, seen as visionary, where the next big surprises will come from.
Google is no longer solely focused on mobile devices (because with Android, it has already secured such a decisive space, that it will hardly stop being a protagonist). Google's new step is to apply to be what General Electric was for the 20th century (in fact, the observation is the title of the Economist article) - the supplier of everyday gadgets. The "internet of things" is going to enter people's lives in a determining way in the next decade - so determining that today's search for gadgets like iPods and tablets will seem small. Not surprisingly, other companies, on a much smaller scale, are investing to create “interneted” devices.
The scenario makes one stop to think about what will become of us when our dependence on technology is much greater than today. This concern will not be unique and will probably come back at other times. The ambition and possibilities that the Schmidt-Brin-Page team presents are far beyond concern for the short and medium term. Mobile devices, which often get attention in the evolution of the technology market, are a relatively small part of the new reality proposed by the Mountain View company. Whether scary or exciting, a Matrix-meets-Terminator future is becoming more and more concrete.
[Note: part of the text seems weird, but it’s due to its translation from portuguese…]