Thoughts on big trends in technology, media, politics, and society. Oh, and kind of a diary except more public.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

My Top 10 Predictions for Tech & Media in 2012

These have appeared originally as a series of tweets. Without the 140-character limit per, a few have been expanded here:

#10 The best smartphones selling now aren't even 30% of the functionality we'll see in Q4 2012.

#9 Traditional forms of data management, business intelligence and knowledge management will be combined with highly curated published media to advance business analysis and corporate training.

#8 Explosion in non-traditional spectrum will broaden streaming's use: both "wi-fi roaming" & "white space."

# 7 One or two firms, among today's ERP players or NextGen point-solution enterprise players, will offer a real, comprehensive ERP 2.0: fully mobile, fully cloud, with rich web interfaces.

#6 Digital periodicals will change to deliberately blend traditional journalistic approaches with editor-curated social media interaction. Think “FlipBoard in reverse”.

#5 Siri-like & Kinect-like interfaces will spread across multiple devices; APIs will be opened up for them, too, unleashing considerable innovation.

#4 Privacy and Identity issues will be so big there'll be significant regulatory/legislative backlash as well as the introduction of specific apps for users to take back control of their personal information. One of the drivers of NFC adoption will be consumers recognizing their mobile device, tied securely to the cloud, can produce a truly protected wallet consisting of not only credit cards, but also transit pass, driver's license, passport, and all important identity info.

#3 New video-specific guides, interfaces and search tools will straddle cable, NetFlix, & YouTube for Internet TVs, tablets & consoles. Apple WILL offer a leapfrog in this before year-end.

#2 A new class of mobile apps will integrate & organize other apps to unleash higher utility & value and reduce the current clutter.

#1 The US presidential election outcome will be defined by social media innovations honed in Arab Spring and Occupy Wall Street. Entering 2013, the entire consumer Internet will feel much more “Cause-Centric”.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Psychiatry = Pharmacology, Nothing More

This hits close to home, but hopefully readers will not expect me to divulge details on how close to home.

I just saw another example of "The answer is a prescribed pill." The doctor has offered behavior modification techniques, but not in a heartfelt way. And not with the doctor being involved hands-on with the patient. Instead, the recommendation was a treatment of daily drugs. There's clearly a higher return-on-effort-expended for the psychiatrist to dole out "meds" to patients than to be more active in therapy. It's the easier route, for sure.

In my opinion, a large part of the problem is the field of psychiatry itself has major "coping" issues. The field hasn't kept up with modern Western culture and typical behaviors. Major forces like social media (Facebook, Twitter) usage, cyber-bullying, etc. haven't been studied closely enough by the psychiatric profession. There are coping methodologies and practices out there, but few if any have been updated for relevance in today's hyper-connected, information-overload Western society. The average person's affiliations and beliefs are radically different than those of twenty years ago, for example ZERO twenty-somethings expect tenure with specific workplaces to be longer than a couple years and trust in institutions is lower than even in the 1960s.

The sad irony is that many of the technologies creating the newest stresses, the smartphones and Facebook accounts and Google searches, could themselves be harnessed to allow psychiatrists to handle more patients more intensively, with better information, better interactions, and better monitoring. Regarding psychological and spiritual well-being, there should certainly be "an app for that." Why isn't this happening?

Maybe I'm influenced here a little bit by the current "Occupy Wall Street" movement putting such a spotlight on corporate greed. But I think an overwhelming bias in spending and attention favors pills over practices. The big pharma companies spend billions on R&D, lobbying Washington, marketing directly to consumers via big prime-time advertising campaigns, and wooing doctors aggressively. Who is going to fund the innovation in non-pill solutions? Who is motivated to do anything like that? The answer, unfortunately, is NOBODY. You have a few "guru" types, Tony Robbins perhaps the most famous, who earn enough to spend some of the earnings on research and marketing. But this is peanuts compared to the activities of Big Pharma.

Unfortunately there's been no big philanthropic activity around mental illness, other than the Special Olympics movement (which is a very good thing, and sports are a great antidote for psychological problems, but it doesn't do the trick). There's too much of a stigma about mental illness, it's the dirty little secret families don't want out there for others to see. And it's not as "marketable" as cancer, heart disease, or AIDS (readers, PLEASE do not take this as an argument against continuing strong fundraising to fight those diseases or raise awareness about treatment and prevention; maybe there can be some room for more activity on mental health, too?).

It could be argued that, in the past, organized religions were sort of in-the-business of behavioral modification practices and treatments for psychiatric problems, and they could apply accumulated treasure and missionary zeal to helping. But the decline in church-going and the financial fortunes of religions means this isn't a viable alternative to the pill-for-everything trend either.

If there's any hope for a reversal in this unfortunate trend, it may be from increasing awareness about Eastern mind-body ties, holistic medicine, and more consumer-friendly versions of all this like Yoga (which appeals to the same vanity that causes people to want to pop pills yet is actually about something much deeper).

For now families have to do all they can to provide active daily support to those afflicted, whether medications are involved or not, to try to help modify negative behaviors in a non-judgmental way. It's called Unconditional Love.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Dear President Obama: Please Step Up

POTUS just sent out a mass email to supporters using the term "frustrated". He means his supporters are, or should be, frustrated. He blames Congress, obviously Republicans, for recent problems like the S&P downgrade. But it comes across as Obama himself expressing frustration. Well, you know what, sir, please just LEAD!

You, President Obama, dug yourself this hole. You blame Republicans for being ridiculously partisan, making it impossible for the White House to work with them. Perhaps true. But instead of dealing with the reality of their increased power, you continued to support a Democratic congressional leadership group PROVEN to be out of touch with Americans. The mid-term election results showed that, clearly.

At many points in US history, a mid-term election signaled to the sitting President he had to move to the center politically. Making lemonade out of lemons, such events became great opportunities to demonstrate an independent leadership -- detached from Congress -- that won over a majority of the electorate and led to the presidents' re-elections. Instead of a stalemate, the sitting President could right some of his own party's wrongs, with the legitimate defense that he needed to be practical.

To the average American, the rantings of Tea Partiers seem whacko. So you Mr. President can appeal as the anti-that. But the Big Government Democrats look like Luddites given the current global economic climate. So you need to be as distanced from them as from the Tea Party. Why are you so unwilling or unable to cut ties to the Washington insiders. Either your ideology aligns with them, which guarantees you will lose the next election by a huge margin, and you don't deserve the electorate's support. Or you're getting bad political advice on how you should be positioning yourself. I hope it's the latter, but you need to recognize your mistakes and change course.

You need to show a plan for jobs and the economy that is SOLELY the White House's plan, presented in stark contrast to right-wing AND left-wing alternatives. You're misreading that you need to work some kind of anticipated political compromise into what you propose. The average citizen assumes right now, cynical and bruised, that if Speaker Boehner has an imprint on the plan, the plan won't be viable. Just as much (and probably moreso), if Rep. Pelosi or Senator Reid are OK with what you're saying, the plan is dead-on-arrival.

You need to get out of Washington. You need to focus on winning over the business leaders of America, who tend to be willing to step away from political affiliations if they see benefits to their companies of acting independently. An acid test of whether you have a credible plan would be can you get Starbucks' CEO Howard Schultz on stage with you to unveil a new direction for the economy. Not every major CEO is going to join his contribution-withholding effort, but you wouldn't find a single one who disagrees with the spirit of Schultz's stand.

As a President leading rather than constantly seeking political compromises, you would attract to your side every truly great thinker on the economy. They would work with you to fix this mess. They'd consider it an honor. But if you ask any of them to show up and Washington to join some kind of process involving incumbents who've proven incapable of taking action or even understanding our predicament, forget it.

Please, Mr. President, lead.

Back to Blogging

It's been a long time since I blogged. And even back then, I had just started before getting consumed in my gig-du-jour. A lot has transpired in my life and career since then. The world is very different, too. But my blog's theme and label has become stronger and more relevant. You only need to look at recent events in North Africa and the Middle East to see how communications and social networking have fused to change the way people organize and act. Exciting stuff, but worrying in some ways, too. I believe I have some thoughts to contribute to the understanding of what's going on and what could be on the horizon. Plus, I think it's simply therapeutic to try to write something every day, and go on record fearlessly in a public forum. So let's see how it goes.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Service Providers Can't Own All Apps, But Can't Just be Pipe

The service provider, whether Telco, Cable MSO, or wireless carrier (satellite is challenged in this) MUST strive to deliver THE unifying interfaces for people’s various services and apps.

The genie's out of the bottle on app proliferation and diversity. The 35K+ apps in the iPhone App Store has forever changed the game. No one service provider, or software company -- not even Microsoft, no entertainment company even a Disney, can ever keep pace with what such organic app development eco-systems can create. But now the consumer is overwhelmed with applications that aren't connected or brought together very well. It's actually pretty chaotic, leading to a new consumer need for aggregation. What has happened for apps, has also happened for digital media. I can have digital video through xbox live, itunes, the service providers' on-demand offerings, netflix, etc. But none of these organizes assets you get from the other sources. More confusion for the consumer, another need somebody is going to meet.

"Interface” in this case isn’t just UI but it’s the place where the customer goes all the time, because she trusts the protection around that aggregation point – software, hardware drivers, online support, performance optimization, customer care if necessary, truck roll if necessary, “good housekeeping” seal of approval/warranty – to be better than what other portals or service providers can offer.

If the service provider delivers that, and the pipe capabilities "tuned" for such an aggregation point, it can remain in a position where it charges consumers and businesses fair value per month. If not, the pipes will become very commoditized and interchangeable with others’ offerings.

I’m glad to see many service providers advocating not just Triple Play bundles, but integrated, cross-platform services. Like Comcast doing Universal Caller ID, where an incoming phone call triggers alerts on the phone, the PC and the TV. Or Comcast's SmartZone, where in the email app you can also find call logs and voicemail (which you can listen to inline on your PC), a network address book synchronized with Outlook and smartphone contacts, and just released a calendar that will also be synchronizable.

But I worry that towards any Preferred Aggregator/Organizer role for service providers, the competition is the Portals and Social Net leaders, and they move much faster than Internet Service Providers especially the big ones. None of the service providers are moving fast enough on things like:

-- making set-top box guides something customers don’t detest, mostly by adding better search and recommendation engines, and some kind of better archiving/indexing policies and tools

-- creating a software load for bringing all of their content/apps to Game Consoles, Roku, AppleTV, etc. (essentially anything that vies with the STB for control of TV via HDMI; "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em")

-- expanding their email/portal offerings so they're open to anyone who wants them (not just high-speed subscribers) and opening up interfaces so these offerings can be one-stop-shops for all messages, posts, alerts, reminders, etc. whether Comcast’s, or Google’s or Facebook’s or Yahoo’s or others.

Service providers are all answering analyst, investor and press questions about the threat to video revenues from Over-the-Top sites like YouTube and Hulu and iTunes. To me, in and of themselves, such video sites aren't killer. But if they add communications and social sharing capabilities faster than service providers can use their advantages of being in Video, Voice, and High-Speed Data businesses -- the portals and social net players can't yet claim this and are perhaps 2-3 years away from such capabilities, then the old fear of service providers becoming "dumb pipes" could come to pass.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

"The Economist " Validates Obama, Sort Of

In the latest Economist, one of the editorials commends Obama for many of his stances. They clearly like his style. Anybody who reads the Economist will understand why they do. And maybe it says something about my leanings, but their position made sense to me. In essence, they welcome his desire to bridge divides, whether domestically in terms of bipartisan initiatives, or internationally in terms of reducing American isolationism. They do express nervousness about his impractical recommendations for ending the Irag war and his sometimes anti-capitalist economic policy pronouncements.

I think his youthfulness also appeals. John McCain is one of the most vital, energetic politicians in Washington, so he should not be discounted because he's in his 70s. But for the first time in awhile, our generation those in our 40s and 50s and 60s can't credibly state that we're leaving things in better shape than when we inherited them. We face wars that have no end in sight, housing and banking collapses, food riots around the world, global warming concerns, and gas prices rising out of control. When Obama says it's time for change, that may resonate with a greater and greater percentage of Americans.

So if Obama wins, the issue for the Economist (and lots of others) will be "Can he turn from rhetoric to realism and modify his populist positions to make him effective as the President?"

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Couldn't Pennsylvania Stop The Primaries' Insanity?

Reading the news this weekend, I see how vicious the attacks have grown between Obama and Clinton. McCain and Republicans in general must be full of glee. I live in Pennsylvania. I feel bad the race didn't end here.

If Clinton had maintained the 20 point lead she held initially, she had a legitimate case to gain an overall super-delegate majority. The case would be that Democratic prospects in November would be much better with her demonstrated ability to win big states.

If Obama had lost by five points or less, that would be close enough to a victory (especially coming from 20 points out)that Clinton would have needed to drop out. If she wouldn't drop out, money for her campaign would have dried up so she would have been forced out anyway.

With a 10 point win for Clinton, Pennsylvania passed the buck. I wonder if state luminaries, especially Governor Rendell and Mayor Nutter, now wish they hadn't been so quick to announce their backing for Clinton. Right now they get to feel the temporary high of helping her win. But they must know she didn't win by enough to turn this around. They could have persuaded her it was time to back out gracefully, perhaps to create the Dream Ticket and pull the whole party together tightly.

Instead, the battle will become more bitter in coming weeks. Obama remains on path to win but with an increasingly weakened position against McCain. National Democratic leaders will express more and more frustration this couldn't get solved in Pennsylvania. Will people like Rendell and Nutter begin to regret they missed their chance to be kingmakers for Obama?