Five Predictions About Your Future – #1: You Will Own Fewer Gadgets

by Randy Murray on June 20, 2011

I make no commentary on whether these predictions are for good or ill. When I look into the future this is what I see.

Sometime, perhaps soon, you will find that you own fewer electronic gadgets and that you buy them less frequently.

You will not buy a new computer every two or three years. You will not replace your phone every other year. You will not buy new TVs, GPS displays, cameras, ebook readers or any other type of consumer electronic device.

You will not own hard drives, CDs, DVDs, or other media types. You will, however, own at least a few paper books, perhaps more than you own today.

How will this come about? Hardware, for what it is, will sometime soon become irrelevant. You will have secure access to your personal data and your media from anywhere you are. You may buy a device, like a phone or a tablet, but they will be very inexpensive, almost disposable (and certainly recyclable). There will be no benefit from buying newer hardware. It will not be faster or have more storage. It will not offer new features. All that will matter is the software and the net and the net will be everywhere. For that matter, the word “software” will fall out of fashion. You will have apps, you will use features and tools. You will also stop using the word “computer.”

When you sit down to watch what was once called TV, you will watch your programs or any program you choose. The nearest device will recognize you and display your content. Projectors will replace most displays, providing clearer, brighter, variable sized images. Any flat surface of any size can become a screen.

There are many possible ways for this future to unfold, but this is the future.

 
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The Five Predictions About Your Future – #1: You Will Own Fewer Gadgets by Randy Murray, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Frank June 20, 2011 at 11:19 am

I agree with the title of the post, although I don’t quite agree with much else.

“Hardware, for what it is, will sometime soon become irrelevant. You will have secure access to your personal data and your media from anywhere you are. ”

Don’t know about you, but I think that sounds terribly un-secure. What’s stopping anyone else from accessing all my personal data? One password? How about the Dropbox fiasco and the recent changes to the ToS? How about lulzsec hacking into all sorts of “secure” websites and services over the past few months? How long will it take people to realize that shoving their data in “the cloud” isn’t secure?

I’d rather store my data locally than push it to a cloud server when I don’t know where it is and who has access to it. What if the cloud goes down? What if the government decides to pass Patriot Act-style legislation that allows them to view your Dropbox or iCloud files at will? I’m reminded of the Wikileaks Twitter and Facebook subpoenas. How do we know that cloud service providers will keep our data under lock and key?

There is no such thing as “secure” on the Internet. Any system designed to protect information can be cracked. The only way to keep your data safe is to not connect your computer to the Internet. Even then it’s only as safe as your house or SSD is.

Furthermore, how much data do people expect to store on the cloud? My 8 gigs of Dropbox space is nice, but I’m sure as heck not able to fit all my music, pictures, video and work files in there. Netflix is hogging bandwith and that’s only streaming movies. Imagine how crowded this’d get if everyone started saving everything on the cloud. Nightmarish.

Finally, I don’t think hardware isn’t on the way out. That’s like predicting “traditional cameras are dying because the iPhone has a good camera setup.” Maybe you’ll never need to buy a junky $150 point-and-shoot again. But if the pros stop buying high-quality Canons and Nikons because the iPhone has a 6 MP camera, I’ll eat my hat. Your smartphone can’t replace professional-grade photography equipment because it wasn’t designed to do that. In the same way, tablets won’t replace your computer because they weren’t designed to do that. Come to think of it, what are tablets designed to do, anyway? Play games and read the New York Times?

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Almighty Bob June 21, 2011 at 5:09 pm

I couldn’t agree with Mr. Murray more. I’m not sure what you’re thinking…

“Don’t know about you, but I think that sounds terribly un-secure.”
I can understand your apprehension; however, I think anyone criticizing cloud computing as an “un-secure” endeavor is overlooking a few important facts:
1. Currently SSDs are operating at a 30% failure rate. I use one and I love it- that doesn’t mean that I don’t have a couple “traditional” HDDs as a backup which goes right along with Mr. Murray’s point- I don’t want to manage piles of hardware. Local hardware can fail.
2. What do you think happened to the data stored locally throughout Joplin, MO? Sure, it wasn’t hacked, but I’m willing to bet that the majority of it was irrevocably lost. What if wedding photos weren’t stored online? They’re all gone. There are a multitude of situations that could physically occur causing one to lose everything. Fires, power surges, burglary, floods, tornadoes, and even little brothers using the computer with little working knowledge of the “delete” key could all cause loss. It isn’t just hackers that cause data loss, which seems to be your primary argument.
3. Personal computers/home networks are infinitely less secure than those controlled by I.T. professionals. Try pitting a hacker against your typical Linksys-controlled home network, then pit that same hacker against a fully fleshed out, secure, environment with devices that do nothing BUT monitor traffic (something which seems like an after-thought feature on your typical home networking device). As far as secure connections and secure documents are concerned, what level of encryption are you using with the documents on the computer you used to post this comment? ;-)
“I’d rather store my data locally than push it to a cloud server when I don’t know where it is and who has access to it.
Currently, I will give you this point. Your data currently has the potential to be accessed by malicious types; however, I think the point Mr. Murray is making is that in the future instead of looking up HD RPMS and RAM CAS latency and other tidbits of information that only appeal to true geeks, your average consumer will choose a service based on security features or scalability- not information that is hardware related.
“What if the cloud goes down?”
I’m sorry? The cloud = the internet. I’m pretty sure you asked “What if the internet goes down?” Hahahaha. But seriously, I do see your point. What if the particular service you subscribe to suffers complete loss? This is where market research and service comparisons are concerned. Buy “Crazy Kenny’s Kloud Komputing Service” and maybe that could happen, but I know for a fact that Google and Apple don’t keep all their eggs in one basket and, therefore, handle all the redundancy that home users are most likely sick of doing. The same is true for everything available as a service. In the future, users will do the research on the reliability of the company before throwing their online life to someone. It’ll be just like and as important as choosing a bank.
“What if the government decides to pass Patriot Act-style legislation that allows them to view your Dropbox or iCloud files at will?”
Did you know the Patriot act allowed for “searches through which law enforcement officers search a home or business without the owner’s or the occupant’s permission or knowledge.” If they want to know something about you, they’ll find out.
The only way to keep your data safe is to not connect your computer to the Internet.
I think an apt analogy would be to say you’re going to buy a car but not drive it because you might get into an accident. He’s not saying we will all wake up one day and have no local storage, just that in the future it will all be accessible everywhere (in my opinion this is the “not too distant” future).
Furthermore, how much data do people expect to store on the cloud? My 8 gigs of Dropbox space is nice, but I’m sure as heck not able to fit all my music, pictures, video and work files in there.
You currently have 8 gigs of Dropbox space. This is speculation on the future. If, in 3 years, Dropbox is still only offering 8gigs of space they won’t be around for year 4. Remember when dial-up internet wasn’t unlimited and you had a certain number of hours each month? These numbers will all grow (check out iCloud’s Match feature).
“Netflix is hogging bandwith and that’s only streaming movies. “
This has proven to be an inaccuracy as all previous reports were accounting for “the last mile” of traffic, during prime-time, based on ISP data rates, not the amount of bandwidth the internet has as a whole.
“Imagine how crowded this’d get if everyone started saving everything on the cloud. Nightmarish.”
You’re assuming that in the future we will still have the same internet speeds and be using the same technology to reach “the cloud.” Remember how painful it was to download a video in 1999? Now billions of people watch them every day on Youtube. Currently, the average speed of a person using the internet in the United States is 3.9 Mbps. In Kansas City, Google is creating a fiber network that will allow internet speeds of 1Gbps. That’s 1000Mbps vs 3.9Mbps or about 256 times faster than most American’s internet connection right now. Cloud ready.
“Maybe you’ll never need to buy a junky $150 point-and-shoot again. But if the pros stop buying high-quality Canons and Nikons because the iPhone has a 6 MP camera, I’ll eat my hat. Your smartphone can’t replace professional-grade photography equipment because it wasn’t designed to do that.”
I agree with you, it wasn’t designed to do that. Professional photographers will, most likely, continue purchasing high-end cameras, but he didn’t say they wouldn’t. “You will own fewer Gadgets,” is what he did say. So, in keeping in line with his prediction, instead of using a memory card, a card reader, a cable with a special dongle, a computer, a printer, and everything else that goes along with being a professional photographer, he’s saying that this expensive high quality camera will simply upload directly to the cloud via wifi or 3G or 15G or whatever the tech is at that point in time. But even though it wasn’t, who’s to say that couldn’t be? iPhone 3G has a 2.0 megapixel camera. iPhone 4 has a 5.0 megapixel camera. In two years the quality has more than doubled. I don’t see why the iPhone couldn’t, eventually, be a serious photographer’s tool.
In the same way, tablets won’t replace your computer because they weren’t designed to do that. Come to think of it, what are tablets designed to do, anyway? Play games and read the New York Times?
Now you’re just being silly. I don’t care your preference, Android or iOS (or Windows… eeew). You can get the full internet on a tablet. Have you not seen Google Docs? This isn’t the future, this is happening RIGHT NOW. I find it hard to believe that someone so completely oblivious to the capabilities of current technology feels they’re in any way qualified to comment on the future. Perhaps you should, instead, find yourself an abacus?
End rant.

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Frank June 21, 2011 at 7:52 pm

You raise some interesting points for sure.

1. Good point. That’s why I back things up regularly, but it’s true that the cloud would offer more safety that way.

2. It’s true that natural disasters, burglars and other things can wreck my home and kill my computer setup. But natural disasters happen all over the place, and they can happen to data centres too. So natural disasters alone aren’t enough to convince me to switch completely to the cloud. And you do have the issue of dealing with who’s accessing your info on the cloud. Which brings me to…

3. The cloud may be safer against hackers, but only if they clean their act up. Wasn’t it just yesterday that you could log into any Dropbox account? Regardless of password? If that happened to Google or Facebook, the outrage would be unfathomable. Instead we get merely a footnote.

I do see your point about the diminishing importance of hardware.

My comment about the cloud going down was poorly worded, but I think you get what I mean. This leads into another enormous problem with cloud computing: governments won’t be able to use it. Can a government employee store their confidential information on the cloud if that service has servers in another country? Legal issues abound. You’d be surprised about the number of stories I’ve heard about government workers and people in charge of confidential information storing it on Dropbox, ignorant of the fact that they’ve given their data to a company with servers who-knows-where. Is the data now protected by Canadian law (because I come from Canada)? Me coming from Canada also explains why I failed so much at understanding the Patriot Act. But my point remains: in order for the government to read the files on my laptop, they need to get my laptop. Isn’t the cloud just a subpoena away?

Re the car analogy: interesting, but I’m not sure if I completely agree. On the road, we have stop lights and stripes and police and anti-cell-phone legislation and all sorts of things designed to make our trip safer. With the cloud, I feel it’s more of a “get in your car and whatever happens happens” mentality. It’d be silly not to take advantage of the cloud just because it’s not guaranteed to keep your data safe permanently. All the same, when you use these services, you have to keep in mind that you are trading away 100% security for ease of use and simplicity. In most cases, that’s a trade I’m willing to make, but people seem to forget about the dangers.

About cloud space, Google Music ran into this problem already. Didn’t it take weeks for people to upload their entire library? And with ISPs gouging their customers for bandwidth, it’s going to take a serious change of heart for wide-scale cloud computing and streaming to become a reality. Not impossible, but things must change. We’ll see how this issue resolves itself.

I apologize for the misinformation about Netflix, but I can only imagine it getting worse as more and more people start ditching Blockbuster for the Internet. Although I’m sure torrents already take up a bunch of bandwidth, so maybe the existing system can take it.

The last point is the tablet. I see what you’re saying, but I don’t agree. What’s the use of a tablet? It seems like nobody needed a tablet until January 2010 when Apple announced the iPad. Then everyone went crazy about them and we haven’t let up. I think the evidence for this is that no tablet had succeeded until Apple jumped in. Now everyone and their dog is making a tablet. That’s great for the market and all, but it still hasn’t addressed the question of why you need a tablet. My MacBook does Google Docs just fine. My friend’s Android phone can handle Google Docs. Given that phones and laptops have an actual purpose, what void is the tablet filling?

I feel like tablets try to do everything, but they don’t do so well. They’re not very good ereaders (e-ink is unquestionably better), not great computers (how about Excel on Windows 8? Shudder-worthy.), they can’t take calls like your phone, their cameras aren’t good enough to replace a serious pro camera, their form factor makes it hard to carry around without a bag.

For the record, I have an iPhone 4 and a MacBook and I keep up with Apple as much as the best. I love the iPhone because it makes calls and can keep me connected on social networking. My MacBook handles video editing and music arrangements and other stuff I do (I’m 21; not that that matters). I also have an iPad 2, and all I end up doing on it is playing Fruit Ninja. Sure, it might be a bit easier to navigate Reeder or catch up on Twitter, but its lack of portability makes it a bit wearisome. I’ll concede that I haven’t tried Android’s or RIM’s offerings (although who really wants a Playbook?), but if you want to do more than casual email and web surfing, a tablet seems like a waste of money. Can’t remember who, but a very anti-Apple blogger recently wrote “what is the iPad killer app?” He’s right in a sense, but the question needs to be more general. What is a tablet’s killer app/feature? I’m thinking ‘touch’ is the only possible answer, and we’ve got that on our phones and laptops already. I just don’t get why the tablet is so necessary.

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Randy Murray June 22, 2011 at 7:37 am

A quick reply to governments and cloud computing. The answer is simple: governments are large enough to build and manage their own clouds – separate, private/governmental clouds. Businesses can do this too: virtual private clouds, which can be either wholly owned and inside an organization or can reach into public clouds when needed.

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Frank June 22, 2011 at 8:14 am

Ah, if that’s the case, then I needn’t have worried. Thanks for the response.

JonathanJK June 20, 2011 at 3:50 pm

To (help) answer your question, I use mine for my email, Twitter, Skype, making field notes (photographer talking here) and drafting essays, learning languages (tons of software for this on the App Store, yay!), use it as a second screen for my macbook and give presentations to those I need to communicate to if my mouth isn’t working properly.

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