Stumbling Into the Future

By | January 5, 2008

Listening to Mark Anderson’s predictions for the coming year on the BBC World Service with Peter Day. A lot of his stuff is spot on, and what I’ve been thinking (a lot less coherently):

  • Small portable computers — he’s talking about the Samsung Q1, but he could also be talking about the Nokia N95 of the Asus Eee PC. He says that there’s research showing a 7″ x 9″ screen is the optimum size for users to absorb and handle information. I haven’t seen that, but I think there’s definitely a sweet spot there, at least for users on the road (where we tend not to need to handle large amounts of data, instead focusing on what’s next up the pipe — that meeting, that story, whatever. What I think will be most interesting, though, is when the screen can adapt to the situation or environment — a foldable screen that can fit your seat size, expanding when you need it to something much bigger. 
  • Revolt by users over privacy issues. I think ex-Microsoft blogger Robert Scoble, as ever, is through his dabbling with a Plaxo screen-scraping tool, finding out before the rest of us that what we thought was our data, isn’t. (This isn’t strictly true; Facebook does allow you to export your friends’ data via a third party app called FriendCSV.) Anderson’s point was that people don’t like things like Facebook’s Beacon, which monitored users’ activity on participating websites, but I think bigger will be people’s growing realisation that all the time they’ve spent on Facebook isn’t easily transferable. 
  • Pervasive Internet: It won’t be a big thing. It’ll just be there, a place where we store and find stuff. A key element in this is flat rates for cellular data. It’s beginning to happen, but I still get a real shock when I see my cellphone bill. Speed is also an issue.

Of course, he said all this much better, and understands the wider context (oil prices, that kind of thing). But it’s good to know someone who charges $600 for a newsletter to the likes of Bill Gates isn’t that far off in his thinking from a minnow like me.

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