I attended Internetix, an event hosted by Internet Solutions, yesterday with the theme focusing on commerce. Commerce as we knew it a few years ago will not be relevant in a few years from now, simply because our habits change. Our habits change for one main reason – cultural influence, which includes our peers. In my opinion a young person will more than likely adopt a habit because his/her friend has adopted it. Think smoking, drinking, drugs, etc. Other things like natural curiosity is less likely in my opinion, because as kids we learn from our parents or caretakers and our sense of opinion is formed by these individuals. Think about cars for instance, a young man may buy the same brand of car that his father bought because his father told him as a child that its the best there is, and conversely the rebellious young man may buy a different brand of car just to make a point, and not necessarily because he has an affliction for said brand. Ok, so how does that tie up with the Internetix event and a small screen. I’ll explain.
Technology manufacturers want all your attention (read attention economy) and to get it they will go to many lengths to make your transition from one environment to the next as easy as possible, without leaving their “technology cage”. Let me substantiate this even further with some clear examples of technology that creates a “virtual cage”, which tries to create a seamless environment. Microsoft has several products and services that people use at office and at home, as well as away from home. At the office you typically have a desktop/laptop with Windows on it, at home you may also have a desktop/laptop with Windows on it, but you may additionally have a Windows Live account (Hotmail) that you also use with your XBox, which you can coincidentally use with a Windows Phone 7 powered device. To me that already seems like a deliberate attempt at creating a continuous state of “connectedness”. If you are a developer and you work with Microsoft technology the line seems very clear. My guess is that Google are trying to replace the desktop with their tablet devices, because it would complete a loop for them, because most users of Google services such as GMail and Google Docs are tied into spending more of their time using Google services, creating a sense of dependency and more than likely we involve others in that dependency and get them involved. I use dependency because we have become “dependent” on the services through our mobile devices, PCs, laptops, iPads, etc. So its not really about the mobile screen but about the services and the continuous supply of information, and more importantly the interaction with others, and ultimately our reliance on these services. The interaction with others is exactly what technology companies want, they want to log your interactions, and use it, for good and bad, in my opinion.
I read this article and this one, and I also considered the event mentioned earlier, where they demoed Lync Server and showed how seamless you can switch between a mobile device and a desk phone whilst remaining on the same call, with no interruptions. It also showed you people can collaborate on the same document. From the articles it seems to me that Microsoft have become the best selling console gaming device in the US and if you think about it carefully its a pretty important space to command. I just dont see Microsoft dominating the mobile space, but thats also not the entire point. The point is that Microsoft has the potential to be present in your daily life, for the entire day. If you use a desktop as stated above and you play some XBox at home against friends and you have a WP7 device then you are going to be online for a big portion of the day and that is the point. In the same breath consider the Lync example, add some Skype and a pinch of XBox Kinect and you have the potential for some interesting services. Services that can be synched with a mobile device of your choice, keeping you connected the whole time.
At my previous employer I remember that their one goal was to tie the loop and keep users engaged in your environment by combining all the services they used into a single logged-in environment.