By Rich W Woods
I haven’t written one of these in awhile. I started doing “what ifs” a while back, mainly for fun. We’re geeks and we like to fantasize about stuff that might happen in the tech world. This one is What If…tech companies existed solely for the purpose of innovation?
I was at my mother’s house yesterday doing, you guessed it, fixing her computer, because that’s pretty much my job. When I was done, I wanted to leave a note for her, telling her so. I was blown away by my options. Would I have to use a paper and pen? I don’t remember the last time I’ve had to do so!
As a geek, I often have visions of how the future of technology should be. I imagine that instead of having a wooden desk, it would be a touchscreen. It would be a touchscreen desk where, instead of having a stack of papers, there could be a virtual stack of papers that you could write on. You can move the papers around as you need to sift through them. Swipe to the side and the paper lands on the digital bulletin board. Swipe in from the side and the bulletin board itself pops up and you can choose one to bring back to your desk.
The digital bulletin board is important as well, or any other way to leave a digital note as my problem above stated. Of course, we have tablets. I could have simply used my Surface Pro and its pen and wrote up a note and left it, but am I really going to leave my Surface Pro behind? I still have my Surface Pro 3, of course, but still, no sense in leaving an expensive device like that behind just to leave a note.
For decades, analysts have been predicting the death of paper. Ever since smart phones and tablets have become mainstream over the last few years, that prediction has become eerily close to a reality. Just ten years ago, pen and paper was a part of everyday life, not an inconvenience for the rare time when you need it.
I envision a future where a combination of speech, multitouch, keyboards & mice, and gestures are how we interact with devices. Everything around us is computerized. Our desks are like the one I described above as is the bulletin board.
It Can’t Happen in Today’s Environment
We live in a world that is innovating faster than ever; however, it’s still about iteration more than innovation. Apple is still thinking about the iPhone 6S and iOS 9, Google is still thinking about Android 6, and Microsoft is still thinking about Windows 10. Next year’s phones, tablets, and PCs are going to have more power than they do this year and most likely, it will always be like that.
Take a look at today’s smart TVs. People come to me all the time, telling me that they’re thinking of purchasing a smart TV and asking my advice on which one to purchase. I strongly advise against it. After all, I have one friend that has a smart TV and he can’t get the WWE Network. We were going to watch one of the shows at his house, so I brought over an old Roku box I had which couldn’t get it either.
Software updates come to newer devices. Once that device reaches a certain age, you simply can’t get what you want out of it anymore. It’s much easier to replace a box such as a Roku than an entire smart TV.
It then leaves the question, why would anyone buy a smart desk? You’re going to spend thousands of dollars on a desk that is going to be obsolete in a couple years? Not likely.
What Would Need to Happen
The idea of having a smart desk or a digital bulletin board isn’t such a far fetched idea. The first thing that would need to happen is that it would need to cost the same price as the analog version of the device in question. I’m not only talking about desks and bulletin boards. I’m talking about everything being computerized. I’m talking about killing pens and paper, for good. Your kid won’t even be able to write on the walls anymore because those will be computerized as well.
If you can go to the store and buy a notepad for $1, you need to be able to buy a digital notepad for under $10. We can allow for it to be a bit pricier because users won’t have to go through them like they go through paper. If a wooden desk costs $500, then a smart desk needs to cost $500 as well.
People also need to stop looking for the next smart phone. First, we had PCs. When smart phones came out, everyone said “I don’t need a phone that does all that. I just talk and text.” Then, they realized that it’s a computer in your pocket. When tablets came out, everyone said, “I don’t need that. I have my smart phone and my laptop.”
Now we have smart watches. It’s a one inch display so people are realizing that they can’t use a smart watch to do all of the things that they can do with their smart phone. They ask why they could possibly need a new portable computer with less functionality.
In fact, people are going to have a revelation soon. As of this moment, most people are not used to having an upgrade cycle on their watch or on their cable boxes. When they go buy that Roku or Apple TV, they’re not thinking about upgrading it in a few years. Soon enough, the general, non-techie public will come to the realization that if it has a processor, it has an upgrade cycle.
If we ever want to get to a point where everything is computerized, we have to get to a point where it doesn’t all have an upgrade cycle. We already have to replace out phones every two years as well as our tablets if you have the budget for it. Laptops can go four or five years if you get a decent one. Next, you have to worry about your Roku, Apple TV, or Amazon Fire TV. Soon, you’ll be thinking about upgrading your smart watch as well.
Then, add to that a desk, a bulletin board, a notepad, or even the walls of your house. What about your smart kitchen table that can tell what kind of food you’re eating and helps track your calories?
Of course, it’s a fantasy world. We live in the real world, where people won’t buy a smart watch because they don’t need yet another thing that they’ll need to upgrade every two years.