2010 will be a transformative year for technology

IPG Emerging Media Lab's 2010 Trends We believe 2010 will be a transformative year for technology that will likely impact the consumer experience dramatically for the next decade. Not since 1999 have consumers, techies, and marketers had so many reasons to celebrate. That was the year we began to see unprecedented broadband growth, the year the first mobile data network hit (in Japan), and we saw Google take its first steps (founded just four months before start of 1999 – VC funding came in 1999), not to mention the introduction of P2P (with the founding of Napster).

2010 promises to be even more explosive: The products and solutions coming to market in 2010 will impact the way we interact with our mobile, PC, and content devices for years to come.  Here are seven reasons to believe:

Mobile is becoming the new PC
40 percent of iPhone users now browse the web more from their mobile phone than their PC according to an AdMob study. But with true 4G on target to launch in 30 cities across the US by the end of 2010, there will be the bandwidth to support this behavior. 4G will launch at the same speeds as cable modems provide today, and it will have the ability to scale to up to ten times the speeds it launches at; it will enable HD video, complex cloud services, and will fulfill the true promise of data anytime anywhere. In short, 4G will be to 3G what cable modems were to dial up.

Verizon is will be the first network to launch the 4G rollout in the US, and will be followed up by AT&T’s 4G rollout in 2011. Already, LG has been working on creating 4G network cards for 2010, and it looks like we’ll be seeing mobile 4G devices from the company in early 2011.

Technology is going primal
We’re calling 2010 “the year of kinetics.” With Windows 7 adding multi-touch capabilities, Apple releasing the first ever multi-touch mouse, and Microsoft set to release its extraordinary Project Natal via its Xbox platform at the end of 2010, the way in which we interact with technology is changing fast. And it’s high time—not since the birth of the typewriter and since Douglas Engelbart invented the mouse in 1963 have we reinvented how our bodies communicate with technology. By the end of 2010, we will play video games without a controller, scroll through content on our TVs and PCs using our fingers, and our avatars will be equipped with facial recognition software so they will know who is in front of the screen. Some of these concepts we saw explored in Steven Spielberg’s Minority Report which took place in 2054; it was off by 44 years!

UK grocer Tesco already released an application for Windows 7 touch interface so that if you’ve got a touch screen at home you can more easily build your grocery lists and do your shopping in a tactile, intimate way. As the Wii proved, these changes will enable brands to engage with audiences who previously were not engaging; the Wii is closed to brands, but Xbox is not—the opportunities for marketers here are fascinating.

Content and distribution are unbundling
2010 won’t be the first year that we’ll be able to get our content via data channels. But it is the year that we’ll be able to get almost ALL of it that way. By the end of 2010 we estimate there will be up to ten million in the US–nearly all of them equipped with Netflix instant streaming, new video on demand solutions, and a growing number of widgets. Whether it’s your “television” content, your radio channels, or your mobile phone voice plan, all of our content will be reduced to 0s and 1s. Forget the sixty years of different media channels–2010 will show us it’s just data, folks.

Google Voice is a great example of the unbundling taking place. By combining the service, which serves as one phone number across multiple phone lines, with the recent Google acquisition of Gizmo5, a smooth transition can take place to a VoIP existence – even over a 3G or 4G data network. Another example is TV manufacturer Vizio. Their new lineup of televisions are connected, and will offer access to a wide selection of content via the Internet. It will be interesting to see what happens in the TV market when models are competing on features beyond just picture quality.

Word of mouth can be harnessed
Our 2009 trends report looked at the impact new listening tools were having on brands who were wanting to join the conversations taking place across social media channels. Those tools exploded in sophistication and number last year. And it was only the start. In November, Google and Bing integrated real-time conversations happening on Twitter into their search results.

Facebook Connect now allows brands to create experiences for their consumers that leverage the 300+ million social network. From lowing the barriers for site sign-on, to pulling in pictures and interests, we haven’t yet seen Facebook Connect reach its peak. Bit.ly is also worth watching in 2010. The URL shortening site became the default for Twitter a few months ago, and now 3/4 of links shared on Twitter use the service. Because of their analytics platform, this means the viral activity and social impact of any web page can be viewed by checking with the service.

Open markets are explosive markets
Apple’s iPhone App Store proved what happens when you open up your software to third party developers: Unfettered innovation and improved consumer experience. Companies like Google, Netflix, Amazon, Yahoo, and Facebook are also creating open platforms that brands and other content and technology companies can live off of. However, it’s not just innovative companies leading the charge; the FCC is pushing for new rules of the road to ensure the Internet maintains its “open source” roots, whether across wired or wireless networks.

Netflix is a perfect example of what happens when a platform opens up. Netflix opened the doors to its content, and as a result nearly every home theater electronic device has added access to the service. In fact, looking at current year to year growth and assuming it continues, Netflix will reach parity with Comcast in subscribers in 2015.

Boomers are unafraid
Earlier in 2009 we got a request from our sister agency, McCann Humancare to explore how healthcare and pharma companies could begin to shift their attention to reaching Baby Boomers through new media channels. What we found convinced us that the target demographic to watch this year is Boomers. Particularly boomers still in the work force, often with college age children. We call them “Bring-it-on-Boomers” and what marketers need to know about this group is that contrary to popular opinion, boomers are unafraid of technology. According to comScore, “45-54 year olds are 36 percent more likely than average to visit Twitter, making them the highest indexing age group.” And according to an Accenture study, boomers are adopting new media behaviors twenty times faster than their younger counterparts.

We’ve gotten used to the “trickle up effect,” when a younger generation adopts a technology and influences older generations, but now with this new generation of boomers we’re seeing a “trickle down.” Technologies like Twitter and e-readers have found a strong user-base among boomers, and have trickled down from there. We can expect this to happen for a greater variety of technologies in 2010.

Consumers are in charge
Consumers are enjoying unprecedented power as they have enormous access to information, the ability to share it among global peers, and buy when and where they want. Put a connected smartphone in their hands and most shoppers can be more informed than any sales person on the retail floor. And consumers are taking advantage of this opportunity: according to BIG holiday research study, the number one activity of pre-shopping is searching out other consumer opinions online. The challenge for brands and retailers in this environment is great—and so are the opportunities and rewards for those brands who tap into this behavior. Brands will need to redefine value in an increasingly sophisticated and complex retail environment.

This shift was demonstrated in 2009 with the Barnes & Nobles Bookstore iPhone app. Prior to release, a popular app on the App Store was SnapTell, an app that would give price comparison and review information for books, DVDs, and video games just by snapping a photo of the coverBarnes & Nobles decided to release their own app, which did much the same thing but leveraged additional functionality (and minus price comparisons). Barnes & Nobles app broke into the top 10 most downloaded free apps in the App Store and retains a strong presence in the “Books” category. Instead of fighting consumers, Barnes & Nobles empowered them, and reaped the benefits.

For more information on the full IPG Media Lab 2010 trends presentation, or to arrange a presentation for your team or clients, please contact the Lab at [email protected]