Global TeLeCare Series

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Global Transformation and Ascension

Feb. 22, 2016 / Full Moon 

Feature article:
Trend-fitting the Future

What’s Next in Computing?
Feb. 21, 2016 /

The computing industry progresses in two mostly independent cycles: financial and product cycles. There has been a lot of handwringing lately about where we are in the financial cycle. Financial markets get a lot of attention. They tend to fluctuate unpredictably and sometimes wildly.
The product cycle by comparison gets relatively little attention, even though it is what actually drives the computing industry forward.

We can try to understand and predict the product cycle by studying the past and extrapolating into the future.

New computing eras have occurred every 10–15 years

Tech product cycles are mutually reinforcing interactions between platforms and applications. New platforms enable new applications, which in turn make the new platforms more valuable, creating a positive feedback loop. Smaller, offshoot tech cycles happen all the time, but every once in a while historically, about every 10 to 15 years major new cycles begin that completely reshape the computing landscape.

[NEXT UP: TLC Web Era Product Cycle ~CR]

The PC enabled entrepreneurs to create word processors, spreadsheets, and many other desktop applications. The internet enabled search engines, e-commerce, e-mail and messaging, social networking, business apps, and many other services. Smartphones enabled mobile messaging, mobile social net-working, and on-demand services like ride sharing. Today, we are in the middle of the mobile era. It is likely that many more mobile innovations are still to come.
Each product era can be divided into two phases: 1) the gestation phase, when the new platform is first introduced but is expensive, incomplete, and/or difficult to use, 2) the growth phase, when a new product comes along that solves those problems, kicking off a period of exponential growth.
The Apple II was released in 1977 (and the Altair in 1975), but it was the release of the IBM PC in 1981 that kicked off the PC growth phase.

PC sales per year (thousands)

The internet's gestation phase took place in the 80s and early 90s when it was mostly a text-based tool used by academia and government. The release of the Mosaic web browser in 1993 started the growth phase, which has continued ever since.

Worldwide internet users

There were feature phones in the 90s and early smartphones like the Sidekick and Blackberry in the early 2000s, but the smartphone growth phase really started in 2007-8 with the release of the iPhone and then Android. Smartphone adoption has since exploded: about 2B people have smartphones today. By 2020, 80% of the global population will have one.

Worldwide smartphone sales per year (millions)

If the 10-15 year pattern repeats itself, the next computing era should enter its growth phase in the next few years. In that scenario, we should already be in the gestation phase. There are a number of important trends in both hardware and software [and netware with heartware ~CR] that give us a glimpse into what the next era of computing might be. 

Here I talk about those trends and then make some suggestions about what the future might look like.

CONTINUED AT: What’s Next in Computing?

Observers have noted that many of these new devices are in their awkward adolescence. That is because they are in their gestation phase. Like PCs in the 70s, the internet in the 80s, and smartphones in the early 2000s, we are seeing pieces of a future that isn't quite here. But the future is coming: markets go up and down, and excitement ebbs and flows, but computing technology marches steadily forward.

COMMENT by Christopher Rudy:
Perhaps the most promising developing category of AI driven data analytics will be for the analysis and management of "holistic health choices"
(universal self care) as introduced at

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