Here is my prediction for the “Killer App” for 2008. Ok, I am cheating here a little bit – some things are happening now, but are not exposed by the media. You know, the best investments are the one it is almost impossible to get into, unless you build them yourself.
On average, I am working with technologies that are from 2 to 4 years ahead of mass adoption. With that in mind I think 2008 will be the year we start the “personal assistant” war. The short term goal of the game is to make people heavily dependent on the simple and convenient services provided by slightly upgraded gadgets.
The first grand frontier (2008-2009) will be the battle for your cell telephone. 2007 was year of IP telephony making into the masses. Skype was good example of building proprietary platform and luring a lot of people in it. There were bunch of companies that make Skype look like Scrooge – offering similar services at fraction of the Skype’s price. My favorite scheme is MagicJack – for $20 bucks a year you can have unlimited phone service in the US or anywhere on the planet for that matter – while robbing AT&T and other telecoms. There is a number of products coming to market that are going to be just as good for you and just as bad for telecoms. Obviously, it will be followed with legal changes in the next few years that will change the way we pay for regular phones. Second, we will stop using old phones altogether.
It is not too futuristic, and Google and cable/media companies are in the midst of taking over the telecommunications as we know it. It will be replaced with DVRs with VoIP servers in them.
To see it, just look what happens around you. GSM is moving in, with a lot of upgraded infrastructure. I travel a lot, and in my experience I get much better 3G speed/coverage on AT&T then on Sprint or Verizon. With that also comes freedom – unlocked phones, different OS, ability to choose from the much wider range of product. In US the “main” operating systems – Windows, RIM and Apple have 90% of the PDA market. Worldwide, they are less then 20% combined – about as much as Linux ones.
My cell phone is Linux smartphone with a touch screen and VoIP/802.11g. It is in a regular candy bar format, with a normal phone keyboard I can use while driving. It is a bit smaller then iPhone and fits into the same holder. When I am at work or home, calls are automatically routed to VoIP providing better call quality and extra features like unified messaging to boot. When I am on the go or outside of the 3G/WiFi coverage – I have a cell port on the VoIP appliance – so all my calls are routed for free as well. There is no comparison to the Blackberry or Windows devices – at about 50% of the cost with the plan. I would estimate that move to “aggressive” VoIP saves me personally about $1000 in telecom charges – and about as much per telecommuting employee for the company.
Google is about half way there in terms of service offering with GrandCentral VoIP solution. It needs just enough bandwidth – either on its own or with cable/media companies – to offer Gizmo ( standards based/open source Skype alternative) like service in well rounded package for the mass adoption – with “free” adapters converging your phones and PCs into “gvoice” service. If played well, Skype would either have to give in its “lock”/switch to VoIP or face massive drop out rate in the phone area – the main source of their income.
With “always on” network devices in our pockets we are looking at almost unlimited set of applications – personal automated voice driven assistants that would help you to choose (from the “advertisers and rating lists”) all the services and products based on location, preferences and “history” that you might have for better or worth. And believe me, these are very addictive – more then music or video on the go. That means more c/java me for selected few and a lot of Flex apps for convergence UI for the rest of us.
Happy New Year!