Thursday, June 5, 2014

Smartphones and disruptive technologies

NY Times
After one month with my Moto G, it's easy to see why newspaper subscriptions have completely cratered and that paper editions are disappearing from the landscape.

The internet had already disrupted the newspaper world more than a decade ago. Naturally, something as old as the newspaper industry did not know what to do about it then and doesn't really know now.

After the introduction of the iPhone seven years ago, and the iPad four years ago, it became obvious that there was no reason for anyone, other than a senior citizen who may be intimidated by technology, to subscribe to a newspaper.

Having all the information you want, when you want it, no matter where you are, has made traditional sources of information superfluous.

This goes for TV news as well. Who needs to wait until 10 or 11 p.m. to find out what happened during the day? Plus, TV has the extremely annoying habit of teasing the viewer with partial information in the hopes they'll stick around to watch the commercials and then the rest of the story. Please, that ship sailed long ago.

To no surprise, the value of traditional media properties have plummeted, particularly for newspapers.

Yes, Instagram is worth more than the Boston Globe and the Washington Post combined. And, YouTube is worth more than NBC, CBS and ABC combined.

Credit mobile devices for this nearly instantaneous transformation.

That said, I'm not that thrilled with the whole smartphone/tablet craze. First off, tapping on the screen to get information or compose a text doesn't work consistently enough to be a worthwhile alternative to a laptop, which I'm using to write this post.  And yes, I've used the iPad and it's even worse than my Moto G on this issue.

The actual phone works well enough, but it's easy to hang up on someone just trying to answer the darn thing.

The music player is a definite plus. It's a big upgrade from my little, clip-on mp3 player.

It's ironic that Napster, and later the iPod, completely upended the music biz, and now the iPhone is putting the iPod out to pasture.

Same goes with point-and-shoot cameras. There is no need to lug a camera around when your phone can take almost as good a photo as most cameras can.

In addition to making land-lines a thing of the past, smartphones also have killed the watch business. Almost all young people under 30, or 40 now, do not wear a watch.

It's hard, then, to envision the "smartwatch" taking off like the smartphone did.

The main disruptive aspect to the smartphone/tablet craze, though, is that it has greatly diminished the "disposable income" that most people have. Smartphones are ridiculously expensive, along with their monthly plans, and there isn't much money left over for things like newspapers or magazines or cable TV subscriptions or even a dinner out. Not when you consider that wages that have been stagnant for decades.

BendBroadband, our cable provider, sold recently and they got out at the right time. In a couple of years, most homeowners will have access to high-speed, cell phone hot-spot receivers at home and they'll be able to bypass cable and satellite TV altogether. The smartphone or tablet will serve as the conduit for high-definition television, not just at home, but anywhere you go with your phone or tablet.

For all the disruption to traditional media and information sources that smartphones and tablets have caused, though, they're still rather trivial in the grand scheme of things. More toy than tool. Games, afterall, are the top-selling apps.

Until the tech-heads can disrupt the oil, coal, and gas industries with renewable energy that is affordable and reliable and includes long-range electric vehicles, we will be left with YouTube videos of cute cats and Facebook posts of mac-and-cheese recipes.

1 comment:

  1. App sales are on track to outpace music sales by the end of the year.