It’s been a crazy 24 hours in the world of tech. Microsoft announced that they’re buying Nokia for $7.2 billion. Apple confirmed that they’ll be announcing their new iPhone on 10 September. And Google announced that the next version of the Android operating system will be called Kit Kat. O yeah, and that over 1 billion Android devices have been activated around the world.
It’s crazy to think that Google acquired Android in 2005 and, in just 8 years, they have managed to activate over a billion Android devices. This stat alone should blow your mind and get you thinking about the the future mobile landscape. The global population is currently sitting at 7.13 billion people. This means that roughly 1 in 7 people around the world have an Android device (although to be fair, some people might own more than 1 Android device but it’s still pretty impressive).
According to recent stats, roughly 80% of all smartphones sold around the world in the last quarter were powered by Android. And with the prices of entry level Android smartphones continuing to drop, it’s not hard to imagine Android’s growth continue to soar in emerging markets in the coming years.
Remember, Android is free for manufacturers to use, has a highly committed developer community and is designed to run on smartphones, tablets and other smart devices. Apple has been rumored to be launching a cheaper iPhone which may be unveiled later this month. Microsoft has hedged their bets on Nokia and Blackberry…well BlackBerry has a really good messaging app.
Taking the above into account, I think Android has a good shot in emerging markets.
Kit Kat is also a really good name for the next version of Android. It’s much more consumer friendly and much better than Google’s other option: Key Lime Pie. According to TechCrunch, a deal for Google struck a deal with Nestle to use the Kit Kat brand in less than 24 hours with no money changing hands. This was another brilliant move by both parties as it will lead to massive exposure for Google and Kit Kat. Kit Kat have already rebranded their Facebook page and released a video that parodies the world of tech. Expect to see much more from Google and Kit Kat in the next few weeks.
Over the past few years, most smartphone manufacturers have been engaged in a specs war in an effort to differentiate themselves in a highly competitive market. With each new launch, smartphones has become thinner, lighter and faster. But while smartphones have become more powerful, they haven’t necessarily become smarter.
Two weeks ago, Motorola officially unveiled the Moto X, the first new smartphone that the company has developed since being acquired by Google in 2011. And while some have criticised the Moto X for shipping with what they consider to be “mid range” specs, Motorola is betting their success on providing customers with a smarter user experience.
This smarter experience is powered by the Motorola X8 Mobile Computing System, an 8 core processor that has two cores dedicated to natural language and contextual computing. This allows the Moto X to always be listening for a specific phrase (in this case, the incredibly catchy “Ok Google Now”) that activates Touchless Control.
Through Touchless Control, the Moto X benefits from deep integration with Google Now – one of the smartest and most useful of Google’s services that will soon be baked into the Chrome browser and Google Glass. Without even touching the phone, Moto X owners will be able to make phone calls, send messages, ask questions, perform web searches, navigate and so much more.
Like most smartphones, the Moto X also features a number of contextual sensors. It will know when it’s in your pocket and when you might be able to see the screen so that it can show you subtle notifications. It knows when you are driving and will automatically alert you to incoming calls and read new messages – all through Touchless Control.
What makes the Moto X so special is that it is able to power these various sensors and processes in a highly efficient way. Motorola claims the Moto X offers 24 hours of battery life…which is pretty impressive if these claims are true.
Another aspect of the Moto X that Motorola has focused on is customisation. Consumers will be able to customise their Moto X by choosing from a wide range of colours for the back plates and accents of the phone. Later in the year, Motorola will even be offering a variety wooden options to choose from.
Many have seen this focus on customisation as a move to appeal to average consumers and not just spec-obsessed Android nerds. This is actually pretty ironic, as Touchless Control is probably geekier than anything you’ll find on other Android phones like the Samsung S4 and the HTC One.
While the Moto X is not a perfect phone, I’m incredibly excited to see how Motorola will progress with their future products. Personally, I’ll be shocked if the next Nexus smartphone isn’t a Motorola device that sports similar features to the Moto X.
Specs will always be important, but currently there is no shortage of great smartphones on the market. Manufacturers might use software to differentiate their products but this will be harder than it sounds. For example, the majority of the added software features on the Samsung Galaxy S4 clutter up the phone, while the software features on the Moto X are minimal and could be genuinely useful.
The smartest bet for manufacturers moving forward might just be focusing on building smarter smartphones.
In The New Digital Age, Executive Chairman of Google, Eric Schmidt, and Director of Google Ideas, Jared Cohen, look to the future and try to predict what implications technology will have on a world that is becoming increasingly connected. The New Digital Age was one of the books I was most looking forward to reading this year and I enjoyed it immensely. If you are interested in technology in any way, this book is a must read. Here are just a few predictions from The New Digital Age:
The Next 5 Billion
In the next decade, 5 billion new people will join the Internet. Many of the people will be from the developing world and will be accessing the Internet for the first time from cheap smartphones. The impact of this shift will be huge, with the majority of the world’s population having gone from having no access to unfiltered information to accessing all of the world’s information in the palm of their hands. All in one generation.
But this shift will not take place in a vacuum. While the majority of the developing world will come online for the first time, the developed world will benefit from a number of new innovations; including self-driving cars, photo-realistic 3D holograms and robots. Let’s not forget the robots.
In the words of the authors: “Everyone will benefit from connectivity, but not equally”
For nations, governments, people and governments, it is becoming increasingly clear that we live in two worlds. One physical and one virtual. But while people are embracing the digital world, governments are still trying to find (in their opinion) the best way to regulate it.
Regulation may change from country to country which may lead to a “balkanization” of the Internet, allowing each country to filter and control what information is accessible online. This would most certainly suck and not be a good thing.
News and Journalism
Due to an increase in connectivity, the ability to “break news” will be left to luck and chance. To demonstrate this point, the authors refer to one unwitting civilian in Abbottabad Pakistan who unknowingly live-tweeted the covert raid that killed Osama bin Laden. But while some new digital platforms like Twitter will break news, people will still refer to traditional media organisations for commentary and analysis.
It should be noted that many of the next five billion people who will join the Internet live in impoverished, censored and unsafe conditions. But despite this, safer reporting backed by encryption and wider reach due to advances in connectivity will help expose corruption and wrong doing.
The Future of Conflict
While technology will help improve the world, it will also make it more dangerous. Cyber attacks and incidents of hacking are on the rise and we may soon see conflicts from the digital world spill over into the physical world.
Connectivity will make it easier for terrorist groups to recruit and train members, but by being online, their activities will also be easier to track. Once again, one of the things that tipped off the U.S. Government to Osama Bin Laden’s location was that his compound was completely disconnected from the outside world.
Another interesting potential trend is that rebels may begin virtual kidnappings, as stealing people’s online identities may be more lucrative and less risky than actual kidnappings. Additionally, advances in technology may also lead to the world’s first “smart” rebel movements who will aim to topple regimes through virtual means.
According to the authors, warfare will also become automated. Robots and drones will increasingly be used in combat operations in order to help minimise combat deaths, civilian casualties and collateral damage. While the use of drones in warfare is currently being debated, a report published by Wired in 2012 stated that drones now account for 31%percent of all military aircraft—up from 5% in 2005.
Overall, the authors believe that more connectivity will ultimately be a good thing. Here is one final quote from the book to give you something to think about while we approach the new digital age:
“Every two days we create as much digital content as we did from the dawn of civilization until 2003—that’s about five exabytes of information, with only two billion people out of a possible seven billion online. How many new ideas, new perspectives and new creations will truly global technological inclusion produce, and how much more quickly will their impact be felt? The arrival of more people in the virtual world is good for them, and it’s good for us. The collective benefit of sharing human knowledge and creativity grows at an exponential rate.”
Last week, Google CEO Larry Page announced on the official Google blog that Andy Rubin would be stepping down as the head of Android. As a fan of Android, part of me is really sad to see him go. This is most likely because I find it hard to imagine Android without Andy Rubin. As one of the original founders of Android, it’s hard not too think of him in relation to Android in the same way most people think of Steve Jobs in relation to Apple. Along with dessert themed releases and their corresponding statues at Google’s headquarters, Andy Rubin has always been an important part of what makes Android what it is.
Andy Rubin’s initial vision for Android was to create a robust, open-sourced mobile operating system that would increase innovation, create choice and transform the mobile industry. It was an insane idea. But what is more insane is that he’s pretty much pretty much achieved what he initially set out to do. Over the past decade, Android has become the world’s most used mobile operating system with more than 750 million Android devices activated throughout the world.
Android is a phenomenal success. And perhaps it’s because Android is such a success that it is time for Andy Rubin to move on. Andy Rubin has built a strong foundation for Android and there is no telling where the OS will be in another ten years. Due to the openness of the platform, there is a strong possibility that it will make the jump from smartphones and tablets and be used to create the various smart devices that we use in our homes, in our offices and while we’re on the go.
Of course the person who will oversee this will be Sundar Pichai, the head of Chrome and Apps at Google and the man who will be taking over as head of Android from Andy Rubin (in retrospect, this would explain the giant Chrome Android statue that Google installed at their headquarters earlier this year). And while most people are wondering what Pichai will do next with Android, others are wondering what will be next for Rubin himself.
Larry Page has asked Rubin for more moon shots and in a farewell email to the various Android partners, Andy Rubin described himself as an ‘entrepreneur at heart’ and says that he is excited to begin a new chapter within Google. If Android has reached the point where it just isn’t ambitious enough for Andy Rubin, then I think we should be extremely excited about what he is going to be working on next.
It probably won’t be Project Glass. It probably won’t be Google’s self-driving car. But it will probably be something even more exciting. Leo Laporte joked on a recent episode of TWIG that Andy Rubin might be working on actual androids or some other project relating to robotics. And while this was said in jest, it wouldn’t surprise me if this is true. Whatever Andy Rubin works on next, if Google is looking for another moon shot, then Andy Rubin might just be the guy to give them on.
It’s going to be a new era for Android. But it’s also going to be a new era for Andy Rubin.
Project Glass is a perfect example of what Google calls “Moonshot Thinking” – the type of thinking required to take on global-scale problems, define radical solutions to those problems, and succeed in solving those problems through the development of breakthrough technology.
For Google, Glass is a device that could potentially change the way we search, the way we share and the way we interact with the world around us. Make no mistake. Project Glass is extremely ambitious which is part of the reason that it is so exciting. And if Glass succeeds, it could change the way the world sees Google. And no one should be more worried about this than Apple.
Apple is widely regarded as one of the most innovative companies in the world and rightfully so. No one can argue that Apple has continually changed the world by consistently releasing a number of revolutionary products such as the original iPod, the iPhone and iPad. Of course, Apple didn’t invent the MP3 player, the smartphone or the tablet computer. Apple was merely the first company to get these products “right” and have been considered market leaders ever since.
It doesn’t matter that both Google and Apple have been responsible for a huge amount of innovation in the mobile space, Apple is still seen by many as the more innovative company because it introduced the devices that defined the modern smartphone and tablet computer. This is exactly why Glass is so important for Google because for the first time since the introduction of the iPhone, Google has a chance to drive the mass adoption of a completely new form factor for a mobile device.
In 2013, it will no longer be just about smartphones and tablets. It will be about wearable computers and other smart devices. In typical Apple fashion, almost nothing is known about their new iWatch while Google has gone out of its way to make sure you know they are working on Glass. The question we should be asking is: “Why?”
A recent article on Read Write Web praised Google for not only the innovative thinking behind Project Glass, but also for the highly transparent and inclusive way that Google has documented the development of the product. Some examples of the way Google has done this include:
- Google’s initial concept video for Project Glass that was released on Google+ before a finished prototype was completed
- Sergey Brin’s highly elaborate product demo of Glass involving a team of skydivers at last year’s Google I/O
- Google releasing another video to give the world its first glimpse of a more refined user interface for Glass a few weeks ago
- Google opening up its “Explorer Program” to the public through its #ifihadglass campaign
It could be said that this approach allows Google to better tap into the wants and needs of users and get feedback that can help shape the development of Glass. This is typical of Google’s approach to product development and could help make the launch of Glass a successful one. But more importantly, this highly public approach is another way that Google can disrupt Apple.
The level of secrecy surrounding the development of any new Apple product usually results in unparalleled levels of anticipation. But Glass is a product with so much potential that it could change the feelings associated with the iWatch from anticipation to expectation. Google is telling us that Glass could be a product that changes the world. If they succeed, they win big. If they don’t, at least they can say they took a shot at the moon. But what about Apple? What will they need to deliver with the iWatch in order to exceed our wildest expectations? Because if they deliver anything less, they will have seen to have failed.
Does Apple have everything to lose and does Google have everything to gain?
At the end of 2012, Joshua Topolsky wrote an editorial for The Verge entitled Reasons to be excited. In the piece, Topolsky stated that while we’ve spent the past few years getting used to things like social networks, smartphones and tablets, 2013 will be the year where we will begin to understand the impact that these new technologies will have on our lives.
Make no mistake. If you are in digital, it is definitely the time to be excited. We’ve all heard the proverbial promises of what will be possible “one day”. Well “one day” is almost here and some of the things that you thought would only be possible in science fiction movies will be rolling out to consumers in the next three to five years. We are about to enter a smart new world.
Robert Scoble and Shel Israel are two men who are perfectly positioned to understand the importance of the shift currently taking place in the world of technology and business. The pair are currently writing a new book entitled The Age of Context which is set to be released later this year. The book, which recently received $100 000.00 in funding, will argue that we are moving from an age of conversation which has been characterised by the rise of social media to an age of context which will be shaped by five key trends:
- Smart sensors (your smartphone currently has around seven of these)
- Wearable devices (think Nike FuelBands and Google Glass)
- Big Data
- The exponential increase in the volume of social data
- The exponential increase in the volume of location data
The above five trends will lead to a proliferation of smart products and services that will be able to provide highly personalised experiences based on an individual’s data. This needs to happen because while the amount of information that we generate on a daily basis is growing exponentially, not all of it is useful to us.
Last year, IBM estimated that we create 2.5 quintillion (add seventeen zeros) new bytes of data each day. This includes all the tweets, status updates, blog posts, reviews, check-ins, photos and videos that are uploaded and shared on the internet each day. It should be noted that while the above stat might sound impressive, it’s also probably already outdated.
We have access to more data and more information than ever before. And while we’ve often been told that more data is always better, this is only true up to a point. The truth is, is that information is only valuable to us if it is relevant and relevancy is dependant on context. And no one knows this more than Google.
Google is probably the biggest company to embrace the concept of smart technology. On paper, Google knows more about you than any other company on the planet. But the only way it can create value for you (and advertisers) is to know who you are, who you know, where you are, what you’ve looked for in the past and what you are looking for now in order to provide you with information that is relevant. That’s why Google is currently working on a number of smart products including Google Now, Google Glass and a self-driving car.
Despite only running on 13% of Android devices, Google Now was named as Popular Science’s Invention of the Year for 2012. The product has been designed to predictively give you the right information at the right time and when it succeeds, it’s magical. The way it is able to do this is by making smart connections based on the information Google already knows about you.
For example, it can work out where you live based on where you wake up each morning. It can work out where you work based on where you commute to. And it will automatically recommend an alternative route to work by factoring in current traffic conditions from Google Maps. And according to an interview with CNN, Google CEO Larry Page envisions being able to even summon one of Google’s self-driving cars to come collect you when your phone notices that you are ready to leave work for the day.
In addition to this, Google is also working on Glass – a set of glasses with a heads up display that can connect to your smartphone that allows you to record video, take pictures, get directions, send messages, video chat, voice search and plenty more. Glass will probably be the first of a number of new devices that will create new opportunities where contextual information will be extremely valuable. Google is aiming to bring Glass to market in 2014 and have recently released a video where you can get a taste of how it will function in the real world.
But Google isn’t the only big company to embrace smart technology. The New York Times recently published an article about Disney introducing RFID bracelets as part of their MyMagic+ system to help build brand loyalty and increase sales at their theme parks.
Through these smart bracelets, Disney will be able to eliminate turnstiles from the entrances to Disney World and allow visitors to spend less time in lines for rides. Disney has also developed an app that can be used to load credit onto a particular smart bracelet which can then be used to pay for goods within the theme park. If you opt in, you can also share your personal information with Disney cast members who will be able to greet you by name or even wish you happy birthday.
With 30 million people visiting Disney World each year, the MyMagic+ system will help Disney build detailed profiles for each of their customers. Where did they enter the park? How far did they walk? Which rides did they ride? What did they buy? Which characters did they interact with? How often do they come back? What offer could get them to come back again?All of this data can be used to dramatically enhance their current CRM strategy.
This is just a taste of what’s to come. A decade ago, no one could have predicted the impact that Facebook, Twitter and other social networks would have on our daily lives. And looking ahead, there is no way we can predict the impact that smart technology will have on the next ten years. But that doesn’t mean that we don’t have plenty of reasons to be excited.