The big Web 2.0 Summit recently took place in October, and a lot of interesting ideas were presented. One thing Tim O'Reilly mentioned that stuck with me is the growing role that devices will play in the future of Web 2.0. Right now, most of the user-generated content we view is created by humans, but in the future, automated devices could be much more involved in generating that content.
In the last decade, massive changes in "hardware" technology have completely revolutionized our connectivity and facilitated Web 2.0. In a previous column, I mentioned that connectivity, the increase of bandwidth and the low cost of digital image creation and sharing are major trends.
Below I describe some innovative hardware devices that either impact how we use the web today or will impact it in the future. They're important to entrepreneurs since they represent key trends and business opportunities. Some of these devices are reaching sizable user bases that want to buy add-on products and services, while others are just starting.
This list is only a highlight and is by no means conclusive. I don't even discuss devices like the iPod and e-book readers like Amazon's Kindle--which should be coming shortly--since currently these devices are mainly for content downloading. Many entrepreneurs continue to push innovation and create exciting new devices that will change our lives and how we interact.
Phones,Mobile Devices, iPhone
Mobile communications and computing are changing the way we interact. Younger people are more likely to text than call someone. Pictures can be taken and shared immediately on the web.
Apple released the iPhone earlier this year, and it was one of the most highly anticipated technology product releases of all time. This device takes mobile computing to another level with many innovative features. Interacting with videos on sites like YouTube is incredibly easy to do with this device. The iPhone also changed the way we can interact with the screen and pictures by operating through touch. Mobile gaming and computing is growing quite rapidly, and increased innovations are coming from vendors besides Apple.
This device is an interactive table that takes digital age collaboration to a new level. You need to look at the videos to get a deeper perspective of what Microsoft Surface can do. Similar to the iPhone's touch capabilities, people use natural hand gestures and touch to do surface computing. Physical objects also can interact with the table surface. Here are some of the things you can do with Microsoft Surface:
- Re-size/share photos and videos from a separate phone or camera;
- Use online maps, including loading directions into your device from the surface;
- Order meals from a digital restaurant menu and pay the bill by placing your card on the table;
- Select and share music with your hands; and
- Draw objects with your fingers.
In a Web 2.0 world you could use this device to take interactivity to another level. While the table is one physical computer, it can be used by multiple people at one time to interact separately or together. The next generation version could use the surface as a kiosk on a wall or a countertop.
While this device is a gaming console, it really is the first mainstream sizable user base with an interactive motion sensor device. Think about the endless capabilities around extending this type of technology to the web and creating more interactive experiences. The user base of the Wii is growing incredibly fast as well; the console has become the world's fastest-selling console. Why couldn't you remotely and virtually control devices with technology like this?
Microsoft Xbox Live
Xbox Live pushes the envelope of online multiplayer gaming. It creates a vibrant multiplayer experience where people from around the world can be playing games together. Microsoft's Live Anywhere initiative is working to enable a variety of non-Xbox platforms to connect to Xbox Live. Gaming consoles like the Wii, Xbox and PlayStation will continue to change how gaming consoles can interact with the web and other digital users.
Taking Web 2.0 to the Next Level
Similar to my article about Rich Internet Applications, these hardware devices and their user communities will change the way we interact online. Many have already changed the way we and our children communicate. As the devices gain more features and different technologies improve, we will see whole new ways of interacting with people and content across the world.
Could you imagine watching a movie on a phone-like device or doing surface computing in a hotel or restaurant 10 years ago? Let's see what the future holds.
Frank Bell is Entrepreneur.com's "Web 2.0" columnist and a principal at IT Strategists, a leading business and technology consulting firm in Southern California. He has consulted with many internet startups, as well as companies such as Yahoo!, Vivendi Universal, Disney, Toyota, Nissan, Deluxe Digital Studios, AEG, Sony and Ticketmaster.