There was dramatic news this week for smartphone users…
(And like them or not, soon that’s going to be pretty much all of us).
At the launch of the iPhone 7, Apple announced they’ve removed the headphone port from their devices.
Amazing – a technology that’s 140 years old – gone, just like that!
From now on Apple’s headphones will connect wirelessly via a device that goes into the power charger socket.
This is a bold move on what they believe will be a wireless future.
If it pays off, they’ll be able to release the slimmest available phones and create totally waterproof units – great news if you’ve ever bent to flush the toilet and your phone has slid into the watery depths of the bowl.
The Internet has gone into a bit of a frenzy about this, as it tends to do about any new Apple announcement.
“So I can drop my iPhone 7 in the toilet, but I can’t charge it and use headphones at the same time?” complained one tweeter.
Chris Taylor, a journalist for Mashable, wrote: “Say it with me now: wired almost always sounds better than wireless.”
There will be more of these complaints, tantrums and rants I expect.
But here’s the thing…
While Apple may anger many people, and perhaps they’re too early with this bold move, it’s highly likely they’re right about the direction of the trend.
We’re in a Bluetooth age where wires are gradually disappearing. It’s unlikely that in ten years’ time the ‘internet of things’ – that is, the online interconnection of your household appliances, car and phone – is going involve jumbles of wires.
Really, what’s happened is that Apple has started a new technological ball rolling.
This is why, for me, the best comment of all came from the science fiction author William Gibson, who posted this tweet:
For Gibson, it’s all over for the headphone jack.
As you can see, this is a little annoying for someone who predicts the future for a living – which is what most sci-fi writers do.
Gibson’s vision in his 1984 novel Neuromancer was of a computer cowboy who could plug his consciousness into cyberspace.
In the novel he writes:
“He’d operated on an almost permanent adrenaline high, a by-product of youth and proficiency, jacked into a custom cyberspace deck hat…”
In other words, Gibson envisioned a wearable mobile technology that tapped into an information superhighway through a jack lead connected to a hat.
The reality is that the future Gibson imagined is likely to be wireless.
Sorry, no jacks.
While the details aren’t quite there, Gibson was bang-on with the overall prediction, and that’s because he had a strong hunch about which way technology was heading.
It’s remarkable that as early as 1984 he could foresee a world in which our minds could be connected to “rich fields of data”. In fact, it was Gibson who first coined the term ‘cyberspace’.
So what’s this all got to do with you making money online?
Well, the point is this…
A lot of online entrepreneurs dream of knowing what the ‘next big thing’ is online and getting in there early, while competition is low and the impact is at its highest.
- Imagine if you snapped up domain names back in the ’90s, before businesses cottoned onto the fact that they’d need a website domain.
- Or imagine if you were one of the first businesses in your field of interest to start a free email newsletter, back when most people had no clue how such a thing could possibly make money.
- Or what if you were the first to create an app for your area of interest, back when it was a wide open field, with very little competition.
The trouble is, it’s very hard to predict specifically what’s going to work online over the next 5-10 years… and if you did you’d become very rich indeed.
Knowing precisely which platforms, tools and software will take off – and which will become obsolete or unpopular – is tricky. Things move so fast.
Working out where the overall trend is going is far, far easier. If you know what these trends are, and align your business with them, you will achieve a lot more success.
To give you an example, the already-troubled social media network Twitter might collapse in the next decade… replaced by another platform that captures the public imagination… but the process of sharing information is a trend that’s here to stay, no matter what.
It’s the trend that you pin your business to, not the platform.
This idea is explained brilliantly in a new book called The Inevitable, which I’ve scrawled in excitable notes.
The trends that will shape the future
The author is Kevin Kelly, founder of Wired magazine. His argument is that while the details of what will work online can be surprising and unexpected (like Apple’s removal of the headphone jack) the general trend is something that’s inevitable.
He predicts 12 deep trends that will shape the internet and influence how people communicate, buy, sell, share and run their daily lives.
- BECOMING – constant updates, upgrades and tweaks mean that we will all be newbies as the online world shifts and adapts on an almost daily basis.
- COGNIFYING – search engines will get smarter, becoming as form of artificial intelligent (AI) that we will use as a kind of vast second brain to augment our daily lives.
- FLOWING – rather than being a fixed object (like a paper copy of a book, for instance) products and information will be fluid. A website, software or ebook might exist in several places at once, from a handheld device to a cloud to a desktop computer. What’s more, the contents can be upgraded, amended and improved over time.
- SCREENING – screens will take over our lives, they’ll be on watches, in cars, on walls, bus shelters, escalators, office desks and meeting rooms. Eventually screens will be omnipresent through special glasses were wear, turning reality itself into something that is screened.
- ACCESSING – there are businesses that already exist based purely on giving people access to a product or service, even if they don’t create or own it. For example, Uber own no taxis, but they run an international online taxi business by offering access to cabs through an app.
- SHARING – more and more information will be shared, and our tolerance of what can be shared will rise, from medical records to what’s in our fridge. What’s more, by harnessing active groups of internet users, rallying them behind a cause, we can achieve amazing results. This is already happening with the rise in crowd-funding sites.
- FILTERING – as the Internet grows and gets more complex, we will need information filtered. And in turn, businesses that can filter attention of internet users will become highly valuable.
- REMIXING – people will be able to rewind, re-edit, cut and manipulate the news, films, TV, music and art in the way they want it. Ownership and control is going to move away from the creator to Internet users.
- INTERACTING – products, tools, software and content will need to be interactive to succeed. Stationary technology like TVs and old-fashioned radios will become baffling to people in the near future. We will expect that with every device we use we’ll be able search, input information and connect to the Internet.
- TRACKING – our lives will become continuously tracked as we create a kind of content trail behind us, from our Facebook posts and photos stream to the locations we check into online. Already many people use fitness trackers as a way of monitoring themselves. Soon you’ll be able to read your life back and search your history for events, images and conversations.
- QUESTIONING – we will use the vast, smart search networks increasing numbers of questions. The more answers we get, the more questions we will want to ask. Ordinary people will problem the boundaries of possibilities, and technologies that help us ask questions will be highly valued.
- BEGINNING – rather than the online world we see now being the RESULT of years of progress, we’re in fact just at the beginning of a revolution where humans and machines will be connected in a global matrix – the stuff of William Gibson’s vision in 1984.
These are some big ideas that I’ve paraphrased very briefly. Possibly they’re quite frightening ones too, depending on your point of view and appetite for change.
But it’s important that you know what’s going to happen online, and how you can tap into it, rather than lag behind. So over the coming months I’ll dig down into specific ways you can hook your business into the powerful trends that are shaping the Internet.
Oh, and if you’re interested, I’d recommend you grab a copy of The Inevitable from Amazon.
As for me, I’m going to make the most of my headphone jack before it becomes a quaint historical curiosity.