Bonnie and I write on video wars, text wars, audio wars, book wars. I'm starting to think that we may have this wrong. Not that we're wrong about there being a LOT of competition over standards, delivery methods, media, etc. I think we're not looking at it from a big enough picture.
We've seen Google announce an OS aimed at Netbooks. Microsoft suddenly announces Office for Web really isn't as far away as it seemed. Amazon is working on text deployment (Kindle of course), which conflicts with Barnes and Noble, and also runs on the iPhone. The iPhone now has to cope with Android (Google), but Verizon is also getting in on the phone app store act. EVERYONE is busy with some kind of video, while Hulu finally explains why PS3 people got locked out for awhile, and Netflix is scrambling to work with Microsoft. Microsoft as we noted, is tussling with Google, so who knows what's next.
We don't have video wars. Or audio wars. Or text wars.
In the technical side of the Geekonomy we've now got the EVERYTHING wars. Everyone at some point seems to be butting heads with everyone else in the technology and media side of things. I'd say we've got unprecedented conflicts, changes, and just plain weirdness coming our way for at least two years.
Why is it like this? Why are we caring that Microsoft now makes a game box that plays movies from Netflix, or that our next Asus netbook may be running an OS based on a browser from Google, letting us read books from Amazon (if only . . .)? How did we get here.
The short answer is "the internet" and "the economy" but really, it's a bit larger.
The internet did start things because it let people deliver content faster and faster, and over time as speeds and technologies increased, it let us deliver more content better. This involved any number of companies in technologies new and old. As technologies improved people wanted more – and more indeed could be delivered. Companies expanded their interests or consolidated them.
Now, suddenly, we're discovering everything is connected to everything else, with plenty of new opportunities – and plenty of changes of conflicts. Market-wise, even in a great economy, no one is going to let a good thing slip out of their hand, and there's so many good things people can take advantage of and create, they want that market. Unfortunately there's a lot of people out there who are players, and thanks to modern technology, would not have been players even five years ago.
The economy is another factor, of course. The economy is off the map, in an area marked "here there be dragons", no one is sure what's going on, and everyone wants to make sure they're safe. The companies (and individuals and entrepreneurs) see a lot of opportunity in this integrated world and damned if they're not going to grab a piece of it or go under trying. The advanced technology out there even means more companies and interests can play in areas previously off limits to them – the success (deservedly, in my mind) of Microsoft's X-box is a prime example.
So here we are in the everything wars. For all we know tomorrow Microsoft will be partnering with Apple to resurrect the TRS-80 in order to head off competition from the Google-Blizzard alliance and their plans for online video. I only hope I've made most of that up.
Where will it all go? I have no specific ideas. In general I think we'll get a lot of cool technologies, some nasty conflicts, and some definite casualties.
As for us progeeks, I can be a bit more specific:
NOTHING IS CERTAIN: If you think it's confusing now, think what's going on we don't KNOW about. In plotting your career you're going to have to dispense with certainty and work on being adaptive – and keep a sense of humor. Staying aware is also going to keep you on the cutting edge.
THERE WILL BE BLOOD: If you think it's bad now, I expect it to get worse in the next 6-18 months. There are going to be casualties, at the very least companies wounded and needing to recover, and definitely some companies we know about in these areas will be gone or on their last legs. Pay attention to your company and its strategies, and be ready to move if you need to.
THERE WILL BE OPPORTUNITIES: There's going to be plenty of interesting opportunities out there – look for them and know when to take them, and make the best of them. You have a chance in the next few years to be in on some very cutting edge stuff.
THERE WILL BE DISCUSSIONS: Seriously, people will be deconstructing the last year and the next few years in news, classes, textbooks, etc. Consider writing, blogging, and soforth in this area.
THE OUTCOME IS HARD TO PREDICT: As noted I can generalize, but I can't give specifics because I don't know them. That doesn't mean we shouldn't try – just in case.
THERE WILL BE EXHAUSTION: At some point companies may also wear out, especially if, in this economy, we have a good 18-24 months of intense fighting and one-upsmanship. This may lead to a "safe" period for awhile, truces, etc. That may actually be good as companies can focus on making money.
So welcome to the Everything Wars. We'll be here documenting what's up. The old wars of technology are fading into one big one, let's see what's next.
– Steven Savage