Friday, December 24, 2010

Jay's Poetry circa 1991

As I look out the window
I see a tree
a complex tree
a simple tree
I see me

The young immature trunk
so straight and sheltered from the outside world
it finally meets branches
after it's seeming eternity

Choices. So many roads to take
why are there so many dead ends?
The exposure to the outside world
kills some leaves. Harsh

The design is so complex
too complex?

The leaves on the top
look down upon the magic, the mystery
reconcile with a clear conscious

That tree is so mysterious
that tree is so clear
that tree is so me

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Final Lenovo Blog

Jay McBain
Former Director of Small and Medium Business

After 16 years, 5 locations, and about 12 different jobs, I bid farewell to Lenovo and IBM.

The company has been growing at a considerable pace over the past few years and is now within striking distance of number 2 in world-wide PC market share. Leaving the many friends I have made over the years will definitely be the hardest part.

Why the change?

I have been extremely fortunate to be a futurist during my years at the company. My first future keynote was to a group of students in 1995 and by the following year I was on cable TV talking about things like teleportation, human-centric computing, artificial intelligence and pervasive computing.

It was pervasive computing that became my specialty over the years – with over 100 speeches, blogs and magazine articles on the subject. The basic premise was that we would have dozens (if not hundreds) of internet enabled devices that were purpose built and worked together seamlessly in our everyday lives.

The PC would still be an important “core” device used for content creation and computation intensive applications such as graphics and finance. In the 1990’s I envisioned it as a server that made these other devices work and stay synchronized.

A couple of major trends have surfaced in the past few years that will drive the next generation of computing and make this pervasive world a reality:

1. Fast and ubiquitous connectivity
2. Cloud computing (known in the past as network-centric, edge of network, etc)

Ten years ago, the Smartphone gave us the ability to consume content without the need for a computer. Two years ago, the Netbook, a $300 functional computer, made people comfortable with a “companion” device to a PC. In April of 2010, the slate tablet (Apple iPad) was announced and sold 3 million units in a matter of weeks.

With predictions of 50 million units next year, the slate market is very real and the era of pervasive computing will be realized (16 years later I might add!). Upon his exit a few months ago, Ray Ozzie wrote a critically important memo to all of Microsoft called “Dawn of a New Day” that pushed the company to think about the end of the PC era. It is a must read for anyone in this industry.

The IBM PC, which standardized and legitimized PC technology, turns 30 years old on August 12th of next year. The market for desktops and notebooks is still forecasted to grow for the next 3 years at a steady pace. I believe the market will further mature over the next 5 years and then start to recede.

The market for pervasive devices will grow exponentially for the foreseeable future.

The manufacturers of every device in your home and business that plug into electrical outlets (or get battery power) are thinking of new and innovative ways the devices may work once connected. This also goes for devices that aren’t even electronic yet!

A world full of interconnected sensors, devices that can predict, learn, combined with social network aware technologies will change the way people interact with the world around them. Every industry will be impacted including what I believe will be revolutionary change in Education and Healthcare.

I believe that history books will mark 2010 as the year the technology world shifted. The pervasive devices will be produced at a tireless pace. Most of these devices will invariably come from the consumer world and things like security of data will become the domain of the cloud and networking technologies. The devices will be relatively cheap (and disposable) and the management and durability will become less and less important.

While design will be a key decision criteria, the availability of “apps” will be the most important. This is why the IBM PC beat out competitors in the early days – not because it was better, but most of the applications were Intel/Microsoft focused. Any device that you consider buying for your home or business will need to connect to everything else, especially social networks which will continue to grow.

Lenovo will need to seriously look at this future scenario. It will take leadership around the globe to recognize these fundamental changes and execute. A transformation into a consumer electronics company delivering on this future will be required. Also, the legacy of “business class” will be important to deliver the right mix of devices that adhere to increased regulation and legislation apparent around the world.

I trust my former colleagues will make this happen. It is an extraordinary time of change and opportunity for Lenovo which has the talent, drive and resources to embrace it.

Monday, November 29, 2010

100 Country Rollerblades and Red Bull Tour

By Jay McBain

As I prepare for another trip halfway around the world in 4 days, I thought I would put some thoughts on (virtual) paper. This “tour” has started to attract some interest and I am approaching the 50 country halfway point.

By the way, in 4 days I will be hitting 7 countries in Southern Africa.

How did it begin?

Simple. Bucket List.

Yes, the 2007 movie, starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman ( was the inspiration. I, like I suspect many others, had a goal to visit much of the world but no real plan to do it. The gentle reminder that every day is precious and waiting till retirement age is risky:
- Potential for health issues
- Lack of energy
- Getting limited (and censored) through “tours”

“We live, we die, and the wheels on the bus go round and round.”

Why 100 Countries?

Again, simple. Round number.

Actually, it was a bit more complicated…I wanted it to be remarkable, challenging, but yet attainable. Knowing that dozens of countries are in perpetual war (civil or otherwise), and others were small islands spread around the world, I chose a round number representing half.

By the way, the United Nations recognizes 192 countries, and the US State Department recognizes 194. The debate over places like Vatican City, Kosovo, and Taiwan make the number go up or down but the general consensus is 195 countries in the world today (2010).

The Unofficial Rules of the Tour (#1 rule is that there are no rules):

1. 8 days per trip – not work related travel. Leave on a Friday, return on a Sunday – only miss one week of work each time.

2. Every June and December (try to catch summer wherever I go north or south)

3. Book flight three months ahead, use Google Maps to determine path and transportation type between countries, and start locking in details the week of the trip.

4. Process inside each major city is to park 10 miles outside of downtown and strap on Rollerblades (actually Mission inline skates to be exact) and skate up and down each street one by one. The skating is efficient and effective even in heavily crowded areas. I can travel about the speed of a bicycle meaning a good 4-5 hours will cover a large city and 30+ miles.

5. High degree of flexibility including sometimes driving at night, catching a nap in the car or staying in a luxury hotel – all somewhat random and in the moment.

How to choose Countries?

A few times I have literally spun a globe and booked a flight where my finger stopped (China). Sometimes it is educational and theme based (tracing back WWII from Auschwitz back to Berlin). Other times it is centered around major events (watching World Cup soccer from home countries of Argentina and Brazil) and then going to the actual site later (Johannesburg).

The randomness is what drives some of the fun.

When does the Red Bull kick in?

Most people know that I do not drink alcohol or coffee, or even that much Red Bull. Looking at some of the crazy itineraries (14 European or 7 African countries in only 8 days) the inside joke is that I live off of very little sleep and lots of toxic Red Bull!

I eat 100% local to the country I am in – usually off the beaten (tourist) path and likely in some back alley somewhere. I don’t speak any languages outside of English so it usually consists of a bunch of pointing and sheepish grins.

What is the Endgame?

The question I am asked most often is: How can you enjoy the travel and suck in local culture when you are dashing through countries almost daily?

Two answers:

1. Rollerblading means that I cover more of a city than most people who stay for days and stick with “Top 10” tourist sites

2. I am keeping a “best of” list and will go back after the tour (perhaps in retirement) and spend quality time in the chosen places.

At the current pace, I will likely be done 100 countries by the time I am 50 – leaving lots of time to go back and explore deeper.

What next?

Another bucket list item is to one day sail the blue ocean and perhaps approach these countries in a different fashion - as a mariner.

Till then, Rollerblades and Red Bull. Safe travels.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

What comes after Facebook?

Jay McBain, Director, Small and Medium Business, Lenovo Americas
November 11, 2010

As I come back from another large Channel event filled with potential game-changing sessions on cloud, social media and next generation managed services, it got me thinking about the next wave.

What will the “hot” sessions look like in a few years?

A couple of things are certain – we live in a hype society where today’s game changers are increasingly perishable. The traditional business phases (start-up, growth, peak, trough and recovery) are still relevant; however the timeline is narrowing at a pace never before seen.

Fun facts:

- The top 10 in-demand jobs in 2010 did not exist in 2004
- Today’s college student will have 10-14 jobs, by the age of 38 (US Dept of Labor)
- 4 exabytes of unique data will be generated in 2010, more than all of human history combined- The amount of technical information is doubling every 2 years
- We marveled that the internet only took 4 years to reach “mass market”. Facebook took only 2 years, and future technologies will go viral in days, if not hours or minutes.

Here are the four “hot” sessions that I predict for 2013:

1. Re-tool your IT business with Foursquare – If you haven’t looked at location based services closely, you soon will. Internet 1.0 excelled in connecting the world with its breadth and depth. Because of that complexity spawned internet 2.0, which made it social and more accessible.

There is no way that one person can find, decipher and act on the data that exists today (and it is doubling every 2 years), therefore peer networks and communities of like-minded and like-challenged people have naturally connected.

Internet 3.0 will use GPS technology and further narrow the information overload by filtering location. Most of us recognize that our social networks have grown too large and the value of Facebook may have peaked due to the same information overload problem that ended internet 1.0. Local information, curated by trusted sources, will provide the filtering necessary to get the relevant answers to run your business.

What will internet 4.0 look like? Likely another set of filters applied to when location based social networking reaches its breaking point. It will be based on a new technology (probably not invented yet) that will give us the information we need, when we need it and connect us to the relevant people instantaneously.

2. “These kids today” – How to protect your business from a new generation of serial job hoppers. The old rules of HR have become stale and theories on incentives, behavior modification, and retention are dramatically changing. (check out stat above from US Dept of Labor)

With a myriad of sensors, self-reporting devices and location based services, the old time sheet exercise will become a thing of the past. Your staff may be social networked to their customers, carrying on a 24/7 relationship 140 characters at a time. Tracking this customer intimacy will be easy due to new features within your PSA software.

Each time an employee shows up at a client, Foursquare will log the visit. Deskside visits will be self-reported by the device they are working on. Interaction through text, Facebook, Twitter, email and VOIP phone will be captured and reported to the customer. Stickiness will naturally increase with intimacy.

3. Guns for Hire – the next generation of delivering services. The taxi cab is an unlikely metaphor for delivering technical services, however fits the future model. All taxis are not equal in terms of quality, safety, ethics, courtesy or even hygiene, but they all tend to get the job done – moving you from point A to point B. They are all licensed and hold at least a minimal threshold of training/certification from a central authority. Their main differentiator is location – the closest cab wins.

The future of managing technical resources will be similar. Holding base certification, specialties, and security bond (ie. CompTIA), these techs will be commoditized to the point where location is the most important determination of value.

Instead of managing these people directly, you will have access to a broad network of these “taxis” all coordinated through social networking tools and location based GPS technology. Costs go down in a recurring model, benefiting the client as well as the provider.

4. Productivity through enhanced reporting and micropayments. The analytical tools available will become more granular and robust with the combination of these new technologies. The recurring revenue model will evolve to where costs are reported at a micro-level. For example, cost per location check-in, cost per phone call or email, right down to cost per tweet of delivering service.

Understanding future models of brokering cloud solutions, delivering services and pricing models per client touch (vs. by unit or head) and executing within a complex web of interconnected community networks will be critical for business success in 2013 and beyond.

The speed, fluidity and predictability of service delivery will invariably set a new level of client expectations.

The good news for all of us, is that the future points to an increasingly important and essential role for the Channel to play in business. With technical information doubling every two years, regulation and legislation being created at an unprecedented pace in history, and digital convergence and connection across billions of people to trillions of devices, the Channel is poised to lead.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

This is Not Your Father's Oldsmobile

Jay McBain
Director of Small and Medium Business,

I was surprised and somewhat perplexed when a member of the media said to me at a recent event: "This is not your father's Oldsmobile" when referring to the 5 year anniversary of Lenovo purchasing the IBM PC Company. It seems like every time I get perplexed I turn to my trusted Wikipedia to gain perspective and get the back story that I was missing.

Most people know that the saying was a marketing ploy by Oldsmobile in the late 1980s to change the perception that it was an old persons car. As Oldsmobile shut down operations in 2004, pundits would say the beginning of the end was that fateful marketing campaign which, in fact, cemented in people's minds that it was really an old brand.

When I used to ask people's perception of the IBM brand, I would get things like:

high quality

I polled Channel Partners recently (unscientifically) about Lenovo and I received:

high quality

Scrappy? Really?

I started to look back at the last 18 months and wonder how the perception could have changed. In large part, the company outside of China is still made up predominantly of ex-IBMers, the Think product line is still the mainstay, and the go-to-market strategy is relatively unchanged through the Corporate Channel.

I received an answer from a trusted colleague in the industry:

"Jay, the tone Lenovo has taken in the marketplace is completely different".

Tone? I thought it may have been the fact that we had just given away a Harley Davidson at a major event and I just rode it through the Hotel Conference Center (much to the chagrin of the San Antonio fire marshal who issued me a sternly written letter I might add!). But that wasn't entirely it.

So I looked back and tried to understand tone. What is it? How do you change it? What should your tone be to win in the Channel?

Here is what I came up with:

1. Be simple and consistent - not just saying it in keynotes, but mean it. We reduced 26 programs down to 6 last April and removed all artificial clip levels, tiering, and reporting requirements. This put a Channel partner selling one ThinkPad on the same playing field as someone selling 1,000. It also increased margin ability on PC products to another late 80's phenomenon - 20%!

2. Product portfolio - reducing complexity and ensuring better availability. Last April there was over 1,000 different part numbers available from Lenovo in Distribution - today there is under 150. By making focus models that adhere to the 80/20 rule, stocking was simplified, supply chain corrected itself creating pricing parity with market and we could place more bets. Another automobile industry learning is that the average Oldsmobile had hundreds of options to choose from creating buyer confusion and negative post purchase behavior. The typical Honda, in contrast, may have less than 10.

3. "Batting singles versus home-runs" - Community marketing. Part of our heritage (in marketing circles) was to aim for the fences - choose 2 or 3 big plays and knock it out of the park. The world has changed significantly for the Channel in the last few years with the explosion of vendors, programs and mountains of information. We were small and nimble enough to see the shift in information gathering and decision making to IT peer and community groups.

I wrote a previous lengthy blog on the subject, but joining over 30 communities in the last year (hitting singles) was a big contributor to 50% growth in revenue in SMB. In fact, there is a recent case study and SmartBrief that reviewed this in more detail.

4. Dandelion Marketing - spreading seeds in the Channel. One surprising result of joining 30 community groups was the number of outlets we were gaining to spread our message. There are 30 marketing vehicles ranging from a simple tweet to a massive event and everything in-between including webinars, bi-weekly emails, web portals, podcasts, vodcasts, virtual tradeshows, press, forums, etc. Creating and curating content for 30 communities and 30 marketing vehicles meant 900 stories we had to carry on every day. This explosion in content and delivery grew our message exponentially and ensured that we could communicate in the most preferred method of the specific audience member.

That's when it clicked for me. Once you get your house in order, being visible every day is the key that perhaps others are missing. You can always spend time behind the scenes trying to perfect product, price, sales coverage or operational metrics - but the real action is outside the firewall. Being authentic, well grounded in service and support, and having a world-class product are table stakes in this environment - having the personality, tone and added value communities are looking for is the real answer.

Oh yeah, being scrappy is important too.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

My Al Gore moment…Why Facebook Stories will change everything

Jay McBain
July 24, 2010

First of all, I will not claim to have invented the internet.

What I will claim is that I had a future vision in the late 90’s about the internet growing into an accumulation of all of human knowledge and experience. I called it the “Hierarchy of Wisdom”. In fact, I published a list of rules about the concept which I will paste at the end of this blog post.

Many people heard the story from me back in those days…it went something like this:

“Imagine for a moment that aliens land on earth thousands of years from now. What they find is a post-apocalyptic waste land with scarce remnants of the advanced society which once inhabited it. As they begin their investigation they find evidence of major cities. As they start to dig, they find artifacts of a past civilization, the most important being books and computers.”

What would these aliens learn about us when they spin the hard drives?
I envisioned two massively converged sources of data that would make up the hierarchy of wisdom. First was a huge database capturing all of human knowledge. My description (at end of blog) ended up being 99% accurate to what Wikipedia has become 10 years later.

My struggle was that this database, much like encyclopedias in book form, would be very structured, logical and unemotional. I used the example of “horses” – from the history, physiology, contribution to society, sporting use and dozens of other topics, the data would be complete – but yet, only half the story.

How do you complete the story of horses, and truly show the human condition?


If you read an emotional story about an 8 year old girl dying of leukemia and her lifelong dream was to ride a pony, would your perspective change on horses? What about the pioneers travelling west in the early 19th century and the reliance on horses pulling wagons and making it over dangerous mountains and terrain?

If you were to correlate the factual history of horses with stories that paint the human condition – you will have moved from knowledge to wisdom. If you successfully tie millions of other topics with the relevant stories, the breakthrough happens.

This week something remarkable happened. We just don’t know it yet.

When Facebook surpassed 500 million users it made a small side announcement that it
created a tool called “Facebook Stories”. With millions of people re-connecting, getting married, breaking up, notifying family members that they are alive after natural disasters, to committing crimes and taunting police, it is safe to say that Facebook has made a mark.

Although over 90 percent of the world population has never logged in, it still holds critical mass and is a statistically reliable representation for the “haves” of the planet.

Stories lead to biographies

Another concept I would explore with people ten years ago is the idea of how short life is. A simple question of how well you know your parents as compared to your grandparents or great-grandparents. Some people know more the others, but it is safe to say that familiarity usually ceases within only a few generations – perhaps 50 years. You may remember your great-grandparents names, where they lived and a couple of other stats, but other than some passed-down stories, you probably don’t know how they felt about things.

What if you could read a series of blogs, a diary, an auto-biography, or anything that would paint a picture of your great-grandparents? Of course, more than just reading, it would include audio, video, pictures and text. Now that we have mapped the human genome, this may complete the mystery. Perhaps some psychological things in your life could be explained if you understood your past – a great-great-aunt may have experienced the exact same scenario and you can relate.

This is what future generations can expect from us. This blog may be read by my great-great-great-etc grandchildren hundreds of years in the future. My Facebook story, combined with lifestreaming, blogs, tweets and even LinkedIn will be accessible for all time.

I believe this will be important – I just can’t imagine how or why yet.

Perhaps with my genetic makeup being what it is, I can understand my lineage much deeper and avoid mistakes that were made in the past. This could also lead to a better sense of self. Furthermore, what about a time when millions of these stories are accessible, searchable, even actionable?

This could be an evolutionary step.

All of human knowledge combined with millions (if not billions) of stories in the future. The top down and bottoms up linkage is mesmerizing and powerful.

Now, here is the Hierarchy of Wisdom, first published in 1999…2 years before Wikipedia and 11 years before Facebook Stories:

The journey to achieve wisdom begins with the following rules:

1. All knowledge is organized into hierarchies. At the highest level you have:
1. Philosophy
2. History
3. Science
4. Humanities
(Detail Level at end)

2. All topics, regardless of complexity, must be explained on one page.

3. Using a 'click through' concept, subtopics in the hierarchy will be accessible from the top-level page. These subtopics will also fit on one page.

4. Using the same concept as the 'six degrees of separation', focus will be put on minimizing the amount of clicks through the hierarchy to reach information.

5. This project will be public domain.
The definition of wisdom for purposes of this project:

"The accumulation of all thought, belief and knowledge of all humans past, present and future".

At the core of philosophy is the pursuit of the answer to the question "Why?" Without involving religion or science, the answer to the question - and the meaning of life is, quite simply, to have impact on others. Having impact on others changes the world around us and creates eternal life through memories.

The most effective way to learn history is through biographies. Not just the people core to an event, but the thousands of individuals that impacted those people. Humans view things very differently and to truly build an understanding, one must be privy to these multiple views.

To ensure we guarantee eternal life for ourselves we can use the technology at our disposal to create a 'memory-base'. A knowledge hierarchy that links the top level topics with billions of biographies. A centralized geneology pool that links the human race, not only with each other, but with all knowledge.
The meaning of life, put forward as a derivative of this work is: "The impact a person has on others". The story of the corporate executive versus the person who starts digging a hole....which has a greater impact in the end?


The logical beginning to knowledge is philosophy. Before exploring the physical or living concepts of our world, a much deeper mental understanding is required. Philosophy is the oldest form of systematic, scholarly inquiry. It is the study of the truths or principles underlying all knowledge, being, and reality. The philosopher's tools are basically logical and speculative reasoning. Philosophy seeks to find fundamental, natural principles that could explain what individuals know and experience about the world around them. SOCRATES, at his trial, proclaimed a basic philosophical premise, that "the unexamined life was not worth living."

The basis for human knowledge is experience from the past. The study of history provides the most complete understanding of who we are. History is the study of ages and eras, civilizations and cultures. History provides a framework for religion and evolution, and a study of human nature. Some speculate that the study of the future is firmly planted in the knowledge and experience of the past.

Starting large or small, from the Big Bang theory to the Human Genome project, science is a key part of knowledge. Understanding Earth Sciences, including atmosphere, climates, geology, hydrology, geography, and elements. Understanding Life Sciences including humans, animals, plants and non-animal classifications. And finally the Physical Sciences including astronomy, chemistry, physics and matter.

Finally, connecting philosophy to history and to our physical world is the study of humanities. The humanities is a very large and diverse knowledge base consisting of religion, society, art, literature, leisure and business. From major studies in Psychology and Sociology to understanding our pets, this subject represents a key foundation to wisdom.

Detail level hierarchy:

1. Philosophy
Epistemology - theory of knowledge and truth
Metaphysics - theory of existence and essence
Logic - theory of argument and validity
Aesthetics - theory of beauty and taste
Analytic - theory of process of analysis and philosphic method
Cosmology - theory of origin and universe
Ethics - theory of good and utility
2. History
World history
Ancient history
Ages and Eras
History of the Americas
North America
South America
History of Europe
Western Europe
Middle East
History of Asia and Australia
History of Africa
3. Science
Earth Sciences
Minerals, metals, rocks and elements
Landscapes and seascapes
Atmosphere, climates and natural phenomena
Life Sciences
Biological principles
Viruses, monerans and protists
Algae and fungi
Invertebrates, mammals, birds, fish, reptiles and amphibians
Anatomy and physiology
Physical Sciences
Mathematical Sciences
Ancient measures
Time, weight and measures
Pure mathematics
Analytical geometry
Differential geometry
Euclidean geometry
Non-euclidean geometry
Fractal geometry
Number theory
Prime numbers
Set theory
Applied mathematics
Chaos theory
Computer science
Operations research
Building, construction and engineering
Communications and telecommunications
Tools and machines
Boats and navigation
Weapons and military technology
4. Humanities
Baha'ism (6M)
Buddhism (350M)
Christianity (2B)
Church of Christ
Roman Catholic
United Church
Christian Scientists
Hinduism (750M)
Islam (1B)
Jainism (4M)
Jehovah's Witnesses
Judaism (19M)
Seventh-Day Adventists
Shintoism (3M)
Sikhism (20M)
Society of Friends/Quakers
Unification Church
Satanic, Voodoo, Witchcraft and Wizardry (WICCA)
Mythology, magic, folklore and eschatology
The occult
Society and Societal Institutions
Castes and Classes
Domestic Life
Education and educational institutions
State or Provincial
Health and hospitals
Fitness and exercise
Publishing and the press
Cognition, reasoning and intuition
Personality and behaviour
Sex, love and romance
Strategy, intrigue and deception
The human condition
Art and Literature
Fine arts
Performing arts
Classical music
Popular music
Musical instruments
Television and radio
Applied arts
Decorative arts
Graphic design and printing
Leisure and Recreation
Holidays, celebrations and vacations
Entertainments and spectacles
Hunting and fishing
Games, activities and toys
Alcohol and tabacco
Business and Economics
Accounting, banking and finance
Business studies
Marketing and advertising
Real estate
Retail and consumer studies

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The PC is not dead! Don’t let facts get in the way of a good story.

Jay McBain, Director, Small and Medium Business, Lenovo Americas
July 20, 2010

It seems like once a year an article or blog gets posted re-igniting the debate on the future of computing devices. Because I often speak about the future of technology, the topic is of great interest to me.

Why don’t other industries have the same black/white mentality?

Mutual Funds are dead!
The car is dead – SUV’s will take over!
The toaster is dead!

Perhaps other mature industries, with more than 30 years of history, see changes as trends versus end results. To illustrate, yes, SUV sales have increased over the past 15 years, but is it really the end for cars? Absolutely not. Cars are growing geographically (China and other emerging markets), by style (coupe, sports, etc), by price point, by usage, by target market (eco friendly), and dozens of other ways.

Looking at some of the sources of the “PC is dead” mantra, it is usually a new technology that inspires the prediction:

Internet in 1994
Thin Clients in 1996
Smart phone in 2002
Virtualization in 2005
Cloud in 2007
Netbook in 2008
Slate in 2010

Interestingly, if you look at thin clients, virtualization, cloud computing, netbooks and slates, all very newsworthy and loaded with mountains of hype, none of them have taken over 11% of the end user demand in business and government spending.

What makes the PC so resilient?

Interestingly, many of the decisions that were made in Boca Raton , Florida in 1980 created the longevity of the platform. IBM deciding to use third parties for things like the processor, operating system, and BIOS in their first PC created a truly open, non-proprietary sand box. Other decisions like plenty of internal and external ports created a platform that would grow and evolve with the technology world around it.

No one in 1980 could predict the importance of connecting them together. In fact, networking didn’t become popular until years later. Things like high level gaming, multimedia, graphic arts, communication and social interaction were also significantly beyond the vision for the PC.

The PC has always been an open and configurable device, with a very low cost of entry for any organization to add value. Thus, its ability to evolve is core to its continued success.

It is the central device that you will continue to rely on as companion devices grow, such as smart phones, slates, WiFi toothbrushes, treadmills and thousands of other devices come to market.

Now, the facts:

The good news for VARs, Managed Service Providers and other HW resellers is the growth of the PC market has rebounded very quickly from the economic downturn. In fact, NPD just reported that US Distribution and Commercial Reseller categories increase both Notebook and Desktop almost 50% year over year.

Globally, IDC reported that PC growth last quarter was over 20% with strong results across the globe. This happened to be the first quarter of sales for the Apple iPad. This was a very similar story to the rapid growth of the Netbook two years ago – very little impact on PC categories.

What does this prove?

The facts are pointing to a new reality in computing. Users are looking for companion devices where they add value, but rely on the PC as their home base. Interestingly, to configure devices for the first time, whether it is a BlackBerry or iPad, requires a PC!

Pervasive computing is a concept where you will likely own 20 or more computer devices in the next 5 years. The PC appears to be the one central device that organizes , builds, and customizes content for these other companions.

Based on the past 15 years, trying to predict the next 15 is next to impossible. Knowing that computing will continue to build ubiquity and new and exciting usage scenarios are around the corner, the PC is well positioned to adapt and thrive.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Will Government Intervention drive the future of Managed Services?

Jay McBain, Director, Small and Medium Business, Lenovo Americas
June 18, 2010

While attending a large Public Sector conference in Florida earlier this week, I had the chance to listen to the new face of healthcare in the United States – the IRS!

Several agencies were either created or expanded by the passage of the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act on March 30, 2010. These include the Health Choices Administration, the Health Benefits Advisory Committee, and the Health Insurance Exchange, among dozens of others.

However, the primary federal bureaucracy responsible for implementing and enforcing national health care will be an old and familiar one: the Internal Revenue Service. They will determine who has an acceptable health insurance plan, find and punish those who don't have such a plan, subsidize individual health insurance costs through the issuance of a tax credits, and enforce the rules on those who attempt to opt out, game, or otherwise game the system.

The Health Care Act finished up at over 2,500 pages. This is just the beginning, according to industry experts (including the IRS). The regulation and legislation interpreting this act will likely run from 75,000 to 100,000 additional pages. This is in addition to the earlier Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (better known as HIPAA) from 1996. HIPAA has already changed the industry significantly with the addition of privacy and security safeguards required for compliance.

Examples include:

1. Administrative Safeguards – policies and procedures designed to clearly show compliance with the act including designating a privacy officer.

2. Physical Safeguards – controlling physical access to protect against inappropriate access to protected data

3. Technical Safeguards – controlling access to computer systems and enabling covered entities to protect communications containing patient information.

What does this mean for the Channel and Managed Service Providers?

Many Channel partners have taken advantage of opportunities around HIPAA compliance already. The level of consulting, implementation and support services needed to reduce the complexity as well as ensure compliance has grown exponentially. With at least 75,000 pages of regulation on its way by 2014, this will not slow down.

It was reported by Gartner last year that 11% of US based small and medium sized businesses IT spending is in a recurring revenue model. Looking at each of the 27 major industries, it is very clear that government intervention is good for the growing Managed Services industry.

A couple of examples:

1. Finance industry – with the current political climate supporting increased regulation of Wall Street, it isn’t farfetched to think that 2,500 pages of law may be coming soon. On top of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, forthcoming legislation will likely add administrative, physical and technical safeguards to this industry as well. Independent accountants and financial planners may be put in the same position as doctors and medical practices are today.

2. Oil industry – with the worst ecological disaster in US history happening now in the gulf, it is extremely likely that the tide of industry self-regulation will come to an end. Regulation and compliance will not just be for the largest of the oil companies, every small geological and engineering company will be included as well.

3. Education industry – with significant budget shortfalls in almost every state, one of the casualties has been IT support for schools. In fact, a study by eSchoolNews last year showed 550 mean number of computers per technician – a staggering 1409:1 student to technician ratio. 75% of IT professionals in this industry report no having enough staff to implement and manage new technology.

Why Managed Services is the Model of the Future

Those Channel Partners who have made the successful transition to Managed Services are reaping the benefits of supporting more and more customers from a central location. Building a practice that blends vertical expertise as well as horizontal consulting and implementation capabilities will further drive growth for these providers.

I am hear customer feedback from single doctors right up through ultra-large school divisions that having a trusted Service provider who share the same goals and objectives has truly changed the game.

It wasn’t long ago that the Channel garnered most of its services revenue from time and materials, break/fix and implementing disparate systems. Customers wondered whether the Partner really wanted the solution to work – as that would theoretically reduce their revenue.

In a recurring revenue model, the mutual goal of the customer and provider are to reduce costs, increase productivity, and implement best practices. The customer has the benefit of utilizing seasoned veterans, paying for performance, and a variable expense model that can be funded operationally off the balance sheet. The largest benefit for the customer is not to take their eye of the ball – avoiding decoding 75,000 pages of regulation and legislation and hoping to be compliant.

Call to Action

As IT vendors (big and small) take notice of this future there must be a willingness to work together for the common good of the Managed Services Provider. This means seamless hardware and software integration with their services. This also means a clear, consistent and predictable Channel program that doesn’t compete.

As Managed Service Providers further develop their acumen in vertical solutions, less time will be spent on navigating the myriad of vendors and complicated programs.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Dandelions and Blowfish...The Future of Marketing

Dandelions and Blowfish...The Future of Marketing
Jay McBain, Director, Small and Medium Business, Lenovo Americas
May 7, 2010

As an extension to the Community blog I wrote about a week ago, the core marketing function is going through a similar transformation. This is not meant to be another commentary on the effects of social media, but the change in corporate thinking that needs to surround it.

Marketing Legacy:

Step 1: Develop theme
Step 2: Define budget and obtain financial approvals
Step 3: Back into marketing plan based on budget
Step 4: Close on traditional marketing vehicles, blending branding and demand generation

2010 and beyond:

Step 1: Develop multiple themes and sound bites, define content owners and delivery mechanisms
Step 2: Transactional budgeting and just-in-time micro-investments
Step 3: Prepare for over 30 marketing vehicles and lock in communities, traditional and new media routes, and aggressive social media strategy
Step 4: Generate market visibility every day, blending messaging across brand building, demand generation, thought leadership, education, breaking news, industry value add and leadership, public persona building as well as a measured amount of hype.

Defining the change

Most of us sat through Marketing 101 learning the legacy model above. The main objective of traditional marketing training is choosing 2-3 “big” ideas and then hitting a homerun in the marketplace. Careers were made on the back of big sports marketing plays or the agency campaign that turned the corner for the company.

I have never been a fan of black or white rhetoric when predicting future trends. The traditional media vehicles have been, continue to be, and will in the future be very important for delivering results. TV, radio, magazines, billboards and the like will always have a key place in the marketing plan, especially when you consider demographics. Also, a celebrity corporate spokesperson who can connect with a targeted audience and who you can build a brand on will likely grow in importance in upcoming years.

The change is happening at the grass roots level. We are being taught by newer, younger companies that have neither the budget or, in some cases, the traditional training to adhere to the past principles of going “big” on a few ideas.

The Dandelion is a popular concept where survival is based on wide and effective dispersion of seeds into the ecosystem. Knowing that most seeds will fail to plant, quantity is preferred over quality. With today’s overwhelming amount of information coming in all directions, it is fair to say that most messages will fail to plant as well?

Marketing is evolving into quantity over quality

Recent experience at Lenovo has proven this. The decision to move into community based marketing was a good one. Market share is up, the amount of Partners signing up and unique customers is at an all time high. The down side to joining dozens of communities is the workload associated with driving content and delivery to satisfy the “seed” requirements.

It really comes down to a math equation. Joining 30 communities, who each have a loyal and passionate base of followers, combined with 30 marketing vehicles each equals 900 seeds that must be dispersed. For the first time, lack of budget is not the largest complaint in marketing circles. Each grassroots community may only be $2K - $10K per year to join, roughly the yearly budget of adding one or two salespeople or running a couple of magazine ads. Most of the new media vehicles are free or near-free to execute.

The challenge will clearly shift to content and delivery of these seeds.

Most marketing departments:
1. Are il-equipped to handle the workload
2. Lack the expertise to generate fresh corporate messaging and content everyday
3. Lack the skill to deliver the content in new media vehicles such as webinars, vod and podcasts, blogs, etc.
4. Do not have the power or influence within the organization to mandate business owners to do the above.

So, what is the answer?

Companies must start preparing for this shift towards communities and viral marketing today. Executives who are more comfortable in the boardroom will have to break out of their comfort zone. The old style of structured PR blitzes, carefully crafted involving deep preparation, is coming to an end. Most media companies are now looking for in-your-face, twitter-style soundbites. In fact, out of 7 interviews I conducted at a recent show, 5 of them were videotaped on a flip camera and simulcast on YouTube within hours.

The old-style press release with clean wording and great quotes are being ignored in favor of real-time customer or Partner feedback. People are just getting smarter. They recognize that most of those quotes are from people who were not involved with the development, and in some cases, have never even seen the product they are commenting on so favorably. Having a community connector give an endorsement to their faithful followers drives significant more weight than a company executive who gives that biased thumbs up.

That being said, don’t stop generating press releases! It forms another seed or “spray” into the market.

Why is spray effective?

Quite simply, everyone consumes content differently. There is no right or wrong way to disperse seeds into the market. Some have higher connection and conversion rates, but quantity is important to reach the entire audience.
Some of the behavioral differences are clearly generational. My dad enjoys his cup of coffee every morning and reads the newspaper cover to cover. Conversely, my daughter loses interest after 140 characters! Now, if you chose to “go big” on newspaper (and you think Calgary, Canada is a good market for you), odds are you may have impacted my dad.

There are dozens of ways people consume information every day, and there is no way to know the consumption preference of each individual person in your target audience. The Long Tail approach to communication, making sure you reach almost all of your intended audience, is to spray.

As I mentioned before, spray, like the seeds of a dandelion, will fail to connect almost all of the time. That is actually good news, because the amount of times it connects will outnumber the targeted hits every time. Yes, quantity trumps quality.
By quality, there is certain minimum standard that everything must reach. Spelling mistakes, poor graphics and creative, as well as language that doesn’t fit your company identity is unacceptable. A key role of marketing is to set these minimums or you will confuse customers and partners if each seed looks like it comes from a different source.

Finally, the blowfish

The one aspect of spray that I haven’t touched on is the collateral benefit of touching people well beyond your target audience. The old marketing rule of telling someone seven times before they get it is still valid. The evolution of the rule in this new age, is telling someone seven times, seven different ways.

Assuming you are spraying messaging across the marketplace and adding some degree of value (read as not selling), you will unintentionally pick up a following beyond your target audience. If you are touching a larger market with more and more marketing vehicles, you will likely have an advantage over your competition who may be stuck in the old ways. Remember, everyone has a preferred style of consuming content and if you happen to be the most ubiquitous, good things will happen.

This is the story of the blowfish, which expands its body size several times larger in the face of danger. This is the way that your company, in the face of opportunity instead of danger, can look much bigger than it is by showing up everywhere. A single owner/principal can look like a small company, a small company can look like a medium one and a Fortune 499 company can look like a Fortune 50. It works at every level.

Next steps:
• Embrace the changes coming – unfortunately, no one gets a vote
• Don’t send this to the marketing department to figure out and execute – this is a company-wide initiative and participation is by everyone who has the experience and skill to develop content and deliver it effectively
• Understand the community concept – they have the table already set (in most cases), waiting for you to join.
• Aggressively pursue new social media tools. The shelf life of current favorites could prove to be limited. Again the cost of execution is free or near-free, the content and delivery can be re-purposed, but does take labor.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Growing Importance of Communities

Having a few moments to reflect on a flight to Miami for the Autotask Community Live event, it struck me how important communities have become in the IT business. April is the busiest time of the year for events in the industry, followed by October. Lenovo will be participating in 9 events in the next 3 weeks covering that many cities.

First, the facts on communities:
Gartner Group conducted an interesting research piece in 2009 where peer networking, associations and communities are the highest ranked ways that small and medium businesses learn, form opinions, and in the end, make decisions.

IDC reported the same finding when they were digging into Healthcare earlier this year. In fact, 4 of the top 5 reported resources for Electronic Medical Record (EMR) selection criteria involve associations, affiliates, colleagues, and buying groups.
With the abundance of information at our fingertips, why do people choose communities?

Business has always been transacted with some level of personal interaction. With the rise of e-commerce in the late 90’s and now with Cloud Computing growing in popularity, it will be interesting if this remains true in the future.

During this time of growing “electronic ubiquity”, the need for trusted and expert sources of information has increased significantly. The amount of competitive choices for products and services, combined with vast information on the internet and endless buzz through social media, has created a scenario where cutting through the “white noise” has become one of the most important skills as we enter the 10’s.

Communities offer a smaller group of like-minded people (perhaps even competitors), sharing similar experiences and challenges, the ability to collaborate and improve decision making. The feeling of belonging is strong, as well as the affinity of membership. There is a feeling that communities are more democratic as they are built by the membership, and participation is encouraged and celebrated.

Who starts these communities?
Tracing back some of the more popular communities to the beginning, the following sources are evident:

1. Connectors

Malcolm Gladwell does a great job of explaining the concept of connectors in the Tipping Point. These are people that you would recognize, even dating back to grade school, that seem to be the center of the universe. Another way you can recognize connectors is in a place like Facebook. You seek out this person, and they are 1 degree of separation from everyone in your school, company, neighborhood, etc. In the business world, many connectors have translated this skill into organizing and building a strong following. They have also recognized that vendors will pay top dollar to participate in these already established communities. There is also a feeling by these connectors of altruism, or “giving back” to the industry or geography where they do business. You may think that connectors are the most extroverted and charismatic people, but in reality, not always.

2. Industry verticals

Several communities start as a result of a new technology or sub-industry. An example in the IT industry is Virtualization, Cloud Computing, Electronic Health Records or Managed Services. When the needs of a group is not being met by larger or non-related peer groups, new ones form organically from members as they branch out.

3. Traditional Media

Trade magazines and event promoters have been quick to recognize the communities trend, and have formed powerful groups under their trusted brand. Having a strong subscription or attendee following, makes the transition to community a logical step for these organizations.

4. New Media – Social Media

The fastest growth of communities has occurred with the explosion of social media. Whether Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, or the dozens of other purpose built community tools, the cost and complexity to start a community is approaching zero. Many connectors started as bloggers who have built a loyal and passionate following. Many bloggers have evolved into community leaders.

5. Distributors and vendors

The fact is that some companies get it and some don’t. Several organizations now recognize communities and have built organizations around community marketing. It is not uncommon to hear Chief Community Officer in marketing circles. Organizing a community goes far beyond marketing and advertising however, with product development, pricing and programs all tightly connected.

How do these communities interact with their followers?
A dizzying array of new marketing vehicles have popped up in recent years. Traditional media such as magazines and events are very important in communicating to a community, but new media allows innovative ways to extend and enhance the message. From webinars, podcasts, vodcasts, blogs, tweets, Linkedin groups, to virtual trade shows, community groups are using as many as 30 different marketing vehicles to be pervasive within the group.

The challenge with these marketing vehicles is different than in the past. The main inhibitor to effectively marketing was money, today it is effective content and delivery. Many of the vehicles I mentioned above are free or cost very little compared with traditional media. Keeping content fresh, abundant and delivered daily takes resourcing beyond the marketing department.

Media savvy Executives who can keynote an event, tweet about it offstage, promote the message to the media gathered, and then write a blog about it later on is the new model for the future. Messaging that would have required triple-checking through legal a few years ago, needs to be just-in-time and delivered on a daily cadence. I have a mantra that is “be visible everyday”.

Finally, community members have very effective personal spam filters. Anything that doesn’t add value to the community will be rejected and have a negative result for the organization delivering. The old days of powerpoints and product spec slides doesn’t cut it.

Why are communities important?
Beyond the human requirements of personal interaction and belonging, communities provide tangible benefits to all involved. Unfiltered information based on common experience will always trump random white papers and case studies posted on the internet. The give/get relationships within a community inspire openness and, in most of the communities I have seen, a level of bluntness that is refreshing.

Some key advantages of communities:

1. Cost of entry low as compared to traditional media and other marketing opportunities. Very much a “grass roots” feeling.

2. Ability to communicate and receive value is high. Tons of touch points, combined with a high degree of passion.

3. Trusted source – community members have likely experienced your challenges, or will shortly. The feeling you can “steal with pride” best practices and contribute your own successes.

4. Ability to enter new markets or industries. Opportunities to network, build like-minded connections and potentially drive business development opportunities.

5. Credibility that comes with “member of” status. Make the affiliations and partnerships that make your organization seem larger and more connected. Getting published or quoted as an expert or thought leader is invaluable for your organization and personal brands.

Finally, what is the future of communities?
Based on the data from analysts, combined with the relentless growth of information available across the internet and the behavioral habits of people, it is difficult to predict a slowdown in the growth of communities in business. Exponential growth, in fact.

Specialization will continue to expand as well, driving more need for these groups and subgroups. There is an upper limit to the size of a community where the point of diminishing returns kicks in. The point at where coordination of the group and the generality of messaging outweigh the benefits listed above. Smart communities will organize sub-groups before the fringe members go off and launch a competing community.

Are you the next Chief Community Officer within your organization?

Why do I need a WiFi enabled toothbrush?

I was amused last week when people were scoffing at a new WiFi enabled toothbrush. The concept relates directly back to a blog I wrote awhile back called “The 20 Computers you WILL own in 5 years”. I finished off the blog by saying 20 was an understatement and the number will likely be closer to 100.

Enter SmartToothbrushes.

The value proposition (if I can call it that) of a internet enabled toothbrush is simply to drive better personal hygiene in kids. We all know (or have been guilty of ourselves) that some children race through brushing their teeth and no amount of parental guidance about the dangers of plaque, false teeth by 30 or looking funny in front of friends seems to do the trick.

What if social media was the answer? Making brushing teeth the latest craze in Wii games! I know my brushing habits would have been better if I showed up to school the next day and was the subject of ridicule. It is a crazy concept, yes. Will it work? Perhaps.

Enter SmartTreadmill.

Another concept that probably has more chances of succeeding is SmartExercise. We all know that peer pressure drives behavior. Yes, in post-college adults too! If you have ever been in a Biggest Loser work competition, or joined a gym or team with a friend, we know that social pressure can deliver results.
Now you proceed to the treadmill and program a run. Do you virtually run around the neighborhood? Rome? Hawaii Iron Man?

Your choice.

First the treadmill posts on Facebook that you are starting a running “event” that others can join. The trash talk begins. Google Maps then kicks in with an actual route including elevation. The treadmill automatically adjusts height based on the actual route and you watch the houses fly by in “street view” mode on the display. After the run, Facebook posts your time, encourages others to run the exact same route (at any time in the future), and downloads it to their treadmill. With an avatar of you running to motivate of course. More trash talk.

The point is not to convince you that pervasive computing will be real. It will be. The point is what devices do we use in our daily lives that could get “smarter” with an internet connection and integration with your online personality?
Yes, there are privacy concerns and the concept of having technology ubiquitous in your life is unsettling for most people. However, the next generations are growing up with this reality and may not think twice about razzing a schoolmate about their flossing habits.

Enter SmartDental Floss…..

Friday, April 2, 2010

Counter-point: You won’t really own 20 computers in 5 years – you may only need one!

Jay McBain, Director Small and Medium Business, Lenovo
March 17, 2010
Being a part-time futurist, I attempt to predict events and apply probabilities to certain things happening. The one thing I didn’t predict was my blog about owning 20 computers in 5 years would create the frenzy it did. The comments received were literally all over the map, both ideological as well as geographic.
Many of the devices I talked about bordered on nonsensical. Who would ever consider a Smart-Jacket anyway? Then yesterday, The VAR Guy breaks a story about a wearable computing legend working secretly on prototypes for a major manufacturer. Perhaps the 5 year window I called out isn’t that far-fetched.
The contrarian view to pervasive computing has held that we will look to one (or very few) devices to deliver the world of content to us, regardless of time or place. This device would be very powerful, offer bolted-down security, and incorporate a blistering array of consumer electronics functionality. Think of every category at your nearest Retailer built into a device no larger than your wallet.
This device would integrate wirelessly with its surroundings. For example, it would communicate with your car and use its speakers as an extension to its own functionality. Same goes for your flat panel or even your desktop computer.
Here are some reasons this view of the future makes sense:
1. No need for integration or management of dozens of devices per person. Business or personal, less devices means less headaches.
2. Not reliant on the promise of the cloud. Local storage and applications have a strong legacy over the past 30 years and will the cloud still have a perception issue around security and performance in the future limiting its adoption?
3. No need for ubiquitous connectivity. The coming wave of 3G and WiMax offerings may not convince people that another $40 per month is worthwhile – especially in the new economic reality. Unless Telco companies will bundle with your home networking at the same price, people may look to fewer, smarter devices that do not rely on a 24/7 internet connection.
4. Easier to lock down security policy on one device. Users may not be comfortable with the personality “footprints” left on a multitude of devices. Think about the caches and cookies left over from your computing experience. Also, the cost and complexity of incorporating biometrics, encryption and other security features into dozens of devices could be daunting.
5. Extension to new usage scenarios. For example, a single device with localized processing and security would be ideal as a payment device at a store.
6. Mass-market appeal and economics. The competition to be this “one” device by manufacturers and component makers would drive down cost significantly, benefiting the consumer.
7. Industry standard interfaces. Without a plethora of technology representing different sizes, shapes and usage, there would be a lower education and training requirement. This could make technology less imposing on some and more accessible to others.
8. Focus on elegant design. The innovation around a single device would drive new levels of design excellence and engineering around quality and ruggedness. For example, being waterproof would be a great feature if this is your only connection to the online world.
A strong argument can be made for or against a future with Pervasive Computing. Some people will argue the middle – the devices that make sense to become smarter and internet aware will happen naturally over time. This is perhaps a more realistic argument and that having a smart toaster isn’t worth the extra dollars, energy and growing landfills full of obsolete ones.
What do you think? Will we have 20 or more computers connected all the time and providing seamless integration into our everyday lives, or will we stick to our current knitting, a Smartphone and a Notebook?

20 Computers you WILL own in the next 5 years

Jay McBain, Director Small and Medium Business, Lenovo
February 9, 2010

Would you recognize if you were at the beginning of a technological tipping point?
Welcome to 2010!
The convergence of ubiquitous connectivity and cloud computing has one simple and very exciting output: the explosion of hardware gadgets we will use to access it anywhere and anytime.
Don’t believe me?
Exhibit A: The evolution of the cell phone into an all-in-one multimedia, gaming, social media, content and business access device.
Exhibit B: The Netbook craze over the last 2 years convincing millions of users that an inexpensive secondary or tertiary device is useful given the right environment.
And finally,
Exhibit C: The feverish debate over the recent iPad announcement as well as the Smartbook and Hybrid categories that Lenovo introduced at CES in January.
Interestingly, most people focus the debate on how they use technology today. For example, why would I need a 10” slate when I have my iPhone, or why would I want an underpowered Netbook with a small screen when I have my full function Notebook for $100 more?
If you focus on how you will use technology in the future, the debate changes significantly. Most people generally agree that within 5-10 years, most things you plug in will have some level of internet connectivity. The question becomes, “where and how is the best way to access information in the future”. A good example is text messaging while driving. It would be hard to make the case that a smartphone or notebook computer are the optimal form factors in this environment.
The goal here is to simply lay out how we can more naturally use technology in everyday environments – perhaps increasing human interaction, productivity, and for the example above, safety.
Now for the 20 computing devices you WILL own within 5 years (in no particular order):
1. SmartClock Radio – an ideal form factor when laying in bed is a device that not only wakes you up but puts together a local news, weather, sports and business “5 min package” to start your day. You fully customize the content and it converts to audio. You can also prioritize important email notifications of what happened overnight.
2. SmartGPS – The devices in your car have got much smarter since their first monochrome ancestors. Helping you with traffic and finding gas stations by price are examples of recent innovations. Think of all the localization data that is uploaded into the satellites. Who will be the first to track all vehicle speeds real-time and predict the right route (as opposed to downloading manual data based on cameras). Even more interesting for those of you who are environmentally conscious, by tracking vehicle speeds all traffic light patterns will be predictable allowing you to time the drive perfectly into all green lights. By the way, there will be devices for every mode of transportation you have, optimized of course for ease of use, including motorcycles, bicycles, jetski’s, etc.
3. SmartFridge – This concept isn’t new, but with the advent of Windows 7 multi-touch and the rapid decline in panel price points over 2009, why wouldn’t you want a “home base” device on your fridge? The all-in-one desktop form factors are interesting, but most people don’t have the counter space to give up to keyboards and mice. Having a 22” Wide panel in the fridge will act as a viewer of all things important in your life. From social media updates, to weather, stock prices, important emails, to cameras and sensors in the fridge that order new products automatically as they are used.
4. SmartHome Server – These are available today and will act as the bridge between the cloud and your other 19 devices listed here. Whether downloading movies, or housing your eclectic MP3 collection, this server will provide fault tolerance and performance to drive the pervasive world. Within 5 years, the replication and fetching ability will be significantly improved and predicted behavior artificial intelligence will know your YouTube patterns and already have the data cached and ready to go. At $70 per TB and dropping, this will continue to explode.
5. SmartFishFinder – Taking a smartphone on a boat is a recipe for disaster as electronics and water aren’t a great mix. Lugging a Notebook is even a worse idea. The FishFinder is an ideal device for a few reasons. Beyond being waterproof, they already have a 5” or larger high resolution screen, and not to mention the audio capabilities. I am sure most people don’t want work disturbances while fishing, however the ability to Google the fish you just landed along with the entire Wikipedia history could be interesting. Getting realtime Doppler weather and sea conditions could be a lifesaver – literally.
6. SmartCar Radio – Back to the text messaging example. The car radio is already hooked into 4 or more high quality speakers and can bring customized, location aware information directly to you. When a message is received, it will recognize if you are stopped at a red light and project on the windshield in a HUD format or if driving will convert to audio and read to you. With voice recognition, you will read back a response and it will convert it back to the sender without you ever taking your eyes off the road. How about when you hear that favorite song and want it on your MP3 player? Done. For your passengers? They will all have viewing devices, either on the dash or in the back of headrests that hook into the car radio as the central CPU and wireless device.
7. SmartHealth Watch – It may not win on style points at the beginning, but the initial examples of watches that hold cell phone, GPS, heart rate, and other capabilities, will transform how we take care of ourselves. A watch that monitors your every step (literally) and uploads your heartrate information to your private Electronic Medical Record (EMR). An easy interface that records, either by multi-touch, audio or camera, everything you eat as well. Most people find this very intrusive and it will not go mass market until the privacy is guaranteed and perhaps you get a 75% discount from your medical insurance?
8. SmartSlate – This is the current debate I referenced above. Is there room for a “tweener” form factor between smartphone and Netbook that acts as an eReader, portable TV, game, or business multi-touch data entry device? With millions of applications coming that will be developed to take advantage of a 10” always connected device. The move away from the traditional clamshell Notebook form factor for secondary and tertiary devices makes sense.
9. SmartGuitar, SmartKeyboard and SmartDrums – An example of how musical instruments will be able to train a user with lights and audio/video guidance. The ability to be always connected will mean hundreds of thousands of songs ready to play (for a nominal fee I am sure). Being able to join a virtual band with players all over the world is when this concept starts to get really cool.
10. SmartRemote – Using the program guide while watching TV is cumbersome and interrupts others. Having a device that not only downloads show data, it supplements it with real-time user reviews, gossip, and previews. The ability to record and availability across all other 19 devices listed here will make this technology core in our entertainment plans.
11. SmartSurface / SmartPanels / SmartFurniture – Whether in the home, office, or in public places like restaurants and shopping centers, there will be multi-touch panels everywhere that vary in shape and size based on the environment. These devices will provide ubiquitous access to all cloud based data and allow users to quickly pull up their own designed portal. Imagine going to a restaurant that has a surface computer as a table. Conversations in the future will become very multimedia driven.
12. SmartCamera – The integration of camera’s into all devices (including most listed here) is inevitable. However, because of the size, weight, form factor, or usage of these devices, the traditional camera, with high quality lenses and purpose specific function, will continue to be an important device. Having pictures transferred directly to the cloud makes sense, as well as the ability to do photo editing and printing directly from the camera will benefit the photographer. The camera will have GPS as well as internet access to the local weather and automatically import optimal photo settings depending on where you are, the weather conditions, and time of day.
13. SmartTV – Represents one of the most inevitable form factors you will own. As signals are now digital, movies and media are downloadable, and entertainment continues the shift to on-demand, the TV will be an important collection and delivery device of content. Having an external set top box and BluRay player will become redundant and access to all of recorded and broadcast history will be available within a quick search. The storage will likely be in the SmartHome Server mentioned elsewhere, and the searching may be in the SmartRemote, but the content will be cached and delivered from the device. The SmartTV will also be extended to other devices, allowing you easily to send a movie up to the bedroom halfway through, or to the SmartPhone if you are going out.
14. Smartphone – This is a device that you likely already own and will continue to. It is a device that gives you pocket access to all data, and while not being the best at data entry or viewing, wins in outright mobility and battery life.
15. SmartNotebook – Another device that you likely own today and will continue to. The ability to create and consume content while being mobile will as important in the future as it is today. Notebooks will continue to evolve and cover a wide range of 8” to 22” form factors customized by the type of user.
16. SmartElderly / SmartKids / SmartPets – The ability to take care of an elderly parent, monitor the security and safety of a child, or simply track where your pet has run off to in the neighborhood will be important as connectivity options reduce in price. Today there are tag based options that are relatively limited in function. Tomorrow, with integration of connectivity and GPS, these devices will be able to proactively notify and alert if certain thresholds are violated. This is the OnStar button on a personal level. Having electronic medical records as well as detailed allergy and other information available in real-time will save lives and protect our loved ones.
17. SmartJacket – Not to be confused with straight-jacket! Clothing will continue to evolve to the point where some interesting technology can be woven in. How about solar receptors sewn right into the fabric that charges devices when placed into the pocket or wirelessly? How about a 6” screen on the cuff that acts as a viewing device when holding a smartphone is clumsy or ineffective? How about a belt or bottom cuff that has the equivalent of a 9 cell battery spread around to disperse weight and give you all day computing on the multitude of mobile devices I have outlined here? This can also be a SmartShoe as a form factor.
18. SmartGlasses – Whether you wear goggles for your occupation, while you’re out skiing, playing a video game, watching a 3D movie, or simply wearing sunglasses outside, this becomes the perfect device to deliver content. Examples exist today with opaque type projection allowing you to look “through” or “at” the screen. Wireless access to either a SmartPhone or any other pervasive device would bring personalized and secure information to the user. Computing ability can also be built right into the frame making this a standalone device for consuming data. This is likely the most natural way a person can consume information.
19. SmartHome - Much has been written about the smart home. With an alarm system, thermostat, and other appliances being internet-aware, the management of the house will become a reality from a remote location. Even if it is turning on lights in the morning, turning down the heat when the house senses no one home (as opposed to being timed), to monitoring electricity usage at every plug and presenting savings opportunities back to the homeowner, the future will be more cost efficient, green, and secure. Your security system will monitor all of these other pervasive devices you own, and be able to alert you if they are stolen and leave the perimeter that you define because of the GPS and communication capabilities. If everything you buy of value is now internet aware and has self reporting capabilities, is this the end of physical crime?
20. SmartGaming – While many (if not all) devices here will support gaming, the true experience needs a dedicated device with the horsepower and graphics capabilities to drive excitement. Future gaming will be holographic, allowing you to roam “inside” the game. Virtual reality will continue to evolve, allowing you and your avatar to travel the world, and experience things like spaceflight first hand. Games will also evolve away from structured levels and local storage and move into a connected world where the game progresses as the participants lead it. Advancing levels of predictive behavior and AI will blur the lines between reality and games.
I chose only 20 computers you will own to give a sample of where we are heading in the next 5-10 years. The reality is that most of us own more than 20 computers today. If you combed your house and counted all of the silicon and microchips, the number would be much higher. In fact, your car has more than 20 computers today. The reality is that we will own more than a 100 computers.
Another way to look at it is that every device that you plug into the wall or run on battery today has probably a couple of possible improvements if it was internet aware. This could include small appliances that have recipes built in, or a microwave that take a photo of the popcorn barcode, compares to internet and then cooks it for the perfect time based on the product and its own cooking capabilities.
We are only at the beginning of understanding the capabilities of those physical things around us as they get access to all of human knowledge.
This is my argument of why pervasive computing will be a reality. All-in-one type devices that try to do everything, tend to do nothing well. Single devices that are specialized for ease of use, cost, as well as laser focused on the task at hand (cooking popcorn) will win the day. The second argument is that when the next generation of microwave is invented with some major new whiz-bang technology, you don’t have to spend a thousand dollars to replace the all-in-one device, but simply just upgrade one function at a time.
Best of all worlds.