A crystal ball – Seeing the future from the habits of today ..


Instead of relying on expensive reports and specialists, can many of our existing habits and observations be used to predict the future?

Sometimes, personal insights are the best indicator of how technology(especially mobile devices) are changing our lives in a big way ..

For example, like many people, I gave up wearing a watch a long time ago(the phone is my watch) .

I think if more people(especially the young) take this up then very soon, watches will become a niche / luxury item .

Here are three more observations from my life which could point to a potential uptake of new technologies/services .

Welcome any examples you may have

a) YouTube is paving the way for Mobile TV and video

Watching TV/video clips on mobile devices is a favourite target of the doomsday brigade.

Who will watch TV on a small screen? And for how long? Etc etc ..

However, let’s take my own example.

Having lost track of the number of times I have watched my four favourite videos on YouTube .. links below if you are interested (U2 – One – the Buffalo/Bison version; Pink Floyd – Learning to fly ; Pink Floyd – Run like hell and Guns and Roses – Sweet child of mine ) – here is a thought ..

YouTube is paving the way for Mobile TV and video ..

The argument is simple ..

We always think of the screens of life. For example in our book Mobile Web 2.0 we cover the six screens of life as follows

The ‘BIG’ screens of life

Cinema (shared with other members of the public)

TV (shared privately within our homes)

PC (personal or shared use)

The ‘small’ screens of life

Fixed/Portable Players (fixed devices in things that move such as cars, planes, etc)

Information screens e.g. iPod, radio

The mobile device, an individual and personalised handheld device

But .. What ‘screen’ is YouTube?(it’s a ‘screen within a screen)

Further, we have people (like me) watching clips in a small screen – many times over and over again.

Is it a big step to then think that people will be getting used to watching clips on a phone if they are getting used to watching clips on a smaller YouTube screen? (The only other time we do this is when we are flying – but that’s for a smaller duration – often not out of choice)

Hence, is YouTube, paving the way for Mobile TV/video?

b) The mobile address book is going to be the key battle ground

Being a frequent traveller, I use a specific taxi company – and the drivers are mostly familiar.

One day, I met a driver who I used to know a long time ago – but from another taxi company. Apparently, he had switched jobs to the company I now used. When he saw me, his first question was ‘Why did I stop using the other(i.e. his old) taxi company?’

My response was .. No I had not stopped using the company.

Apparently, what happened is: I changed the number of the taxi company under my phone address book entry .. ‘Taxi’ and from then on .. I was using the new company without ever realising it!

All the branding/promotion etc etc is useless if a service is mapped into an address book phone number.

This has implications for local/yellow pages type services.

Whoever can get on that address book will get the business!

The management of an address book could be more complex i.e. I would like a service which will call a secondary provider if the first one is busy etc etc ..

Device manufacturers would have a key edge here!

c) Inspite of much fanfare, the Google Phone will be VERY familiar .. And that’s a good thing ..

Much has been said about the Google phone – and a lot of it speculative. However, if Google chooses to leverage it’s existing strengths on the Web, then .. It has a powerful proposition – one which I think many people would be interested in buying into.

And it will sound very familiar – because we are already using the same content now!

Take this example

A few years ago, when you searched for a hotel name, you got a whole bunch of useless links (mainly put there by the travel industry’s SEO folk). The hotel’s website itself came way down a few pages.

This is not very useful.

Today, it’s a thing of the past as more and more landmarks are on Google maps.

For example, if you search for ‘hotel four seasons San Francisco’ – you get the result as shown below. This is very useful and can only get better as more landmarks go on Google maps.


The next logical step is – access via a phone, geotagging, location based find my nearest etc.

Yes, ANY phone could do this but if the Google phone is oriented to this feature(and working closely with Google maps), it will be immediately useful – and predictable; and predictable is a good thing!

To conclude ..

So, what current usage patterns do you see in your own life which point to the usage of a new technology in the near future?

And here are my four favourite videos ..

One (U2)

Run like hell (Pink floyd)

Sweet child of mine (Guns and Roses)

Learning to fly (Pink floyd)


  1. George says:

    The address book as a battlegrounds seems to be gaining steam.
    This is clear in Facebooks integration with the iphone. Now you have one place to find all your contacts, centrally located and accessible in the same way on your phone as on your computer. AND it has the added value of the social networking experience on the desktop.
    Can you point to other indications that the address book is the future battlegrounds for the ownership of customers?

  2. Atul says:

    Good post. Hard to say which one attracted me more – Floyd videos or the crystal-balling ;-) Let’s just say, both did.
    1. Re: Mobile Video/TV, I do agree that YouTube is paving the way for masses to consume video on the mobile. I like your dissection of ‘screens of life’. Having worked in the Mobile TV area, I know first hand that *first* user experience is key to retaining viewers. Attracting them in the first place, is compelling content. And YouTube offers plenty of it!
    On the same note, Mobile TV service providers should be providing more of must-see content. Here in the US, I do not see much of it, sadly. Though UK providers are doing a better job of content like soccer, etc.
    Secondly, note that we as users have now come to accept the video on a portable screen, thanks to Apple’s convincing and alluring devices. That’s just paving the way and priming the users for on-the-air video consumption.
    2. Re: Mobile Address book: Yes, this is an untapped resource. Note that many social networking sites (atleast those on the mobile)start off as an off-shoot of the mobile address book. After all, the people you call most are already on your list. What better way to exploit this? Yet, social networks are more than just glorified address books.
    3. Re: Google Phone – I do agree that the GPhone will be something inherently familiar. But I do suspect that Google has atleast a few aces up its sleeve. We will likely see a familiar service with a drastically different/simplified use.
    Thanks, and keep the posts and videos coming.

  3. PCap says:

    I want to tell you a strange way I am used to use SMS: when I am in the underground in Milan (where GSM coverage is not available) on the way to reach my office sometimes I need to call someone (customers, colleagues, etc.) and I need a way to be reminded when I’ll be “out in the GSM coverage”.
    So I am used to send an SMS to myself. The phone will retry many times to send the message to my number while I am not under coverage and will send it succesfully to me as soon as I will reach the coverage. I use this SMS as a reminder.
    It’s a silly way to use SMS but I think that there are no other way to be reminded when phone reaches the GSM coverage. Am I wrong?

  4. ram says:

    pretty impressive way of putting it.i had never thought of it this way. we have tried in our own little way to be reference point site in user mind either through sms query or wap.findnearyou.com or our regular site

  5. muthu says:

    excellent structure of article. i could feel the taste of article.