The other day, I was watching my 6 year old use the internet to find information she was looking for. She opened up Google, typed in the search terms, used the auto suggest feature to pick the right words that she wanted, found the right website and navigated effortlessly around the site and printed the stuff that she wanted. Not to outdone, my other kid who is 15 months, uses his finger to swipe to change photos on the iPhone. All this makes me wonder if the kids of the current generation are of different breed altogether. They are so plugged into these things, and technology changes that have to be learnt by so many of us seems very intuitive to them.
Image by WnY .'. via Flickr
That set me thinking as to how the next generation of users might use technology - and by next generation, I do not mean the current 5 year olds, but the current teens to 20 year olds. I believe that a new generation of technology users emerge every 5-7 years, and their technology needs and how they leverage it in their everyday life is vastly different from the previous generation of users. Just in the past decade or so, we have had three huge technology shifts based on user preferences. The first half of the previous decade was the generation of the savvy online user (the Google generation). The second half was the generation of the social users (the Facebook generation) and the current generation is one of ‘everything mobile’ and we are in the middle of it.
So what would the next generation of technology users look like and what might their expectations be? Here are some bold predictions.
- Mobile broadband becomes utility and hand-held devices become omni-potent – According to a recent Booz & Company study among younger Europeans, 52 percent already say they feel disconnected from the world if they don’t have their mobile phones with them, and 91 percent of all mobile users keep their phones within arm’s reach all the time. With WiMax and LTE technologies just around the corner, hand held devices will become omnipotent. It will be a source of communication, information, entertainment, currency and more. Don’t leave your home without it and keep it with you at all times.
- Internet is the default remote storage medium – The next generation will realize that personal data and information stored within the four walls of your house has the same level of security (or insecurity) as that of it being stored in the cloud. So the default storage medium will be the internet. This will also facilitate access to personal data anytime, anywhere. Check out DropBox.com, for what it might look like.
- Digital and physical worlds overlap – Much unlike the current and previous, the next generation wouldn’t differentiate between how they interact in the digital and physical world. They would be equally comfortable transitioning seamlessly between the two worlds. They would want it that way and communication technology would have to enable it.
- Privacy concerns are of less importance and information sharing is ubiquitous – Don’t need to say no more.
- Efficient social network management – Users will want to manage efficiently, multiple social networks that they are part of - friends, family, business etc. For example, comments, jokes etc. that one might want to share with their friends will stay only within that network and mom doesn’t need to read the WSJ link that they shared with your business colleagues.
These are just a few trends that I think will catch on in the coming years. They forebode tremendous opportunity for new technologies and ventures. One should thank the users for expecting more all the time.