Predictions: What Technology will Replace

My CEO, George Colony lists out a few products and services that have ‘disappeared’ due to technology in his latest blog post. He lists out encyclopedias, classifies, records, actors and even trans-continental flights. He asks what could disappear next. I’ll throw out some hypothetical situations that could cause some of the following dissipate:

  • Support for products could be transplanted by peer to peer support tools like GetSatisfaction where passionate customers self-support each other bypassing corporations
  • “Outside” Sales teams could be replaced by Vendor Relationship Management (VRM) s where customers define what they want, companies respond.
  • Printed photos/photo centers, at least in the eyes of Generation Y are already falling by the wayside
  • Physical printed maps are already being replaced by digital GPS systems in many cars
  • Restaurant review companies like Fodors and Zagat, instead replaced by peer review sites like Yelp.
  • Digital book readers, like the Kindle, although still in early generations could replace distribution of printed books
  • Keyboard and mice, what a slow and archaic way of input, which needs to evolve from voice/eye recognition
  • Movie Theaters can go away as home entertainment systems get bigger screens in HD, with great audio at lower costs. Coupled with streaming data, HD movies can be piped directly into the home
  • Gasoline powered cars
  • Leave a comment with your prediction –or refute mine
  • Thanks to Carter Lusher who spurred on this discussion.

    • Tony

      – I’m not so sure about the GetSatisfaction wave. I agree that most products should have a community effort to support and build a conversation about the product. However, I doubt it will truly supplant traditional customer service. First, the risk of the community not providing the necessary level of support will be too great for most corporations to bear. Second, some things (like RMAs) need to be handled by a company representative.

    • Tony, Good point, it depends on ‘what’ specifically what needs to be supported. For tips, tricks, hacks, these can all be outsourced to the crowd. For very complicated installs (such as medicine, aircraft parts) we can’t expect this to be fully outsourced.

    • This is a thoughtful post. Annoying phone trees will hopefully disappear – press 1 for this, 2 for that – as companies creatively engage voice APIs on the web to improve customer service. Forrester (I believe) calls it CEBP – Communications Enables Business Processes – and one of my clients, Jaduka, is doing some great work with custom CEBP apps.

      I also think the paradigm of television sets in every room, which I grew up with, will change. I’m still seeing a wall TV in the family room for large sports events. Kids are growing up wanting a computer, not a TV.

      CDs replaced records. I think CDs will eventually be replaced or continue to be minimized by digital.

      Hopefully, melody will replace rap.

    • Yes, phone systems need to evolve. Regarding TV and computers, expect convergence, not exclusivity.

      The challenge with digital is DRM, where CDs can be fully ripped, shared and passed along.

      Rap, funny.

    • OW @Jeremiah, you’re missing a few key things here:
      – Self-supporting customers should (at best) exist in tandem with professional support. Even then this is highly limited. And honestly, I’m paying for products to get professional support. Many Open Source businesses are basing their models upon offering paid-for support.

      Both will exist in tandem.

      – VRMs sound great in theory, but now you’re making the mistake of actually believing that customers correctly know what they want.

    • Gates

      Good counterpoints. See my comment above, agreed, not all support will go lateral.

      VRM: Customers know their pain points, that could be enough.

    • Seth Gray

      Record labels will either go away or fundamentally change. Among their most powerful advantages were controlling distribution, production and promotion. With the cost to record/produce an album or a song in your bedroom on your computer going down (and fidelity going up), and a distribution and promotion tools like the MySpace, iTunes, etc, those traditional advantages become much less powerful.

    • Seth

      I’ve been hearing that music artists are cashing in not from CD or album sales, but instead from concerts and lifestyle products (perfume, clothes, cars, sponsorships)

    • Seth Gray


      generally yes, working musicians make more money from tours and merchandise than from CD/album sales. But even the lure of a deal with one of the major labels has faded significantly. I was told by some friends that they had no desire to sign with a major label– they made more money selling 100k units with an “indie” label than if they had sold 500k units with a major. They also made more money on tours & merch by staying with the indie label. The only way you make more money with a major label is if you have a monster hit.

      I think the major labels have a major opportunity to redefine what they do and how they do it. What if the album/CD/MP3 was seen as a way to promote the tour & merch, rather than seen as a profit center? Could they make up for the lost potential revenue? lots of other questions & opportunities, but I think that’s one they’re pretty stuck on.

    • Christopher Coulter

      1. GetSatisfaction, is just a twist on Consumer Research, in one form or another, that has been, and will be, eternal.

      2. You kill companies by letting customers decide your future, you have to supply that want, you have to translate needs into wants and desires. And you have to know what they want before they do or your competitors. Reading minds before anyone else gets there, is key. And people don’t know what they want until you SHOW it to them.

      3. Digital Printed Photo/Scan Centers are booming (the ones at Wally World are always packed), and anything GenY is still way too early to call.

      4. GPS will compliment maps, anyone using GPS knows they have their limits, and gasp, fail to work at times. Maps won’t die.

      5. Peer review sites are never as well-written as the professional review sites, and you get 5,000 opinions, with the pro’s they sum it up and make it sing. Nope, people will still goto the experts for serious travel.

      6. They have been predicting the death of paper for how long now? I have a Sony Reader 505 and love it to death, it won’t replace paper ever, too many limitations. This is another one of those ‘compliment’ not replace type of technologies. Whole lotta good, if people drop the alarmist, “it will kill off this old technology” rhetoric.

      7. Mouse and Keyboards are not slow or archaic, and eye/voice tech has yet to even be functional, and in fact, much worse, as majority of the user-interface research shows, James H. Leatherby and Randy Pausch in a study for the University of Virginia showed “…that when MacDraw was augmented with voice input, task completion time was reduced by 21%.” Maybe someday, but with macro and keyboard shortcuts, and multiple button mice, eye/voice tech has a ways to go.

      8. The death of Hollywood. This again? First it was VHS tapes, then DVDs, then Tivo and PVRs and now HD tech, Well, movies are social and escapist, and no big HD screen will ever replace that. This is a standard boilerplate argument, people will stop going to movies because [insert reason here]. Gas prices, home theater, cost of popcorn, whatever. But Hollywood’s had a record year, blockbuster city, tech can’t ever replace the social, And in fact, I offer the opposite view, HD tech will HELP Hollywood, sending in more who weren’t first-showing viewers, and plus, people will buy more CONTENT for their HD screens. So they win regardless, if you control both distributional ends.

      9. There is way way too much infrastructure of gasoline for it just to disappear, alternative fuel tech is not yet feasible or mass-marketable, and even when it is, it’s only a secondary choice. The problem is not one of tech, it’s one of supply. Anyone saying gasoline will die, is speaking from a political view and not a market rational one.

    • I think Get Satisfaction will be a nice addition to support & isn’t really unlike existing technologies (message boards) already.

      Theaters won’t be going away soon. While a lot of technologies make it possible to see movies in HD at home, not too many people are going to have a *real* movie screen in the home. Seeing Transformers on the silver screen, for example, is way better than watching it on a 50″ screen.

      The main areas I see of disruption are around communication. How many of us have home phone lines these days? Not too many. Services like Skype have already proven to be disruptive & the surface has only been scratched on this front.

      I disagree with Chris that gasoline powered cards won’t go away at some point. It is in the best interests of our country to develop alternative technologies to reduce our dependence on foreign energy of any sort. This transition, however, will likely take decades.

    • Christopher Coulter

      When an “alternative” technology, is margins of levels better, and priced the same or below, and has the right amount of infrastructure support, and is backwards compatible, things can change.

      Reducing our dependence on “foreign” energy, is a political statement, not a market-driven one. If less “foreign” you must increase the local production, at a similar cost, governments and markets must allow for such flexibility, neither of which we currently have.

    • I agree that TV and computers are converging, and extend that to include music and gaming. We know the internet (wired and over-the-air) is replacing traditional media distribution; integrated home hardware really brings it all together. Technology replaces the need for a separate home PC, DVR, HD tuner, radio tuner, DVD and HD disc players, and gaming systems. Consolidated processing power is a green solution for the connected home.

    • Re printed books: In my view, print *remains* a form of high technology, centuries after it was introduced. For certain applications, having printed pages between covers far outperforms not just any current electronic reader, but also the even fancier ones (e-paper etc.) proposed for the future. I agree with the commenter above that e-books will be complementary rather than a replacement technology.

      Movie theaters: One thing to keep in mind is that the cinema experience can change in ways that keep it appealing in the future. Consider that, in the early days of cinema, movie houses were often the very first buildings in a city to have air conditioning. This was a form of differentiation. Today, I can go to the Alamo Drafthouse around the corner from my house to see Hellboy *while* I eat a nice meal and drink a local beer on tap. All aspects of this are special enough to justify the price.

    • Chris Coulter, thanks for refuting mine, now I’m shining the spotlight back on you ๐Ÿ˜‰

      What’s your predictions?

    • @Twalk – I’m curious about what particular applications you think that printed paper will continue to outperform concept technologies like ePaper.

      I’ve been talking to a lot of people lately about the future of publishing, and I understand the distinction of habits vs. mediums (i.e. you read a magazine in a chair, on a beach, on a plane but you read news on the go, at the desk, online), but other than running out of batteries – what’s the long term disadvantage to digital paper?

    • digital book readers, ugh, this world is getting to Techy!!!!

    • Too!!!

    • “Creditcards will turn into cell phones”



    • Jason @16 – I have no doubt that digital will replace some of our uses for paper-paper, but there are also plenty of times when paper works better, either because it’s simpler, or because of functionality.

      Some examples off the top of my head:

      1. You mentioned the beach: on vacation my wife likes to sit by the pool and read magazines. Glossy, full-color, can be tossed aside, doesn’t matter if the kids splash her, etc.

      2. Tearing out articles to read and mark up – on the plane, in bed, whatever.

      3. Side-by-side comparison/use of texts. Many scholars and writers, if they don’t 100% *need* to be able to do this, will *want* to be able to do it this way forever.

      I take your point that these are *habits* – indeed they are. But it’s not hard to imagine settings in which paper-paper will be perceived as being simpler / easier / much cheaper / marginally more functional than e-paper.
      Or am I totally off-base?

    • Oh cmon Chris take a stand. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • Chris:

      You are 100% wrong if you don’t believe our foreign dependence on oil is a problem.

      “If less โ€œforeignโ€ you must increase the local production, at a similar cost, governments and markets must allow for such flexibility, neither of which we currently have.”

      Ummm…the key problem, at least from what we know right now, is that we don’t have as many oil resources available in the USA as countries currently producing oil (Saudi Arabia, Russia, Venezuela, Iran etc.). Are any of these countries really friendly to the USA? Not really.

      The number one issue facing our economy right now is the cost of energy. The issues it drives are far-reaching, impact the consumer driven economy, the costs of doing business & has political ramifications (domestic and international) as well.

      You obviously don’t remember the oil embargo in the 70’s.

    • Great thoughts. I love ideas of speculation like this. What are your thoughts on how technology is going to completely effect the way that we shop? Fewer big box stores as the ability to shop online. Thoughts?

    • This can be a dangerous game. As noted in a comment…

      …at my blog from Dan Thornton — nothing ever truly goes away. You can still buy buggy whips

      …and my father used to buy whale oil in the 1980s to lubricate his clocks (I’m not kidding)…

      But the fact is, my vinyl records lie mouldering in my basement and I haven’t touched a CD in 10 months.

    • Jason DUlin

      Movie theaters aren’t going away; at least not until the home goes 3D. See Dreamworks recent announcement of going 100% 3D for all future production.

      In response to one comment; Cd’s haven’t replaced vinyl either. They did temporarily, but the new digital media comes with most new vinyl record purchase now. also, Audiophiles and cheap production keep this genre alive and well. I believe vinyl sales actually went up last year.

    • Professional Recruitment – will not completely disappear, but will change tremendously with the growth of platforms such as LinkedIn and other Social Media.

      (Recommendations on) LinkedIn will play an increasingly important role is finding, selecting and hiring personnel on temporary or fixed basis.

    • Has any movie theater experimented with the idea of digital movie distribution? I mean, have movie theaters which will show digitally released movies, over a secure private network? Independent movie producers/ studios could release movies on this secured private network. This will provide indie producers to distribute their movies to such theaters directly (without the studios)

    • Bruce Kasrel

      New to the blog and just saw this post. Nice discussion, I submit these two:

      Paper coupons: Have you guys seen IKEA mobile? You just text a number, get a reply and they scan it and print a coupon right there. Pretty clunky UX for now but the idea of getting coupons right as you enter the store seems pretty compelling. Next step would be get then at specific sections of the store as well as time based.

      The second is a bit more controversial:

      Analyst Firms: Seems to me that if A-list bloggers like Scobble would spen more time at client sites in addition to vendors, they would provide a lot of the value of the traditional analyst. One cavat, much less likely they would get quoted in MSM and that is an important part of the analyst equation.

      I do admit that both would take a whole lot of time to happen and is a different timeline than such transformations like vinyl to CD to MP3.

      Any way keep up the good work on the blog.

    • Bruce

      Welcome to the discussion, good points.

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    • Movie Theaters can go away as home entertainment systems get bigger screens in HD, with great audio at lower costs. Coupled with streaming data, HD movies can be piped directly into the home
      Gasoline powered cars