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Tech Trends

November 28, 2007

I’ve been doing a guest lecture spot for Consumer Studies students this week, and this year’s talk is on “tech trends”.  In order to  make it more than a cool gadgets show-and-tell I’m dealing with tech trends sort of in the context of discussing the type of people who can spot trends and then use them to forecast … and why these are the type of people that I, and many others, are looking for when they hire.  Someone out there referred to the people as possessing “entreprenurial character” and I have adopted that as my own term now.  In brief, these people are passionate, smart, learners, self-motivated, re-invent their jobs, thrive in chaotic environments, curious, and are able to spot paradigm shifts.  I try to be one of these people, but invariably I can’t keep up a few of those characteristics to the level I might like.

Anyway, the good part is that I also came up with an example to demonstrate the entrepreneurial character in action.  Google pretty much always has many projects on the go and to most people it appears as though they come up with a series of random cool things to build, and then throw them on their page of offerings. To a person who can spot trends and then put them together to form a picture of the future, these projects are not random at all, but pieces of a puzzle.  Currently Google has the following on the go, mystifying many:

1) Their pay-per-click program:  If someone clicks on a google ad, the business that they go to pays Google a small fee.  Billions of ads a day, and 1 in 1000 people clicking equals a ton of revenue.

2) Many of these businesses are really starting to feel that they’d like to be sure that these visits are actually resulting in sales … return on investment.

3) G-Pay: … a project to be able to pay for products using your phone to text message the funds to someone.

4) Google local: A system to use your phone to check for the best possible price for a product in you local area.

5) Google phone:   There was much speculation that Google was going to put out a phone.  This would be odd for them , since they never actually manufacture anything, and don’t tend to enter markets that already are established and have strong competition (unless you count search engines)

6) Wireless spectrum auction: In February a chuck of the wireless spectrum is going up for auction.  There is much speculation that Google is going to spend billions to own a frequency. Why?

7) Google talk:  Google has a voice-over-IP system … I don’t know anybody who uses it.

So, see if you can put this together.  What is Google’s plan here? … They know how to make money, and they generally break the paradigm wide open when they do something big. Are these a collection of separate inventions, or is there a grand scheme at work here that will all come together down the road?

Here’s the scenario … largely provided by an entrepreneurial character in India who I stumbled across.

Anyway, it goes like this.  You’re out shopping in the future. In your hand is a wireless device (of any type) with the Google operating system downloaded onto it.  This device (could be a smart phone, Zune, iPod touch) runs on the  Google chunk of the wireless spectrum for free and uses Google talk to send messages (or just text-messaging).  You’re shopping for an HDTV at BestBuy.  You use the device to fire up Google local and look for the best price in your region, and it turns out that you go to Costco once Google tells you to. When you get there, you use G-Pay to send the funds from your wireless device use text-messaging to the device of the guy standing behind the counter.  Since Costco knows that you were pointed there by Google, they know that they are getting a return on there investment, Google pay-per-click is working for them, and they give a small portion of their sale to Google.

Google has made the transition from making money on web advertising to making a chunk of money on every retail transaction they can get their hands on …. they’ve jumped from the web to the “real world” in terms of pay-per-click and they get a piece of just about everything.

Will this happen?  Who knows, but it sure does sound like a good idea, and all of the pieces are falling into place.

That’s entrepreneurial character (and why Google recruits so many PhDs), and figuring that out is another example of the same thing.

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