Over the past few months I’ve embarked on a major personal technology upgrade. With each purchase, I’m reminded just how much has changed since I got my first phone, PC, and Walkman.
Personal technology has completely transformed since I got my prized Motorola flip phone. It was the late 90’s and the pocket-sized pre-millennial communicator was the bomb. It fit in my pocket, stored up 10 numbers and had T9 predictive texting. My life had just got a whole lot easier and with Star-Trekian styling—that baby was worth showing off!
Since then I’ve worked my way through countless phones, desktops, laptops, tablets, and cable boxes. Today, phones are smart, TVs are flat, Walkmans are called media players, and most of us text more than we talk. I’m no Luddite, so for the most part, I have participated in the revolution.
Well, except for my TV. I don’t watch a lot of tube, so I held onto my CRT until last year because it got the job done. I’m a bit of a shutterbug and I wanted to hook up my TV up to Apple TV so I could share my pictures in the large format they deserve. The problem was, my Nirvana-era television wouldn’t exactly plug-and-play with Lady Gaga-era networking. And, as I’ve found out, neither will a lot of my other vintage tech items that have served me so well.
On the flipside of my adventure in upgrades, many communications service providers have found themselves in a similar position. Their aging legacy business systems have served them well for 20 years, but they just don’t work well with the way we do business today. The world is changing, and we’re all going to have to keep pace if we are going to take advantage of it.
Cases-in-point are these consumer-side examples that demonstrate all is not standing still in Communicationsland:
The Reality of Forced Upgrades
The lesson is, that just because a second-hand 2004 Samsung plasma TV has a great picture, doesn’t mean it can play well with others. It was perfectly fine until I realized the 640p setup is just as incompatible with Apple TV as the old tube TV was. For that matter, physical connections have changed as well, and “newer” isn’t necessarily backwards compatible. Trying to connect my coaxial cabled devices to now ubiquitous HDMI—I might was well be trying to plug a potato into an iPad. I needed to upgrade more than just the devices, I needed to overhaul all my technology.
Media Has Gone mobile
Your local PBS station has all but given up on the term “public television” as it’s now just viewed privately everywhere. As we pointed out in an earlier post, the reason is clear: media and content represent nearly 50% of mobile traffic in 2015, and over 70% of the world now owns at least one mobile device. A recent PBS funding drive asked me to literally “think out of the box” and support them so I can enjoy their content wherever it is displayed—whether at home on TV or on a phone, tablet, laptop, etc. As such, what was once only available in one simple format now is available in all formats. Interoperability and compatibility are not luxuries—they’re the new reality.
Storage Gets Commodified
My recently acquired iPhone 6s has 128 GB available, roughly 12x the storage capacity of my first iPhone 3. In today’s always-mobile, always-on age, we need tons of storage to save apps, videos, games, photos, and music and access them wherever and whenever. And more often than not, we are storing things in the Cloud. With HotSpots popping up everywhere, WiFi increasingly free, and speeds improving, content that isn’t stored locally can be streamed to be consumed at my leisure. It’s resulted in a virtual greenfield of viewing options.
How We Buy Has Changed
Many of us have opted out of outright ownership and are looking instead for purchasing the right to use. Phones, content, connectivity, and software—once shrink-wrapped and packaged—can be all acquired as services. As I discovered, ownership and downloads are out, and monthly services like Apple Music, Spotify, and Pandora are in. The service era has emerged.
Carriers Must Change With Consumers
Since the days when I toted around that swank Motorola i90c, my world has accelerated and changed. My purchases are less defined by the device I carry and more by the content I can connect to—offering me a near-Nirvana consumer experience. I’m immediately gratified by a nearly limitless catalog of data, goods, and services. Today, I’m much less likely to show off the phone I’m using and much more likely to show off a recent video, snapchat, or IG photo that I’ve been sharing. How times have changed!
And, as Verizon’s purchase of Yahoo! this week demonstrates, Communications Service Providers are getting the message. To better meet the evolving needs of me, (the consumer) they are pushing beyond the convergence of quad play delivery of services: mobile, internet, content and IoT. Yet, they are also challenged by the same things that I am challenged by. To be successful they’ll need to upgrade their legacy systems to ensure that they are interoperable and able to perform up to the digital customer’s expectations, which is increasingly content driven and demands instant accessibility from San Francisco to Timbuktu.
And when they do, everyone will profit.
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