As the world becomes more interconnected the human race is becoming increasingly dependent on our gadgets. Our love for our smartphones grows every single day - so much so for many of us it could be considered a vital organ or additional ligament. But what’s coming after the smartphone? What’s the next big thing?
In 2009 Steve Jobs famously said that we were entering the post-PC era and he was right. PC adoption peaked in 2011 and has been in decline since. But PC’s haven’t completely disappeared. They’re still very much in use, but just for very specific tasks. Once upon a time you had to use a PC to log on to the internet. Now you can log on to the internet from your TV, your phone or even your fridge or kettle. People and technology have evolved to suit different access to media. For instance, you wouldn’t type an essay on your iPhone. Just like you wouldn’t check Instagram on your PC.
As president and chief analyst of TECHnalysis Research, LLC Bob O’Donnell says in his article Be Prepared: We’re Entering a post-device Era, tablet computers experienced a short-lived period of success. The technology never became the convenient, all-encompassing device the technology community predicted. It’s O’Donnell’s prediction that smartphones will be next. ‘While it’s too early to be certain—it’ll probably take 12-18 months before we know for sure—I believe worldwide smartphone shipments probably peaked in the fourth quarter of 2015. Again, two years after the previous hot category (tablets),’ he says. O’Donnell says with the peak of the smartphone possible already behind us, we are entering a post-device era.
In this blog, we’re going to explore what post-device means, how likely a post-device world is and what a post-device world would look like.
What does post-device mean?
In the early 2000’s, technologists observed a trend in the decline of PC sales. As explained above, this was called the post-PC era. Some commentators, including O’Donnell, now say we’re reaching a new era. The post-device era. This is a world where we’re not so reliant on our hand-held devices and gadgets and are moving on to more sophisticated interactions between man and machine.
How likely is a post-device era?
Very. Technologists predict the post-device world is going to be similar to what we have now just enhanced.
What would a post-device world look like?
It can be hard to imagine what exactly a post-device world would look like - even today in 2016 our older generations struggle to fathom that you can contact someone on the other side of the world with a few pushes of a button, or even video chat and see that person face-to-face. The post-device future looks similar to now just with less button pushing, according to O’Donnell. While smartphones will never not be needed, they will - just as PC’s - become a tool for a specific purpose.
Currently in many parts of the world people use their smartphone as their general internet device. Everything from paying bills, tracking exercise, keeping in touch with friends, work emails, personal emails, social media, music, TV - smartphones enable us to do this in a simple and convenient manner.
However, as time goes on, O'Donnell says he believes the future of computing is about a set of platform and device-independent services, specifically voice-based interactions. His predictions come after a rise in cloud-based server installations and progressions in deep learning-based algorithms.
The idea is somewhat reminiscent of the premise of the 2013 movie Her.
He suggests while you’ll still need a device to access voiced based services, there will be less dependence on traditional devices and more demand for simpler ones. He suggests all you will need is a microphone and speaker.
The idea of voice activated services growing in our society isn’t unrealistic. For more than two years a voice activated device, the Amazon Echo, has been on the market. Earlier this month Google released Google Home, their take on a voice activated device for the home. Both can do simple tasks of telling you what the time is or what the weather's like outside. Google Home is smart enough to remember previous questions and allow you to build on that. For example, you could ask ‘what’s 6x6?’ Then say and ‘what is that plus 10?’. While both have a long way to go in terms of intelligence, both devices can activate smart devices in your home including lights. But exactly how useful is that for society right now? In a 2016 Deloitte discovered connected home devices still haven’t taken off. The survey found just 2% of adults owned smart lights and smart appliances.
While technology is advancing, and we may be entering a post-device era, how long it will take to reach the peak remains unknown. The Deloitte survey also found by mid-2016, almost half of UK adults had access to at least one type of connected entertainment product.
Only time will tell if we actually are entering a post-device era. While to some it may seem far-fetched that we won’t be relying on our fingertips tapping on a smartphone to get everything in our lives done, it will eventually become a reality.
We’d love to hear what you think. Do you think we’re heading into a post-device era? Tell us in the comments below. To learn more about emerging trends technologists predict will impact our future, join us at CeBIT’s 2017 Cloud Conference. Inspirational technology leaders from around the globe will give their insights into the future.