Robert Scoble: futurologist, Rackspace tech evangelist
Robert Scoble, also known as @Scobleizer to his 224,000 Twitter followers, has set out what he believes will be the hottest trends in technology for 2012.
Scoble’s comments came during a trip to London in his capacity as a technology evangelist for cloud hosting firm Rackspace, which he joined in 2009. Scoble shot to fame in the early to mid-1990s, working on the Channel 9 MSDN Video team showcasing Microsoft technologies and projects. He became a popular if controversial blogger, at times criticising his own employer and praising rivals and start-ups in equal measure.
Speaking to journalists last week, Scoble said he believes the biggest trends will be around television, social and tablets. All three, as he noted, are closely linked.
"Apple iTV is going to be huge next year and we’re seeing some big shifts in television generally," Scoble told CBR and other media at a press luncheon. "Television is seeing a number of shifts in how it is delivered, how people discover what is on – we’re seeing a TV menu, if you like, that is far more socially informed."
"Television is becoming a very different experience, and our interaction with the television is very different," he said. "The media companies are going to have to adapt to that."
The next big trend, and one affecting television too, is social media. This is a topic close to Scoble’s heart, as the journalist-come-evangelist has spent many an hour talking technology with Silicon Valley start-ups since he took a journalism course at San Jose State University in 1993. As well as Microsoft he has since worked for PodTech, Fast Company and more.
"When it comes to social, what we do while we’re watching TV, for instance, is also changing," Scoble said. "I might be talking to you but on my laptop in front of me I can be talking to people all around the world, we can have this shared experience," he said. "We can share experiences of sports, news, big media and so on, and we can do it live."
The third major trend that Scoble called out for 2012 was what he called, "The continued ‘tabletisation’ of the world." But while Apple continues to see good growth in sales of its iPad tablet computer, Scoble wondered what impact Windows 8 could have on the tablet market next year.
"Windows 8 could be a big, big story next year," Scoble said. "But will they have a successful tablet? It’s not guaranteed. It’s got to make it on a different machine, have good battery life, come in at a low cost, and the apps have to be made for touch or stylus."
"Windows 8 machines feel good on the surface, but I have yet to see the apps," he said. "The apps are vital. Does Microsoft have a chance? Well Amazon is also a tough one because they have a $200 tablet: how can Microsoft make money in the face of that price point? Why do I need a $400 Windows tablet? At the high end you also have to ask if Apple with a double-resolution screen can resist the pricing pressure in the tablet market."
However on a positive note for Apple and the Android ecosystem, Scoble said that nearly all of the start-ups that he speaks to are still focusing their application development efforts on the iPad, iPhone or Android: "A lot are saying they are doing Android because the numbers are there, but most of the time I hear they are not doing Windows [development]."
Asked whether this is likely to change, Scoble noted that developers who develop exclusively for Apple tend to get more publicity for their apps in the Apple Store. "If you only do iOS Apple will feature you in the store way higher," Scoble said, suggesting it’s a risk for developers to adopt a multi-OS development strategy.
Finally Scoble spent some time talking about two of the latest, well-hyped social networks: Color and Path, and their chances against incumbents like Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. "I don’t think we’ve seen the perfect social network yet," he said.