Directors Exploring the Digital Future
Another year, another Consumer Electronics Show (CES). I have been attending these for over 30 years. Everyone wants to know—was there one big thing? Unlike other years, when there were gigantic flat-panel screens or 3D last year, there was no one big thing this year. Yes, 80 iPad contenders, but that is not revolutionary.
However, the forces leading to major, massive changes that will affect every consumer and company worldwide are being unleashed:
- Convergence: We have gone from convergence of digital content to give us “edutainmentgaming,” to multi-delivery channels leading to what many of the tech leaders are calling content anywhere, anytime and anyway you want it on up to N-screens. More screens—many smaller, all synchronized—that will let you read, text, watch TV or a movie—seamlessly, instantly, and sometimes simultaneously.
- But where will be the points of leverage? Will the network be the computer as we hear Verizon tout its impressive offerings? In the devices, as Samsung and others show their integrated, products from Smart TV to cameras to appliances? Or in the content, as the Hollywood crowd and the ad agencies return in force to CES? Is content still king? Does Comcast have something with content and delivery in its NBC acquisition? Or in the apps on devices and in the “cloud”?
- Back to the Future: All, including Ford and Audi (hardly your typical consumer-electronics company), talk about the “cloud,” the ability to do computing in servers connected by networks, or what we used to call timesharing. There is the slight problem of bandwidth, but with technology and the FCC looking again at spectrum, can that too be resolved?
- What does this mean to companies?
- The future of all industries will be profoundly affected by the new technologies. Just think of the black rotary phone vs. the smartphones and iDevices. The future portends even more profound changes.
- The customers of the future, the Y generation and Millennials will be more demanding in how they are sold and serviced. And, don’t forget the boomers who will growingly seek solutions to health, aging, security, preserving their minds, mobility and relationships through technology.
- Competition is global and those who can best utilize the new technologies to better provide solutions vs. just products to the world will win.
- The U.S. as a country is not producing the citizens we need to compete. We are failing at K-12, education-wise, and with the dearth of scientists and engineers we are producing, cannot compete in the future. Our policies since 9/11 have hurt us in terms of attracting and retaining the best and brightest and there should be a “call to arms.”
- The Coca-Cola Company (also not a typical consumer-electronics company), which is top branded, really gets this. Coke sends 40 folks to the CES to understand what the new technologies mean in terms of marketing, branding and customer relationships.
- Board members should really consider attending and strongly urge their marketing, product and technology folks to attend. Remember the transistor and silicon chip? We are moving towards a new world when the consumer technologies will drive much of what industry will need to produce, promote, sell and service the offerings of the future.
- Can any company which must use or deal with technology afford not to understand what is happening in the future?
- Join us next year.
Carolyn Chin is president of NACD’s Florida chapter. She is chairman of the board and CEO of Health Wellness Solutions, a developer and marketer of new pain and brain/memory enhancement products. She also serves on the State Farm Bank board, and is a member of the audit, governance, and ALCO (as chair) committees. Her other board experience includes serving as chairman of Commtouch, and chairman of Kindmark. Ms. Chin founded and managed the global e-commerce services business for IBM.