Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Digital Life

(Pictures: Carl Sandburg's home.)

Last weekend I updated my profile picture with an avatar. I am consolidating my presence in the Internet and having an avatar is a fun way to be recognized while remaining anonymous. Increasing one’s presence in cyberspace is something that must be done now. One must plan to teach their kids on how to create a web log. It would be a good start to learn Internet basics. It will help kids understand the technology and get their foot on the door with regards to being a techie. A presence in the Internet is like staking out territory in the Wild West in the past. Or it’s like having real estate in a rising community. Or more accurately, something like a billboard in cyberspace. There is a lot of opportunity in the near future once people’s digital life increases. So having an ‘Internet property’ is important. The key ingredient is CREATIVITY not CAPITAL in obtaining this real estate.

It’s preferable to remain anonymous due to identity theft so using an avatar is a prudent measure. Not much security I guess but it adds another layer away from visual identity theft. A lot of things are happening and I think a big fight is in the offing. Microsoft’s purchase of Yahoo search business is the opening salvo. But Google is responding with a lot of initiatives in a lot of different areas like mobile phone (Google Voice, Android), brainstorming (Google Wave), operating systems and browser (Chrome) and office applications (Google docs) and plus other initiatives. All of these efforts point to an increase in a person’s digital life. Soon everything will be take place, be stored and recorded in cyberspace. All these things are happening away from the sight of the users and one day one would just notice the changed Internet landscape.

So learning Internet tools is the first step to prepare for the new world. Cell phones, television sets, game consoles, tablets like Kindle will open up the digital life aside from the traditional way via computers. But soon computers may even change with net books and tablet PCs making it much easier for users to ‘utilize’ the Internet. It will no longer be a passive tool for entertainment and information but a way to create a proactive relationship especially with social networking sites, twitter and web logs to increase one’s digital life aside from just email and connecting to banks or Amazon or trading platforms to do one’s purchases. So learning everything about the Internet from mash-ups to tools like Google Earth is indispensable to tomorrow’s digital life. Otherwise, one will be a digital illiterate; comparable to someone who is not able to read or write in the last century.

It’s interesting to see how the new world will come about. Face book, Microsoft, Google, Amazon, Apple, Twitter, Yahoo and other giants are working to bridge us to the next wave of innovation. All these efforts will impact investments in technology now that ‘cloud computing’ and ‘service oriented architectures’ are the rule. What is good is that most of the investments will be done by the corporations as they increase their data centers, servers and hard disks for the consuming public. The challenge remains on how to ‘monetize’ or make money out of the new digital life. Only Google I think has been successful in earning money from the Internet without burdening the public. Advertisers have been the source of revenue in their business model. It’s a different model than that pursued by Microsoft or Apple or Amazon, for example.

Everything offered by Google seems to be free and even tools like AdWords or AdSense offers the public to earn some money. But new and extremely intelligent management teams in companies like Face book and Yahoo and now planning new innovations. Hopefully their new business models would not be at the expense of the public but companies. All these ideas are not new but I feel that one has crossed a threshold recently. Perhaps it’s the economic crisis that has forced people to look at new ways of earning money or doing business. It’s the only one of the areas left where the USA can maintain its expertise as most business have left to low cost countries.

The world was flat for a few years but now competition may attempt to make it less flat again. But the resulting landscape will be a complex interlinked world. The USA will still be on top, buttressed by the money and the production base of China, the technical expertise and services of India, but all of it led and managed by innovations from Wall Street and Silicon Valley. Driving all these innovations will be the profit motive and the unique combination of political and economic leadership of the USA. It’s actually the competitive advantage that cannot be replicated by Europe or Asean or Canada. Often times it seems like a brutal desire driven by greed and glory and riches. Something like the British Empire before the empire accepted socialist principles. America still has it’s raw instincts of power and superiority as recently demonstrated in the last Bush administration.

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