SAN FRANCISCO — Investor and author Guy Kawasaki joined renowned technology futurologist Robert Scoble for a frank discussion about the biggest technology trends.
Scoble, who travels the world interviewing thousands of big-shot technology executives and startup founders every year, didn’t hold back. Within minutes, Scoble issued a challenge to Tim Cook (refreshing in the wake of the hooplah around Apple’s event): “Without the Steve [Jobs] factor, many more people are considering Android than ever before.”
Another one theme that resonated throughout the discussion was privacy. Kawasaki voiced his disapproval at the growing numbers of “privacy freaks” who fear the advent of geo-location technology. “I think that horse has left the barn,” he said. “It is procreating in the field already.”
The pair spoke at an intimate event hosted by Rackspace, the cloud computing giant based in San Antonio, Texas.
What are the biggest tech trends?
- Wearable computing: Think Google Glasses or Motorola Solutions’ new HC1 headset computer that you attach to your head and operate with voice commands (read our review here). This trend will become more prominent as the cost of computing falls.
- The “open world”: Android’s relative openness has encouraged “contextual apps” to emerge from the woodwork. “Apple doesn’t let them [developers] talk to the WiFi radio or bluetooth radio,” said Scoble.
- Weird databases and the rise of “big data”: “We are seeing weird databases spring up like mushrooms,” said Scoble. These include NoSQL, Firebase, and MongoDB. Big data is far more than just an enterprise mega-trend; it is paving the way for innovation in healthcare and education (read our inaugural list of top startups in the space here).
- The maturation of social networks: The leading social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are accumulating a massive store of user-generated data. What will they do with it? We’re still in the nascent stages of understanding how this data can be manipulated.
The power has shifted from investors to entrepreneurs
Kawakasi, who recently authored a book on the practice of self-publishing, talked about how the power has shifted from venture capitalists to entrepreneurs. “You can do a lot of damage for $50,000,” he said. For entrepreneurs, it’s cheaper and easier than ever before to bootstrap a technology company.
All you need is a little talent, a good idea, and a cheap hosting service. (See our seven tips for bootstraping a company here.)
For Kawasaki, if a company has raised hundreds of thousands — if not millions — on a crowdfunding site like Kickstarter or IndieGoGo, that is market validation. It enables the entrepreneur to bypass funding in its early stages.
There is a startup for everything (and it’s cloud-based)
Scoble speaks to thousands of companies per year and even catalogs them on his Facebook page. Currently, he is tracking 1,600 startups. Kawasaki and Scoble let slip a few of the young companies they are most excited about.
Among them, Zaarly, a proximity-based market to share goods, Shopify, one of many startups that wants to bring location-based data to retailers, and Highlight, an app that alerts you when your friends and connections are nearby.
Microsoft and Google have a shot in the race against Apple
In all the talk of future trends, there were a few moments to reflect on recent events. In the eyes of the tech experts, Apple isn’t the same without its enigmatic chief executive at the helm.
“The world is flatter because Jobs isn’t here,” said Scoble. One of the biggest changes, he said, is that app developers will increasingly turn to Android, which is far less rigid. “Now, Google and Microsoft can compete a little better,” he said.
Kawasaki has survived working with Jobs twice (the late Apple founder was a notoriously tyrannical boss) and was an early evangelist of the Cupertino-based company. “I agree, the world has tilted on its axis,” he said.
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