Top Five Tech Advances of the 2000s
[Editor's Note: As the decade comes to an end, we've asked Xconomists and other technology leaders around the country to identify the top innovations they've seen in their fields the past 10 years, or predict the top disruptive technologies that will impact the next decade.]
1—Digital camera proliferation. Digital cameras and camera phones have become so pervasive in our lives, it is hard to remember a world where we actually took film to the store to get developed! But while camera phones did not begin shipping commercially in the U.S. until 2002, there are now well over 1.5 billion camera phones worldwide and millions of digital cameras. It was during this decade, that we enabled the ubiquitous and effectively free ability to capture the world around us, which is sure to have profound implications on our lives for years to come
2—Digital media. This past decade also marks the beginning of what will likely be a permanent shift to a world of digital media. Flash back to the year 2000 and the total number of iTunes songs purchased, Kindle books read and Hulu TV shows watched in the US was…zero. Since then, well over 6 billion songs have been purchased through iTunes, and Hulu had 856 million videos viewed during October alone. Meanwhile, the outlook for local bookstores, print newspapers and video rental shops does not look promising. The media sector will remain in flux for some time as the implications of this digital transition play out, but the consumers should be the ultimate winners as cost, convenience and choice continue to move in their favor.
3—Social media. Blogs, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter…. Any one of these now-household words might warrant a standalone place in history. But the meta-level disruption that has occurred is the ability for anyone with an Internet connection to publish anything to anyone (or everyone), instantly and for free. And the implications of these trends are likely in just the early innings of their long-term effects. Blogs (over 100 million of them!) are shifting the balance of power and voice of mass media; Facebook has added an entirely new dimension to the nature of our personal relationships (for 350 million people and counting); YouTube (with over 1 billion videos watched per day) has paved the way for Internet-scale video distribution. And Twitter (frequently producing more than 25,000 tweets per minute) is enabling an Internet-scale conversation to occur with anyone about anything. Wow.
4—Ubiquitous wireless Internet access. Having been a venture investor since 1998, wireless Internet was for years one of those trends that was always “just around the corner” but never quite seemed to get there as fast as we thought. Those days are officially over. The WiFi chipset installed base is approaching 1 billion units (Morgan Stanley Mobile Internet report—see here), making Ethernet cables a thing of the past. And we are expected to hit over a billion worldwide 3G wireless users during 2010. And as carriers upgrade from 3G infrastructure with data rates of about 2 MB/s, to 4G deployments with the potential of 10x-20x faster data rates, wireless data growth will only accelerate in the coming decade.
5—Open mobile platforms. While the infrastructure buildout to enable wireless Internet access was a major development this past decade, an equal, if not perhaps more, important development has been the emergence of open mobile platforms. Until recently, the wireless carriers held a tight grip on what users could and could not do with their wireless devices. With the iPhone and Android platforms leading the charge, the wireless Internet is now positioned for real application innovation without the constraints of the network providers dictating the end user experience. There is more progress to be made here in the coming years, but the genie is officially out of the bottle at this point, paving the way for massive growth in mobile computing.