In the industry right now, Internet telephony is one example I think is going to be hitting big in the next few years and I think it will have unpredictable consequences … [because] it may take what today is a very large telecomm industry and reduce it to a much, much smaller industry … it may represent a massive destruction of industrial value, which will be exciting for people and good for communications but bad for the telecom industry.
Q: How will the Internet look in the future?
A: I think it will be completely different, and in a very unpredictable way. The reason is that the Internet is a medium, the first medium we've ever had [that is] just defined by its software. We've never dealt with something like that before. TV, railroads, the telephone do only one thing … [and they] look pretty much the same way they did when they first started. Fundamentally, a railroad is a railroad, and a TV is a TV; wheras the Internet, every year it seems to fundamentally change.
One thing I will bet on: the average Internet user in 1996 used the Internet for about five hours per month. As of this summer, the average number is [up to] about 26 hours per month. That number is going to continue to grow a lot.
TIM O'REILLY, FOUNDER AND PRESIDENT, O'REILLY & ASSOCIATES:
Q: Can you take a stab at labeling the technology eras of the future, out to the year 2028?
A: When a computing paradigm changes, it takes at least a decade for the world to catch up. Consider how years after the advent of the PC in the early 80s, Ken Olsen of DEC (Digital Equipment Corp.) could still deride it as a toy. It wasn't until the 90s that it really became clear that the PC was the center of gravity of the computing universe. In short, I think we've got a long way to go before we realize the full potential of the Internet era. We're going to see network effects -- and network-effect businesses -- having impact on fields from politics to human interaction.
That being said, I also very much like IBM's phrase, "pervasive computing," which emphasizes not just the Internet but the omnipresence of computing. We are starting to see the real blurring of handhelds, cell phones, cameras, and other consumer devices. Everything is becoming connected, and computing truly is becoming pervasive.
Wireless is a big part of this. (That is, you could also call it the mobile era, or the unwired era.) As people get seamlessly connected, wherever they are, devices become less important, even throwaway, and the continuity of the user's data becomes most important. An interesting corollary is that a huge part of the value premium of Internet-era powerhouses like Amazon and eBay is not in their software but in the critical mass of participating users ...
It's hard to see even ten years out -- the pace of change is increasing. However, it's clear that life sciences are going to have a huge impact in years ahead. While the human genome project hasn't lived up to the short-term hype, it's clear that we're getting very close to many breakthroughs. And any one of many could so redefine society that we'd immediately consider it a "new era."