Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The Future Is Calling - Are We Ready?

As we approach year end, it's always intriguing to look ahead and see what business opportunities we can expect to see develop in 2007. At a dinner hosted last night by the Washington Software Alliance (WSA), six panelists from the tech industry-- senior execs from companies such as Sun Microsystems, IBM, Forrester, eccentric, and a former Microsoft Exchange PM now leading a startup, HelpShare-- offered reflections on the year past and predictions for what may lie ahead.

L-R: John Cook, Seattle-PI; Fulup Foll, Sun Microsystems; Glen Hiemstra,; Gerrit Huizenga, IBM Linux; TA McCann, Helpshare; Robin Murdoch, Accenture; Ray Wang, Forrester (cropped).

One of the more enlightening exchanges took place, when moderator John Cook, Seattle PI technology reporter, asked each panelist: "If you had $5MM to invest in start-up companies, which market opportunities would you bet to win?", the panelists responded with some very intriguing ideas:

1) Anonymous identity provider - in an online world where privacy has increasingly become a antiquated notion, there is an unmet pain point that needs to be served
2) Multi-player gaming enabled through ad sponsored product placement - let the game experience revolve in and around product placements that resonate with the target demo and encourage users to interact with the product and the community
3) Healthcare record management - again, in the call for privacy, and in an effort to eliminate accidental deaths due to poor record keeping or availability, enable patients to have total control and real time access to their complete healthcare history
4) Housing solutions for the aging US population: provide scalable and affordable housing options for 65 y.o. plus market
5) DNA Mapping products designed to predict future disorders (as identified in DNA code) and pro-actively prescribe health care options to mitigate expected health problems
6) Social Networking that integrates brand advertising - there is a $70BB brand advertising market that is not being effectively addressed by the current crop of social networks
7) Database killer - eliminate databases worldwide and empower ubiquitous access to data through ASP solutions

Conversely, the panelists identified these marketing opportunities as "overhyped" in 2006 and expect consolidation or outright elimination of these businesses:

1) Wireless streaming of TV to mobile phones - given the user experience and alternatives (flat panel, HDTV)
2) Proprietary applications competing with existing standards - eg: SKYPE
3) Open doc format - the power of the MS .doc standard has proven to be far too beneficial to users to be supplanted by open doc
4) AOL
5) Social networks - there are over 100 and many have no legs outside of US market (eg MySpace is non-entity countries like France)
6) Software as service - service is what companies and individuals want when they purchase software
7) User Generated Content - the current "looking the mirror" fascination will wane and it will be evident that consumers vote with their eyeballs and spend the majority of online time consuming professional, hi-quality content

Extra credit - Q: What market should we be looking to take our cues from for the future? A: K_O_R_E_A.

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