Stop Pouting About Tech's Next Big Thing, It's Here
It's easy to get jaded when you cover the technology industry. Silicon Valley's giants are constantly belching wisps of marshmallow-thick hype, and any reporter looking to cover the beat has to be constantly on guard against unproven claims about this or that algorithmically abetted amazing advance.
So when Christopher Mims of Quartz recently declared 2013 to be a 'lost year for tech'--one in which, he says, the industry produced nothing of great value--I could see where he was coming from. I feel the same way some days; when I'm covering some new me-too social-media product or a great new way to target ads, I hang my head in despair.
But then I read a couple of rebuttals to Mims by Daring Fireball's John Gruber and Om Malik, of Gigaom. They argued that the industry's biggest advances have occurred beneath the media's radar, and that the industry, as a whole, is anything but stagnant.
I side with these more positive takes. Here's my roundup of reasons to break out of your tech funk and be optimistic about tech in 2014.
First, stop clamoring for the 'next big thing.' Were you disappointed, once again, that Apple didn't release something amazing and new this year--a TV or a smartwatch, say? Were you bummed that there were few revolutionary features on the latest smartphones? Have you concluded that the tech business is boring, that there isn't any more innovation, that we live in uninteresting times?
If so, I've got two words for you: Grow up.
I, too, constantly yearn for mind-blowing new tech. But I've been getting tired of the claim that just because we haven't seen something on the order of the smartphone or tablet in the last few years, the tech industry can no longer innovate. The problem with this argument is that the touchscreen smartphone (and its cousin the tablet) was a singularly novel, industry-shattering device, and we're unlikely to see anything as groundbreaking in a generation.
The smartphone and the tablet *are* the next big things, and we act like spoiled children when we claim that they somehow aren't enough. Most future advances will simply be improvements or expansions on these basic technologies--ways to make smartphones and tablets cheaper, more powerful, smaller, lighter, and to let them control and connect with an ever-large slice of our lives.
In 2013 we saw several such innovations. Google's Motorola subsidiary released a really good phone, the Moto G, that sells for $199 without a contract--the first of several devices that will radically expand access to mobile phones. Meanwhile Apple's top-of-the-line devices came with an incredible processor, the A7, which proved that mobile devices can approach the power of desktop-class PCs. I was blown away, too, by the growth of apps that are now rewiring our worlds--apps such as ride-sharing service Uber or the robotic slot-car racer Anki Drive, which show the potential for our phones to transform the physical world.
As the analyst Benedict Evans has argued, the true revolution in mobile computing is one of scale; we're going from an Internet controlled by PCs to one controlled by three billion to five billion phones. No device on the horizon--not the long-awaited TV made by Apple, not Google Glass, not a smartwatch--will be as exciting as what smartphones and tablets hold in store for us. So let's stop yearning for new stuff just for novelty's sake. The next big thing is already here, it's in your pocket, and it's incredible.
Second, privacy is no longer an afterthought. I've already argued that the disappearing-message app Snapchat was the most interesting technology of 2013 because it paved the way for services that don't save all our data by default. The larger message of Snapchat, though, is that privacy isn't dead.
For years, tech giants have given lip service to privacy. 'It's very important to us!' they insist while slurping up mountains of your data. But the industry hasn't spent much time looking at privacy as a place for innovation, as a feature that users will care about when they choose apps or services.
Thanks to Snapchat, revelations about the National Security Agency, and an increased fear of living in a panopticon, that will thankfully begin to change in 2014. Watch for an avalanche of apps that take privacy seriously--whether they delete data by default, keep your data local, or limit the scope of their sharing.
Third, enterprise tech is interesting, finally. For years, business software was a dead-end for innovation, dominated as it was by Microsoft, Oracle, and other entrenched incumbents. Now that's changing. In 2013 several alternatives rose to challenge old-school business tech--like Quip, a clever new word-processing app, or Box's collaboration software, Box Notes--and I suspect this trend will continue this year.
One enterprise advance I'm looking forward to: The rise of companies looking to bring cloud-based services to specific, specialized markets--also known as 'vertical software-as-a-service' businesses. I'm talking about firms like Veeva Systems, which makes a cloud-based sales tool for the health care industry, and which successfully launched an IPO in the fall. Watch for other startups aimed at specific industries--law firms, hospitality, health care--to get really big, without anyone noticing, in 2014.
Last but not least, robots aren't necessarily coming for your job. It's been a cliché in the Valley for years that machines will replace humans across a wide variety of job types. It's been a cliché in the Valley for years that machines will replace humans across a wide variety of job types. But while artificial intelligence is still advancing at a furious pace, I was thrilled that AI is augmenting, rather than superseding, humans. Look how Redfin used tech to create better real-estate agents rather than replace them, or how the app Duolingo crowdsources human intelligence to produce better translations than machines are capable of.
I think we're witnessing the dawn of a new paradigm in machine-human cooperation: Combining machine intelligence with biological intelligence will always trump one or the other. Machines make us better, and we make machines better. There's still hope for us. Welcome to the bionic future.
Do you have any to add? I'd love to hear from you about the best and worst tech trends of the year.
2014年 01月 06日 07:22
但之後，我讀到Daring Fireball博主格魯伯(John Gruber)和Gigaom創始人馬利克(Om Malik)對米姆斯觀點的反駁。他們認為科技產業最大的進步潛藏於媒體的視線之外，整個產業絕非停滯不前。
首 先，不要再嚷嚷著呼喚“下一代偉大產品”的到來。今年蘋果公司(Apple Inc. ,AAPL)沒有發佈什麼新型產品（比如說電視或者智能手錶），你感到失望了嗎？新款智能手機沒有太多革命性的新性能，你郁悶了嗎？你是否已一口咬定科技 產業了無生趣，將不會再湧現出新的技術革新？你是否認為我們已身處一個百無聊賴的時代中呢？
我 也總是希望能夠有新的卓越技術出現。但是僅僅因為近年來沒有出現類似智能手機、平板電腦的新產品，就有人斷言科技產業已無法繼續創新。這種說法令我生厭。 其問題在於，觸屏式智能手機（以及功能近似的平板電腦）是一種極其新穎、撼動了整個產業的電子設備，而我們在這一代產品中不可能再看到如此開天闢地的產 品。
2013 年見證了一些此類創新成果的湧現。谷歌(Google Inc. Cl A ,GOOG)旗下的摩托羅拉(Motorola)推出了性能出色的Moto G，這款裸機售價僅199美元的手機徹底地拓寬了人們對手機的接觸面。與此同時，蘋果的新款高端設備裝配了高效卓越的A7處理器，使得移動設備亦可實現台 式個人電腦的計算能力。移動應用數量的壯大也令人倍感驚歎，例如叫車應用Uber和智能軌道賽車Anki Drive，都無不彰顯著智能手機改造真實世界的巨大潛力。
正如分析師埃文斯(Benedict Evans)所提出的，移動計算真正的革命是規模的革命；我們正從由個人電腦控制的互聯網轉向由30至50億部手機控制的互聯網。即將問世的設備中，無論 是人們期待已久的蘋果電視還是谷歌眼鏡或智能手表，沒有哪一種能夠像智能手機和平板電腦那樣令人興奮。因此不要再只是為了新奇而追求新設備。下一個重大產 品已經存在，它就在你的口袋里，非常不可思議。
受 Snapchat的出現、美國國家安全局(National Security Agency)監控活動泄密、以及人們日益擔憂自己生活在全方位監獄中的現象影響，上述情況在2014年將開始發生變化。讓我們期待重視隱私的應用如雪崩 般出現——無論其采取的方式是默認刪除數據、以本地方式保存數據還是限制數據分享的范圍。
第三，針對企業的科技也終于有意思起來。多年 來，商業軟件是創新的死胡同，被微軟(Microsoft)、甲骨文(Oracle)和其他根深蒂固的巨頭所主導。現在這種情況正在改變。2013年，幾 個替代產品崛起，對傳統的商業科技產品構成了挑戰，比如一款巧妙的新文字處理應用Quip，或Box推出的協作軟件Box Notes。我猜這種趨勢還將在今年持續。
我期待的一個企業發展是，著眼于將云服務引入具體、專門化市場（又稱縱向軟營）的公司興起。我 說的是像Veeva Systems這樣的公司，它為醫療保健行業提供基於云服務的銷售工具，并在去年秋季成功進行了首次公開募股(IPO)。2014年，針對具體行業（如律 所、酒店、醫療）的其他初創企業有望悄然實現擴張。
最後同樣重要的是，機器人不一定會取代你的工作。硅谷多年來的一個陳詞濫調是，機器將 在多種類型的工作上取代人類。但隨著人工智能的發展如火如荼，我為之興奮的是它正成為人類的補充而非替代。可以看看Redfin如何利用科技打造更好的房 地產經紀人，而不是取代他們；也可以看看Duolingo應用如何通過對人類智能開展“眾包”來提供比機器更好的翻譯。