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How Much Will 2022’s Top Tech Trends Shape Your Digital Strategy This Year? Not Much (Thinks Out Loud Episode 334)

Viewing 2022's Top Tech Trends On Tablet Computer

There are a number of top tech trends that will dominate 2022’s discourse. Among these are:

  • The metaverse
  • AI and machine learning
  • Crypto and web3
  • The "techlash" (i.e., the backlash to Big Tech/AGFAM)
  • And a few others…

How will these major tech trends effect your business in 2022? Eh… probably not much. Now, that doesn’t mean you should ignore them. In fact, ignoring them entirely probably isn’t a successful strategy. So, what should you do? There’s actually a pretty straightforward playbook. And in this episode of Thinks Out Loud, we’ll look at the top tech trends of 2022, why they’re not likely to affect your business dramatically in the next 12 months, and what you can do to be ready for when they actually become a big deal.

Want to learn more? Here are the show notes for you.

Thinks Out Loud Episode 334: How Much Will 2022’s Top Tech Trends Shape Your Digital Strategy This Year? Not Much Headlines and Show Notes

Show Notes and Links

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Past Insights from Tim Peter Thinks

You might also want to check out these slides I had the pleasure of presenting recently about the key trends shaping marketing in the next year. Here are the slides for your reference:

Technical Details for Thinks Out Loud

Recorded using a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Mic and a Focusrite Scarlett 4i4 (3rd Gen) USB Audio Interface into Logic Pro X for the Mac.

Running time: 28m 03s

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Transcript: How Much Will 2022’s Top Tech Trends Shape Your Digital Strategy This Year? Not Much

Well, hello again, everyone. And welcome back to Thinks Out Loud, your source for all the digital expertise your business needs. My name is Tim Peter. This is Episode 334 of the big show and Happy New Year! This is the first episode I’ve recorded in 2022. It’s probably the first episode you’ve heard in 2022, certainly the first one we’ve released this year and I am so excited to be back doing this. I was out for a little bit. We had a death in the family in late November. I recorded an episode right after it that we decided to shelve because it just didn’t work; sometimes that happens. But I’m thrilled to be back. I’m thrilled that you are back and I’m so looking forward to continuing the dialogue as we go forward.

The iPhone Turns 15

I want to start today by noting that this week is an incredibly important anniversary. You’ve probably heard it’s been all over the media that the iPhone turned 15-years-old this week. It was introduced in 2007 in January, January 9th as it happens.

Transformational Shifts from the Internet, Mobile, and Social

And the reason that that is so noteworthy is that for personally and for many of us, we’ve seen at least two transformational shifts in technology and in the way our customers interact with our businesses, certainly in my career.

Now, some of you may have only been here for one of them. Some of you may have been here for none of them. That’s okay. Some of you may have been here for the ones that preceded that.

But those two transformational shifts in my career were first the internet, which started as a commercial entity roughly around 1994 or 1995. You can debate the actual date, I’ll leave that to historians to discuss.

And then the second big one was mobile, which for purposes of today’s discussion, I’m going to date to the introduction of the iPhone. Now, I want to be very clear. I know that the shift to mobile precedes the iPhone by quite a bit actually. I had my first mobile phone probably in about 1996. But mobile device penetration was relatively small prior to that. Let me rephrase that. Smartphone device penetration was very small prior to the introduction of the iPhone.

Smartphone Penetration Lagged Until 2011

For instance, in 2011, Pew put smartphone penetration at 35%. Now, note that’s four years after the introduction of the iPhone. And what’s particularly notable about that number is it was the first time that they’d ever asked the question about what smartphone penetration was.

So the mobile web really didn’t come into being until we got into 2011-2012, something along those lines. It kind of tells you how little mind share smartphones had up until that point.

By the way, it took just two years for smartphone penetration to clear 50% so it went from 35% to 50% in two years. It then took until late 2016 — almost four years — to reach 75%. So you can date the mobile internet to 2007, 2011, 2014, 2016, somewhere in there. But certainly the mobile internet has only been around for maybe five to 10 years at this point.

What’s Next? What are the Next Big Tech Trends?

Now, as we go deeper into the 2020s, as we head into 2022, I like to think about questions like, "What’s the next shift going to be? What are we going to see after this?"

And I’m going to short circuit the discussion. We don’t know. I don’t think anybody knows But I want spend today talking a little bit about some candidates and why I think they may or may not represent the future that we’re going to see. These are the trends I’m going to pay attention to, but I’m not ready to call any of them "the Next Big Thing…" yet.

The Rules for Predicting Tech Trends

Now, there are a few rules I tend to follow when thinking through these ideas:

  1. The first is the William Gibson quote that "The future is already here. It’s just not evenly distributed." Everything we’re talking about right now exists and exists with some degree of market penetration. None of them are everywhere yet. None of them are as ubiquitous as a smartphone in people’s pockets.
  2. The second thing I tend to think about is a Bill Gates quote that says "we always overestimate the change we’ll see in the next two years and underestimate the change we’ll see in the next 10." I don’t think anything we’re going to talk about for the rest of today really is going to make a huge difference by the end of 2022, but maybe I’m wrong because some of them moved around long enough that they might just be ready to squeak over the finish line. I’ll give you a case in point. I wrote a piece about mobile barcodes, actually a brief note in a piece about mobile barcodes being added to phones and why they might not succeed when talking about the last barriers to mainstream mobile commerce… way back in 2008. Remember, the iPhone had been around for more than 18 months at that point, but it took getting hit with a pandemic for QR codes and other 2D barcodes to hit the mainstream at least in the US. I realize they’d been around in other parts of the world earlier and I never want to be US-centric. The US is also the world’s largest economy. So if something doesn’t exist here, it’s tough to claim that it’s truly received global or truly achieved global penetration.
  3. The next thing I keep in mind about these is the quote that "When you build the ship, you build the shipwreck." Just because something exists doesn’t mean we’ve thought through all its implication or worked out all of the bugs. So those are all of the things that I try to think about when I think about these trends.
  4. And then finally I tend to couch things in terms of "Wanna bet?" Meaning, how much money would I be willing to put at stake on the topic at hand? Everything here or rather nothing here is meant to be 100%. It’s just that I’d bet money that they’re going to be big at some point. My confidence level in each of them varies though and so I’ll call those out.

Trends I’m Not Talking About

Finally, there are two big topics that I’m not going to talk about, though I am starting to pay more attention to are climate science and bio science. The evidence suggests that the practical considerations of these and the ethics around these are hugely important to your customers and frankly to society as a whole. They are likely to shape the world as much or more in the next five to 10 years as anything we’ve ever seen. And so I’m going to bring those up over time where they have relevance to you and your business just not today because I’m still learning.

What are 2022’s Top Tech Trends?

So what are the trends that we’re talking about?

The Metaverse

Well, one is the metaverse. You’ve probably been hearing a lot about this. To be fair, we are going to hear a lot about it in 2022. I’m just not convinced it will be a significant driver of customer activity or revenues at least in the next 12 to 18 months without some major catalyst coming to bear. And I will talk about what that major catalyst might be a little bit later. One of the reasons I don’t think it’s very real yet is we still need lots of definition about what the metaverse is. To me it’s sort of like the people in the dark room with an elephant. Everyone around the elephant has a different definition of this and nobody has the full picture yet.

So I think that when people say the metaverse, that word means lots of different things to lots of different people. And it’s going to take some time before we see it in the real world in a meaningful sense. I’ve been playing with VR and AR and other elements of the metaverse for quite a while. And I’m pretty bullish on especially augmented reality, AR as well as VR, but not quite as much. VR is great for gaming and entertainment and training,, and a number of other very specific use cases. It may be a huge component of telepresence as we go forward. I’m just not convinced that we’re going to wear a full Mutterer on our face for any length of time in the next couple of years for one thing, they’re heavy.

If you’ve ever worn a AR headset? I know they’re getting smaller. I know they will get smaller. That’s what technology does, but the current ones are not comfortable aware for long periods of time. That has to change before this will break through in a big way in my view. Another big problem is they shut out the world around you. Now, that’s incredibly awesome. When you are watching a movie or playing a game. It’s an amazingly immersive experience. I think that movies and games probably likely merge into a common set of metaphors in the VR universe. And I’m sure many people who are big into VR games would say that they really have taken the place of movies.

So I think they have enormous potential. At the same time if you’ve ever wore a VR headset and wanted to pick a glass of water or a can soda or a beer or something, that’s actually incredibly hard to do without taking yourself out of the experience you’re in. So they sort of lend themselves to limited periods of use.

Augmented reality on the other hand, solves for the real world problem that plagues VR because you actually can interact with the things around you. You’re interacting in real-time with the world. Now, I do expect it’s going to take a little while for the behaviors of visual search or augmented experiences or GPS overlays or health overlays or assistive prompts or things the like that to reach the mainstream. They are doing some cool stuff with them. The US Army has deployed elements of augmented reality today with troops. So these things exist. They’re already here. They’re just not evenly distributed.

I just am not convinced that they’re there yet in terms of a real experience that most people will seek out until or unless we get some sort of significant catalyst. And again, I’ll explain what I think that catalyst might be later. I would be willing to bet a fair bit of money, maybe a thousand bucks that the metaverse as it’s most commonly described will not be a thing in 2022. You’re going to hear lots of people talk about it, but I don’t think you’re going to see your customers interacting with it in a major way.

Now, I mentioned that both AR and VR and the metaverse and whatever we want to call it will play a role in telepresence. And I do think remote and hybrid work will stick with us. They’re part of the new normal, no matter what. Even as offices reopen, I suspect most people who can work remotely will do so at least one day a week and possibly two. Again, I’d probably bet about a thousand bucks that we’ll see the norm be no more than four days in the office by the end of 2022 even as people return. And three days in the office wouldn’t surprise me. I’m not one willing to be as much on that, but I suspect that that’s something we’re going to see.

Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), and Natural Language Processing (NLP)

Another huge trend that I think is going to be massively important and I think is massively important right now is AI and machine learning. Obviously, these have been around for a while. I have talked about them here on the show for a while. The reason I think they’re so important at the moment is right now they’re a little bit in the trough of disillusionment. There’s lots of companies who are talking about how it was oversold and over-hyped. And that’s probably true.

For instance, Axios just reported that IBM is trying to sell Watson Health again. Now, I think there’s a lot of reasons behind that, but the point being some folks have said, "Maybe we’ve gotten a little bit over our skis here." At the same time when you look at some of the large language models that have been developed, most famously GPT-3, but also GLaM also RETRO, they’re likely to change how we interact with computers throughout this year and into the future. And I think that’s really important to the catalyst I’m going to come back to in a little bit.

Now, much like the metaverse this one also depends a bit on definitions. But given the investments in actual products from Google and Apple and Facebook and Amazon and Microsoft and others as long as we can agree on terms here, I’d bet a lot that this will be a significant trend in 2022 that companies that deploy AI and machine learning and natural language processing and the like in effective ways will outperform those who do not.

Bonus Prediction: Robots and Physical Automation

As a little bonus prediction I think robots and other similar types of physical automation are playing a huge and growing role in logistics and transportation. And probably in the next four to five years, again, I’d be willing to bet a little bit that we’ll see modest growth in 2022, but I’d be super excited by where we’re going to be in real world terms by 2025 or so.

Crytpo and web3

The next be big trend that everyone is talking about is crypto or Web3 or whatever you want to call it. Now, I am very bullish in the long-term for its possibilities. When you talk about a distributed trust system, which really is what crypto allows or Web3, I think it’s an incredibly, incredibly important. I do suspect it’s more of enabling technology. It’s not purely foundational. It’s something that makes everything else better.

As a for instance, if you think about the iPhone, there were lots of technologies that predated it; touch screens, Wi-Fi, digital cameras, the various sensors put into app marketplaces. All of those existed before Apple and Google and others crammed them into a smartphone. I suspect Web3 is going to be one of those things. That’s a good thing. I think it’s going to be hugely, hugely important in terms of making experiences better. I don’t think it’s going to be the way that most people interact in the next couple of years. We see developers and people like that fighting over what works, what will work, what can work.

And if the developers can’t understand it yet and can’t determine if this is a real thing, it’s just not real for the typical user. And so I still think this is going to be a few years out. On this one, by the way, I’m actually betting for real by declining to participate in any big meaningful Web3 or crypto plays personally. I might be leaving a fair bit of money on the table. The reason is personally and obviously this is not meant to be financial advice. You do what you think is right, but I think it’s a bubble and that a whole bunch of people are going to lose their shirts in the next year or two. Personally, I have zero interest in being one of them. So I just don’t think that’s a big deal.

"The Techlash" or the Backlash Against Big Tech

Of course, another big trend that’s been out there for a while is the tech lash, the tech backlash against the big players. Oddly, I think at least in the United States, it’s behind us for a while. It’s probably never going to be over. Whether there’s moral panics or legitimate moral outrage as AGFAM; Apple, Google, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft and other firms gain more power in society it’s a very good thing that they’re held accountable for their role in that society.

Today it’s Google and Facebook and Amazon and Apple. Tomorrow it could be TikTok or Snap or someone else. I think that’s likely. At least according to CloudFlare data, TikTok passed Google as the most popular domain on the internet in 2022. That’s really telling about where the future lies. I also think that there are incredibly legitimate questions to add and get answers to about the role of bad actors in terms of using these tools.

All that said, outside of performative stuff I wouldn’t bet on much happening in the US in 2022.Too many people are trying to win the right to govern to be bothered by actually governing. It’s an election year here so I would bank on people looking for headlines rather than results. Now, maybe in the EU and state levels, we may see some interesting things happen and that’s obviously what I’m going to pay attention to. But at the federal level, I wouldn’t bank on much there.

The Missing Catalyst

Now, I mentioned some of these, most of these technologies probably need a catalyst and to me that’s the real lesson that we should learn from the iPhone and the internet, and computers before those. Most of those did not themselves introduce a new technology the day they launched. Most of them took things that previously existed and then put them together in some consumer-friendly presentation that made it available to regular users. In the lexicon, in the words that came up when computers first came around, there was a killer app. Nobody needed a computer until spreadsheets existed. And then everybody was like, "Oh my gosh, I have to have one of those."

Nobody needed the internet until they wanted to email or until they wanted to do e-commerce. Nobody needed a mobile phone until the iPhone came around or a smartphone until the iPhone came around. The next big thing to me likely isn’t the metaverse or AI or Web3. It’s some consumer experience that takes elements of each of these and uses them to create a useful engaging experience for customers. Could Apple or Google or Meta, or let’s be fair, TikTok or Snap create a wearable device that incorporates various elements of these of the metaverse of natural language processing of Web3 and other such tools to make exploring the world or interacting with friends and family and fans and followers more natural, more easy, more human? Yeah, I think they could. And I think that’s what it’s going to take before one of these hits the mainstream in a bigger way.

I’ve talked about this before in an episode called Amazon Go, Instant Gratification, and the Boring Future of Business. The most successful technologies disappear when we’re using them. They don’t get in the way of what we’re trying to do. One of the reasons I’m not super bullish about the metaverse or Web3 at the moment is they’re far from invisible. Seasoned technologists are debating their real purpose and how they should work. That’s not an encouraging sign that they’re ready for 2022.

I don’t want to be negative about this because at the moment I feel a little bit like Regina George telling Gretchen Wiener to stop trying to make fetch happen. I’m not saying it’s not going to happen. I’m saying we’re just not there yet. And until that happens, I think these are going to be enabling technologies to whatever the next big thing is. They’ll make our world a little bit better, but they have not yet contributed in the meaningful way that we’ve seen with the internet, with mobile, with social to the way we interact and the way your customers interact. Remember, the future’s already here. It’s just not evenly distributed. The next big thing. It’s just which one of those are going to exist that are going to be big later.

How You Can Get Ready for What’s Next

Now, I don’t want any of this to sound like I’m super negative on any of them. I’m super bullish on most of them. And the key thing is thinking about what you can do to make sure you’re ready when they happen.

  1. There’s a very simple model I’ve used for years. You’ve heard me talk about it here. It’s called "Core and Explore." It’s where you focus 80% or 90% of your time on the things that you know work. We know content marketing works. We know search works. We know social works. We know user generated content works. We know creators work. Influencer marketing works. Those are all incredibly important. That’s where you spend your core efforts and you also take 10% of your time or 15% of your time or 20% of your time and budget, by the way, and test these things to see what works for you. Because the point is you want to be ready when the time comes. Since I’ve talked throughout this about how much I would bet, to me it’s not that you want to go all in on these. You also don’t want to go all out. You don’t want to take all your chips off the table. Core and explore, test a little bit to see that if I’m wrong, you’ve at least got your foot in the door. Start thinking about what some of the use cases might be and how these might create better experiences for your customers. So that when one of these breaks or this catalyst that talking about comes along, you’re in a better position than the folks who’ve been sitting on the sidelines the whole time.
  2. The other thing you need to do is keep learning. I know I am. I’m asking lots of questions every day about how we can use these tools and how we can use these technologies to create better experiences for our customers. That’s ultimately what’s going to drive your success.
  3. And of course, keep asking questions. Again, I know I will. To that end, I have a question for you. What am I missing? What did I get wrong here? What haven’t I thought about? I would love to hear from you. I’d love to have you tell me what I can do better and what I should be thinking about because maybe I missed something here. I’m very open to that. In fact, I’m confident I miss something. I’m just not sure what it is till somebody asks.

So there’s a bunch of technology out there that we should be paying attention to. There’s a bunch of tools and things should be paying attention to. Think in terms of core and explore. Think in terms of asking lots of questions. Think in terms of learning so that you can do really well when the time comes, but continue to focus on the core so that you can do really well right now too.

Show Closing and Credits

Now, looking get the clock on the wall, we are way out of time for this week. This was a really long episode. I want to remind you that you can find the show notes for today’s episode, as well as an archive of all past episodes by going to timpeter.com/podcast. Again, that’s timpeter.com/podcast. Just look for Episode 334.

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I’d also like to thank our sponsor. Thinks Out Loud is brought to you by SoloSegment. SoloSegment offers an amazing suite of search tools that provide search as a service for large enterprise companies. They focus on business results, not search results with easy automated tools that help customers find the content that matters to them and helps drive business goals for you. They do this all while protecting consumer privacy and improving your business results. You can learn more about SoloSegment and all the amazing work that they do by going to solosegment.com. Again, that’s solosegment.com.

Show Outro

With all that said, I want to say once again how much I appreciate you tuning into the show every single week, especially over the last handful of weeks. Things have been a little weird around here and it means so much more to me than I can say. So thank you very much. I hope you have a wonderful rest of the week. I hope you have a great weekend and I’ll look forward to speaking with you here on Thinks Out Loud again next time. Until then, please be well, be safe and especially, especially in these trying times we have, take care, everybody.

Tim Peter

Tim Peter is the founder and president of Tim Peter & Associates. You can learn more about our company's strategy and digital marketing consulting services here or about Tim here.

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