Developing for Tomorrow

I was thinking today about the varied ways that digital technology can improve all of our lives.  Obviously right now the hot work is all in mobile, and developing applications for mobile is pretty hard.  But it’s certainly not the case that all the potential productivity improvements to realize through technology must be in mobile.  To give an example of a disruptive and highly lucrative innovation, Facebook could have easily been built on the technology and design of the late 1990s.  It would have been worse (particularly in photos), but the underlying technology is not exactly bleeding-edge.
If I were looking for to do some disrupting, I probably wouldn’t be looking in mobile right now.  Mobile is going to change everything, this is for certain, but everybody knows that.  Right now, all the smartest minds of our generation are exploring the incredible possibilities of mobile computing, since the possibilities are so obvious.  It’s a crowded space, and will only get more crowded.
I think it might make more sense to look at the desktop world, and web apps oriented towards such.  After all, that is still where people spend most of their time and will be for the foreseeable future.  Yeah, everyone is consuming more and more media and information on their mobile devices, but the desktop is and will continue to be where people do real work.  Not to mention a substantial fraction of just kind of fucking around.
Within the world of development for desktop, the current hot commodity is user-created content and social media, which is something else that is probably too crowded and thus should be avoided.  The sweet spot would be things that aren’t sexy, since if they were sexy someone would already know about it and be developing for it.  No one thought renting DVDs would be a vastly profitable enterprise in this day and age until Redbox totally wrecked that industry.  I think there are some pretty fantastic opportunities in the industrial and enterprise space, and those are the kind of things that are going to be invisible until they’re obvious.

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