Virtual Reality Has a Social Problem

Virtual Reality Has a Social Problem
To listen to the pundits, by Christmas 2017 we’ll all be diving under the tree for Virtual Reality goggles, from junior to senior, maybe even grandma too. Except, we won’t be. Microsoft just launched it’s tongue-twister flagship gaming console the Xbox One X (don’t say it too fast.) And it has no real support for VR. Nor does Sony’s PlayStation or Nintendo’s latest Switch.
Virtual Reality Has A Social Problem
For the most part, in the few games I’ve tried, VR is a rather solitary experience. Most VR games and approaches in development have been single-person focused. This largely makes sense since it is easier to develop technologies like this in the single person.
But console video games over the past decade have evolved very differently. Franchises like Call of Duty, Halo and Medal of Honour and sports games, thrived by being multiplayer in their very nature. The initial instalments of games like Halo and even sports games were 1-2 players and some online multiplayer. As broadband became less costly and more ubiquitous the game companies invested less and less in the story line, going for MRR (monthly recurring revenue) business models. Good for the gaming companies, but bad for the solitary nature of VR right now.
Augmented Reality is the Transitional Technology
Pokemon. Enough said. Even Apple realizes the mid-term strategy is Augmented Reality (AR.) Consumers are far more comfortable to adapting to AR right now because they already have a smartphone that they’ve adapted into their way of living. Are you really going to slap on a pair of VR goggles in Walmart to go shopping? Exactly. But you’ll hold up your phone to see layered information on a product.
The Problem is the Hardware and the Socialization
VR goggles, even the simpler version you can slide a Samsung Galaxy into, are still a difficult technology for most people. You have to stop and put them on. And be vulnerable. Not something most people want to do in public. People aren’t comfortable blocking their senses in public. This is easier with AR, since you don’t block out your situational awareness. The lizard brain is still a strong factor.
The secondary issue is the social factor of VR. It just isn’t very social. There just aren’t that many other people connected at the same time and few tools encourage or have socialization features. This is a problem in a world still trying to figure out social media a decade later. Are all your friends rushing out to by VR goggles?
The Short Term Prognosis for VR
For at least the next decade, VR will be a very specialized area. There is tons of economic opportunity for VR, don’t get me wrong. It’s a brilliant tool for trade skills, military, medical and technical training. The VR companies that understand this and focus in this way, will make money. They will also be ready for when mass consumer adoption is ready. But as a mass consumer technology? Not for a decade at least, if not longer.
In the meantime, look for advances in AR tools and those ever awkward eyeglasses.
What do you think?

Are Software Engineers Endangered?

Are Software Engineers Endangered?
So that’s a bold statement to open with. But by 2025, or perhaps earlier, most anybody who can use Microsoft Office will be able to build their own software apps, for desktop, mobile or well, to launch across the enterprise.
ICT’s And Their Purpose | Context
The primary function of Information Communication Technologies (ICTs) is the movement and management of information. We use mobiles, laptops and desktops to create and move information. Companies develop software to sell to move information and others buy it to improve the movement of information and automate processes as much as possible. Increasingly, devices that didn’t connect to the Internet before, now do and often with a sensor. That’s software too.
We’ve Built Up So Much Code
There is so much code out there today that even GitHub is developing new ways to make it easier to find and use. Software developers and engineers often incorporate existing code that they modify to their needs.
With Apple’s Swift and new Android tools, developing an app for a mobile device is a lot easier than before. It is almost the same for Enterprise software and computer apps.
The Age of Drag and Drop Building
As this code repository has grown and continues to grow and as ICTs become easier to use, so will come the time when building a new app to deploy across the enterprise will be done not by the IT department, but by the marketing team or perhaps even the HR department who wants a new way to manage the recruiting process.
We already see this in tools like Slack or Podio. They can be quickly customized without the need for the IT department. They will become more powerful and adaptable as time progresses.
The Software Engineers Will Go Deep 
In the future, where software developers and engineers will be needed is on the deep-end of things. To keep those primary surface apps running, manage the massive database systems and ensure network deployments are smooth…and step in to fix broken things. It’s software, it breaks. They’ll also have to manage the transitions and interface between new easy-to-use software and the old legacy systems that will persist for a long time yet.
But it won’t be long before there is an enterprise system that is so flexible that each department and team can make their own apps in a few hours. The software engineer isn’t entirely endangered, but their roles will undergo a fundamental and more important, shift in the years ahead.
What do you think?

Burning Phones: Is it time for a slowdown?

Burning Phones: Is it time for a slowdown?
As pretty much everyone knows, Samsung has halted production of it’s Note 7 due to the phones burning. Perhaps this is a uhm, smoke signal, about technology as a whole today.
The Mad Upgrade Cycle
Apple has for years worked on a tick-tock cycle. Hardware ramp up one year, software focus the next. Just before Apple announces it’s cash-cow iPhone upgrades, Samsung typically comes out with its newest version. HTC and others follow. It’s an insane cycle that has infected almost the rest of the technology world. The mad push to “get something new out.”
Why This Has Become Pointless
This mad rush to slam new devices hard into the market and the insane pundit and consumer rants over which device is better, is no longer really viable.
Research has shown that consumers have moved away from upgrading every year and are now keeping their smartphones for 2-3 years and it’s even worse with tablets. The upgrade incentives on all these products, even laptops and notebooks are no longer as significant as they used to be. I blogged a few months ago on the technology plateau we’ve hit…improvements now are incremental. Many app developers are then also forced to update their apps to platform improvements, yet are slower to do so.
All smartphone makers are seeing only marginal lift in sales with new devices now. Even laptop sales have flattened, at best.
Can We Move to a Two Year Cycle?
Ideally, Apple, Samsung, HTC and all the others, would move to a two-year hardware upgrade cycle and maybe a software push each year? This won’t happen. Shareholder and pundit pressure, the fear of competitor tactics. One could argue that this kind of pressure forces innovation, but perhaps frustrates it more?
The Benefits of a Two Year Refresh Cycle
Here are what I see as the benefits to a two year cycle of major device upgrades…
  • Cybersecurity: More time to test for weak points and fix them before they hit the market and consumers suffer.
  • Better Revenue Leaps: As consumers keep devices longer, this two year cycle will have more of the market ready to upgrade.
  • Ecosystem Improvements: Software companies and accessory makers will bring more products to market. Software processes can improve and the hardware manufacturers that have ecosystems (Google, Apple, Microsoft) can generate better incremental (IRR) revenues.
  • Less Consumer Disruption: Consumers are growing increasingly frustrated with constant app and platform fixes and updates.
There are more, but this sets the tone. No, this likely won’t happen, but we’d probably have less exploding phones. There are even problems with Apple’s iPhone 6s plus having failing touch screens. These devices aren’t cheap. Manufacturers are increasingly taking risks that could decimate them. Apple could survive a Samsung level catastrophe, once. Samsung may survive this one. But they won’t survive a second.
What do you think?