Last Friday marked Walt Mossberg’s last weekly column on personal technology.
This veteran observer of the technology industry (from a 1991 start at The Wall Street Journal to, in recent years, The Verge and Recode) titled his last piece “The Disappearing Computer.”
It’s definitely worth a read. Especially for those of us in retail and hospitality technology.
Mossberg’s thesis is that we’ve entered a quiet period in the personal tech world. A period wherein few new category-creating products (let alone blockbusters in existing categories) are hitting the mainstream.
Yes, there’s the Amazon Echo and Alexa software assistant. Brilliant, to be sure, but in Mossberg’s eyes (as well, according to Mossberg, as Jeff Bezos’), both are just getting started. Tomorrow’s game changers will be found in “ambient computing” (technology that is completely invisible to us as a computer), is coming soon. Our technology will be something we talk to, we touch, or something responds to us when we enter a room.
I’d add that this will be especially the case in retail.
Value creation, invisibly
The breakthroughs in value creation will be much less about the shiny object du jour, and much more about the value unleashed by today’s rapidly-advancing foundational technologies: distributed computing power, new networks, smart voice and visual recognition, and software both more intelligent and more secure.
It's value that will be realized in the use of chatbots for shopper service, through artificial intelligence and machine learning for an ever-more-efficient management of demand and marketing investment, through the transparency of shopper behavior and product movement wrought by connected, right- and real-time store/site and enterprise systems.
It's value that will be realized — in the not-too-distant future — through operational and commerce solutions driven not by inefficient keyboards or touch screens, but by voices, eye movement, even thoughts.
It's value that will be realized when applied to the ever-evolving cross-channel shopper journey and the consistent delivery of the products and services that define and differentiate.
One of the final points that Mossberg makes that I find fascinating and relevant to our work at Intel is this: “the roller coaster will be accelerating faster than ever, only this time it’ll be about actual experiences, with much less emphasis on the way those experiences get made.” We are rapidly approaching this point, and its promise is exciting and demanding.
Over the past several weeks we at Intel have been debating our list of the top ten technologies that will most re-shape the retail, hospitality, and consumer goods industries over the next five years. Inspired by Mr. Mossberg, we’re now ready to share.
Stay tuned – and join the debate – as we roll out the list.