In todays fast-paced, e-world it may be surprising to learn that nearly half of the people living on this planet have never made or received a telephone call.
What is even more mind-boggling is that just a few short years ago, that number was somewhere around two-thirds of the globe.
Somewhere in between, cellular telephone technology developed to a point where people who live in parts of countries where there are no hardwire telephone lines were able to make their first phone call. In parts of India, for example, there are entire villages which have a single phone number and share a community phone that is delivered from home to home with charges billed by the minute.
In May, when America Online Chief Technology Officer William J. Raduchel visited Cleveland, he used that story to illustrate the huge technology gulf that exists today between nations and cultures, and the speed at which new technology moves once it drops to an accessible price.
The Web, he points out, is no different. By the end of this decade, Raduchel says our initial fascination with the Internet will have long faded, but the technology will be deeply entrenched in every area of our personal and professional lives.
In fact, it may not be too long until the Internet starts reaching those people who made their first telephone calls during the 1990s. If youre still among the doubtful about what the Web revolution really means, consider Raduchels take on the ways he believes the Internet will change your life and business by the end of the decade.
The price of technology will plummet.
The price of computers is dropping an average of 30 percent a year, while server and storage costs are falling about 40 percent annually. Raduchel says the next decade wont be so much about new technology as it will be about the revolutionary decline in how much it will cost to bring it to the masses.
By the year 2010, Raduchel says the cutting edge personal computer sitting on your desk today will be reduced to a $15 chip that can fit in a television remote control. Seem like an outlandish prospect? Raduchel says thats because such a steep decline in the cost of implementing new technology has no comparison throughout history. Further, people are not accustomed to such large changes.
Youre looking at pricing that many of you as business people have never experienced, he explains. Just think what the effect would be if, by the year 2010, gasoline was five cents a gallon. Changes of more than 30 percent a year are beyond our experience.
Every business will be an e-business
When e-commerce made its initial public splash in 1998, much of the national media warned that using the Internet to improve business may work well for some companies, but others would remain relatively unaffected. Today, those statements are highly questionable. In 10 years, Raduchel says, they will be totally absurd. He points out that even business owners in traditional industries like construction are already reaping rewards from using the Web to increase efficiency and grow profit margins.
Its doubling or even tripling gross margins, he says. I cannot think that there is any business totally or even partially immune to what is going on.
Common products will be Web-enabled
Everything from your refrigerator to your dishwasher to your microwave to your air conditioning system will be tied into the Web. The most compelling benefit of such a move is the fact that your appliance repairman will likely end up calling you for a service visit since technology is available today that will allow a dishwasher, for example, to predict a breakdown up to 30 days before it happens.
There are already signs of this move toward Web-enabled products. Raduchel says every major automobile manufacturer is currently dumping millions of dollars into research about how best to make money from their ultimate plan to embed an Internet browser in every vehicle that rolls off the assembly line.
All of the major automobile manufacturers are looking at cars as browsers on wheels, he says. By the end of the decade, you are likely to see automobile manufacturers making more money from selling you information in your car than selling you the car itself.
Most homes will be connected 24 hours a day
In the next 10 years, the dial-up method of reaching the Internet will be all but extinct, says Raduchel. Instead, millions of homes will have a 24-hour a day Internet connection that will allow all your Web-enabled products to communicate with the outside world. Although AOLs purchase of Time Warner may indicate Raduchel believes this future will involve plenty of cable modems, he seems to think Internet access from home will be created by several different mediums, whether it be DSL, cable or satellite.
By the end of the decade, the vast majority of houses in the U.S. will have a permanent Internet gateway in their home, says Raduchel. You will have a small box somewhere in your house that will be permanently connected.
The Internet will become invisible
Raduchel estimates by the end of the decade there will be as much media coverage and debate about the Internet as there is today about telephone systems and automobile brakes. The biggest indicator of an Internet-powered world will be the fact that you dont think of it much at all, although you will use it daily in both your business and professional life. If 10 years from now you realize the Internet is there, that indicates we have failed, says Raduchel. It has to be part and parcel to your life.
How to reach: America Online, www.aol.com.
Jim Vickers (email@example.com) is an associate editor at SBN.