2014 The Changing Face of the Digital Landscape – The Year of the Consumer

Happy New Year to all my readers and your families. Over the past few weeks I have been thinking about what 2014 will hold for all of us. As a small/medium business and also like many of you – a heavy consumer of the digital lifestyle, whether it be electronics, mobile phones, the entertainment industry and the like. I have come to some predictions I would like to share with you.

Your Live TV Station – The Big Winner

Forget podcasts, what we will see this year is a mass of companies and consumers releasing their own TV stations through Google+ Live Hangouts. This will be the big winner of 2014. You can do it for FREE with a decent laptop or PC, or go professional for as little as $2,000 (LED Lighting, Multiple Cameras with a switch and a nice professional backdrop.

Google has stated it can handle around 1 million live broadcasts at a time, all streaming live simultaneously to your websites, Google+ page and your YouTube Channel all with unlimited viewers. Not only that, people watching can now ask live questions with the newly released Q and A extension.

So if you want to connect to your customers, create your own TV Chanel and truly separate yourself from your competitors.

Bye Bye Anonymity

The days of posting comments anonymously are gone. Google recently made some changes to comments on YouTube, where everyone must have a verified Google account to post comments and news organizations are quickly following suit. For the most part this is a good thing, as one only has to look at the most banal YouTube video’s comments to see that some people just like to cause trouble and hide behind their anonymity to say some pretty nasty things or make some pretty ridiculous claims. Not that this will stop them, but Look forward to these large organizations lobbying governments to make you responsible for comments and not the site owners.

Accommodation Industry

The Hotel/Bed and Breakfast Industry is in for a shock in 2014. On a recent trip to Europe, visiting 5 countries, I stayed nearly exclusively in www.airbnb.com accommodation and I found the experience was pretty fantastic, actually so much better than most hotels I have stayed in. Yes you have to plan, be careful about who you choose, but really it was only as time consuming as checking into a hotel. Actually the only hotel I stayed in totally screwed my booking and then, to rub salt into the wound I found out the offered ‘free’ Wifi was only free for basic Wifi (1 minute to load a simple web page and unlimited timeouts thrown in) or $30 per night for ‘high speed’ (30 seconds to load a simple page).

The hotel industry in the USA is trying to stop sites like www.airbnb.com through lobbying politicians getting them to introduce legislation with some success in the USA. Governments will tell you it is all about public safety and insurance, but it is all about taxes and revenues. They have had some success in New York, but legislating will only send these services underground.

The only hope for Hotels is to get their act together and realize that telephone, wifi and media are a basic service that we all should get for free and stopping the habit of trying to load fees on their already paying customers. Real Estate Agents will be advised to get in on this and try to find a way to help people manage their own holiday accommodation and not try to fight it, the smart ones will make money from management and services.

Mobile Phones & Plans

Mobile phones are now about evolution and not revolution. Only 5 years ago the only tech savvy phone on the market was the iPhone, but now Apple has so many competitors that produce phones of as good a quality and in some cases some may argue better – than the Cupertino tech giant. It has now got to the stage that really the only improvement we can look forward to is better cameras, as the phones are powerful enough and the software ecosystems evolved enough, that any new release is greeted with a bit of a yawn.

So 2014 will see more and more people ditch purchase plans and buying phones outright, whether they be the excellent Google Nexus 5 (my phone of choice) or the top of the range phones from Apple, HTC or Samsung. Blackberry is finished and Microsoft are years away from having anything that can come close to competing with Android or IOS!

Cable TV and Netflix

Cable TV is also going to suffer in 2014. With services like Netflix, Hula and Amazon extending to other parts of the world, the only reason to continue with Cable is left with their sports. You can be sure cable companies will be pushing hard to get as much sport as possible on Cable TV and away from free to air television.

Sports bodies will again play into this by going to the highest bidder, albeit to the detriment of their fans. But sport alone will not save the cable companies, it will prolong it for a while, but we will also see a rise in people looking for alternatives legal and otherwise) to watch their favorite teams.

4k Television

4k or UltraHD televisions are 4 times the resolution of the current HD models out there. This will take a while longer to catch on, primarily because of the lack of 4k content and that no one is broadcasting in 4k at the moment. But we will see a proliferation of 4k Ultra HD TV’s on the market in 2014 many for under $1,500. If you get a chance go and have a look at one, the clarity is quite breathtaking. All movies made today are already shot in 4k or above, so it wont be long before we see this emerging, most probably this will be on your xmas shopping list for the end of the year!

One note of caution: After a little snooping I noticed that all the new HD connected TV’s do a little snooping of your network and connected devices to see what information is on them. They will tell you it is all about serving you better for recommendations and content, but it is all about advertising and with governments listening in electronically, this could blow into a story at any time. This is a concern and needs to be reigned in!

Summary

So 2014 looks pretty good for consumers, just as long as governments stays out of the way. Even better for consumers will be beyond 2014 but I think this year we will see a significant drop in prices for technology, albeit with rises in costs of course for everything else controlled by big business and government, energy, finance, banking and insurance etc.

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