I was watching Back to the Future II last week (the one where Michael J. Fox travels to 2015 to keep his son from going to jail) and caught myself laughing at 1989′s version of 2015 technology. There is a scene in which future Marty McFly (2015 Michael J.) is talking on the “phone” - which is a giant projector screen with a grainy image of his buddy - and his boss cuts in on the screen and fires him… at which point the screen flashes “YOU’RE FIRED!” repeatedly and a dot-matrix print out of those words come through the fax machine in their home. 1989 = pretty cool, 2010 = pretty hilarious.
And yet, the first thing I thought of as I read about the GoogleTV was that very scene. While the electronics used in the scene were all wrong, the way they interacted is spot-on for what is happening in High Tech right now. There has been much discussion on the impact of content digitization. We’ve already seen what MP3′s did to CD’s and the music industry. Now the Kindle, iPad and other digital readers are targeting written content. Devices are now content delivery mechanisms… and it is the Digital Supply Chain that is bringing the content and applications to the devices. But what I found most interesting with the GoogleTV (as well as what made me think of McFly) is the interconnected nature of all of the devices as they bring content to users.
A television, the GoogleTV, your smartphone, an internet connection, your webcam, a satellite dish, your remote control… all working together as you master a world of content in your living room. Here are some of the highlighted features:
- Remote control apps for your smartphone or iPad so that you can control the TV from those devices
- Direct content from Netflix, Pandora and others
- A “TV cam” that attaches to create the largest picture phone you’ve ever used
- Ability to toggle between the TV and web (…we should all be masters of Jeopardy!)
- Connection to Dish Network including the ability to record programs… right off your onscreen search bar
- Lest we forget… YouTube, FaceBook, Twitter… and on and on
So let’s recreate the Back to the Future scene… with a GoogleTV Marty McFly could have hooked up his “TV cam” and called his buddy via Skype. While doing so, he Twitters news of the illegal business deal he just made… which his boss reads in real time. His boss cuts in via Skype and is live on McFly’s TV to fire him face-to-face. To make sure the message is loud and clear, McFly’s boss sends an email, pushes a Twitter feed and posts a message on his FaceBook wall. And everyone involved never left their TV’s. PS: it’s only 2010… we’ve got five more years before we need to invent the floating Hoverboard.
What’s interesting to me in that list of capabilities is that almost all of the products come from different companies. From a supply chain perspective, this fact means that High Tech companies will have to figure out where content is driving partnership opportunities as well as what key products will drive the rest of the market. A balance of driving innovation and quickly responding to the innovation of others. The GoogleTV is just one product on a very long list of new content-based devices hitting the market… not to mention the several items on that list from Apple (including the AppleTV) that have or will revolutionize how we use technology.
The second theme here is that the Digital and Physical Supply Chains are continuing to converge. Hardware manufacturers have to know where and how in the supply chain software is going to get downloaded. Software providers have to know hardware product roadmaps and new features that may shift demand. It will often be a symbiotic relationship with shared gain. Well, sometimes. HP’s most recent CEO selection shows a bit more carnivorous view of the relationship. The point is, High Tech supply chains are only getting more complex and that an understanding of the connections to, capabilities of and benefits from the Digital Supply Chain only get more important with each passing new product introduction.
What do you think? Are either hardware or software producers better positioned in this convergence? How big of a role will supply chain play? What impacts will this have on other industries?