Friday, April 01, 2005

Look around you

This is the name of a strange current BBC series which aims to ironically capure the spirit and look of the various futuristic science programs which so enthralled viewers in the UK and elsewhere in the 1970s and 1980s. I'm not sure I fully understand the motivations of the creators, but one strong underlying message I get is that trying to predict the future is folly.

This leads me to an unfortunate commercial I saw last night for BT Broadband, in which a pair of grandparents, eager to share photos of their grandkids, inexplicably approach a woman in futuristic garb reminiscent of the stewardess in 2001: A Space Odyssey, who stuffs their photos into a giant pipe and off into the cloud. Fabulous.

The received selling point is that BT Broadband leads its customers into some magical world where their futuristic multimedia dreams come true. Fair enough, you couldn't do these things without a fat-ish pipe, but the tone of the commercial, as I interpreted it, was that BT is somehow actively involved in facilitating photo sharing. This is a bit like your electrical power company claiming to have made your family Christmas merely by giving you the means to light up your tree.

I think the more likely scenario is that the grandparents approach "futuristic lady", who installs the big pipe in their house and disappears, never to be thought about again, unless she messes up their bill at some point in the future. To expect that she retains any position in the chain beyond crude enabler of access is, frankly, naive.

Recently my mind keeps coming back to the comment from a reader in industry in response to this recent post: "We are doing a good job of keeping our eyes on the ball, but I am worried that the consumer may be playing something else than ball."

Indeed, catching up on my blog reading today, I have come across some amazing things which seem to bear this out, via a blog called pasta and vinegar (and this too), J D Lasica's blog, and Dan Gillmor, not to mention the Skype Journal (are these men on fire, or what?) observation that Skype awareness is significantly accelerating. How much clearer can the message to the telcos be? Look around you.

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