The cutting edge: Look to the future, but don’t get lost in it

One of the keys to success in the fast paced world of technology and internet culture is keeping your eyes on the horizon. It’s always about what’s on the up, what the next big thing is. It’s not enough to know what’s happening now; it’s all about what’s happening tomorrow.

With the internet’s information machine distributing everything almost instantly around the world, no one wants to be the slightest bit late in hearing the buzz. It is obviously important to follow future trends.

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But looking in any one direction can have its drawbacks. The future may be important to bear in mind, but more so is the present. By continuously chasing future trends, one can become effectively out of date, albeit in a counter-intuitive way. The perspective that one gains from only looking only at the cutting edge is flawed.

It is often easy to forget that while the tech-savvy are discussing which application they use to tweet from their phone, a good portion of the world’s mobile users have barely even begun to connect to the net from their mobile. It’s easy to forget that Internet Explorer is still the most popular browser and that more people use Windows XP than 7.

The majority of mobiles connecting to the net are Nokias, not Blackberrys, Androids or Apples in most parts of the world. Hotmail is still the largest web-mail client by a sizable margin, then Yahoo, then Gmail. The large mass of technology users, the general population, are not browsing the net wirelessly on their iPads, they’re using their old computers at work.

This is not the impression one gets from the technology blogosphere in general. Using mobile phones as an example, worldwide sales show that Nokia and Samsung are still far ahead, with iPhone sales at 7th.

Compare this, however to news traffic from the devices, where Apple’s impact dwarfs Nokia’s. Now, it is no mystery why this is the case. Apple products are game-changers. Any release is highly publicised. There is also no doubt that Nokia is losing ground to RIM and Apple, and it is entirely possible that they might lose their place of dominance soon, but are we truly there yet?

It is an occupational hazard that the technology community as a whole has a habit of getting ahead of itself. It’s part and parcel of staying up to date. It can, however, actually develop a skewed view of its own landscape. Technology changes at a rapid pace, but people do not necessarily match it. Mass adoption always lags far behind the pioneers.

Anyone working in the fields concerned should make sure they are aware of the actual nature of their market, rather than the perceived nature created by a influential and vocal few. The only way to know the actual nature is through research and statistics, not blog traffic.

The cautionary note at the heart of this is simple. Look to the future, but don’t get lost in it. Be aware that most of the world is not there yet.

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