Whether Windows 8 reverses Microsoft’s trajectory, or the launch of iPad mini increases the mobilization of tablets or Facebook’s latest quarterly results can turnaround a super-inflated IPO is fairly inconsequential.

Sure, these topics dominated 13 of the top 20 tech news headlines today but they will be mere footnotes in history six months from now. In our pursuit of the here and now, we tend to overlook the massive, wholesale changes that are happening over a bigger horizon of time. That’s why I love the Olympics.

In this just-in-time world, it’s great to take inventory of what has actually transpired over the last 1461 days, be it in athletics or otherwise. For the last decade, through embracing digital, we have been staring at  some of the biggest changes in business, culture, politics, man-made and global phenomenon that the world has ever seen. Sometimes I think we take it for granted.

In preparing for a recent presentation to a somewhat reactionary, obstinate audience, I spent a little too much time admittedly, looking at what has changed in digital culture from the heady days of 2008 and the Beijing Olympics to 2012’s recently-wrapped up London Olympics and did a little mathematical prognostication heading to 2016 Rio. Be prepared to be staggered!

Mobile Penetration

At six billion mobile-accessible citizens of this large world, consider now we have more people around the world connected on mobile than those who have access to clean drinking water and toothbrushes. There is likely an ethical question there, but think about the ability to mobilize the world quickly and nimbly now. And although those connections have increased +50% in the last 4 years, we will experience another 50% over the next 4 years. In fact, there will be more mobile subscriptions in the world than there are people by 2016, you do the math and figure out why?

Mobile Data

What we are doing on our mobile handsets and smartphones now is something fundamentally different than 2008. Back then, texting and email ruled the roost and allowed RIM to dominate the bandwidth-heavy side of that market. Now it’s apps, games, surfing, maps, video and a host of other life-altering stuff. There are 15X more connected smartphones than there was 4 years ago, and that will increase again by a factor of 3X, to the point where half of the world’s phones will be intelligent by 2016.

Facebook Users/Social Media

Facebook is now a fully fledged company with 10 times as many users than 4 years ago; they have just broken the 1 billion member mark, heading northward to being the world’s biggest entity, bigger than any single country (that’s right China and India). Even though your grandmother has likely already joined, Facebook is still poised for 50% more users over the next 4 years. Meanwhile, there is a Bizarro parallel universe in China that will have hundreds of millions of others operating on a similar platform in the eastern hemisphere. Social will be oxygen and the present and future concern of Facebook will be less people growth but how do they get people to spend more time and money on them. Will we see the successful commercialization of the social web or will the promise fizzle away like Zuckerberg’s IPO?

Internet Video

The day of social TV is upon us. We have seen 25 times as much video travelling along the internet than 4 years ago and we’ll see another threefold growth factor over the next four years. This estimate by Cisco seems really light too. Evidence, they missed how much internet video we’d be watching now by a factor of 8 when they predicted 4 years ago. The prerogative is for NBC, BBC, CBS, ABC, CNN, CBC, Sky TV and others to be media-agnostic, more heavily digital brands. Hardware and functionality changes will be coming by 2016 so that even futurists would barely be able to anticipate the developments now. Who will win? The content people, the fibre people, the equipment people or the digital people? Fun times as an investor.

Olympic Tweets and Athletes

This year’s Olympics had 750X more tweets than those of Beijing and Rio is planning on 30X more instant messages driven in large part by 4X as many athletes having a public Twitter profile. As one of the only recurring truly global events, the Olympics is weather vane for our behaviour globally. If you agree, than our need for  rapid-fire, just-happened information through our social networks has just jumped the shark.

Internet Users

The amount of people connected to the internet has now eclipsed two billion and will pass 3 billion four years from now, just inching under half of the global population. As developing world citizens start to climb onboard, it will be interesting to see what new business models, new companies, new influence on the worldwide web, these new additions will bring.


It was interesting to hear the technology experts of 2008 cry out about the death of the tablet and netbooks. Well four years later, with over 100 million tablets sold and a hugely successful iPad launch, nobody is fearing retreat. In fact, conservative estimates peg a 3X increase in tablets over the next 4 years.  Given what’s happened over the last two years, this feels like it is wrong by a factor of two. Unless of course, all bets are off if wearable computing and gesture-recognized media commercializes itself by then.

Time Spent Per Day – Internet/Non-Voice Mobile

More staggering than the breadth of global internet and mobile growth is its pervasiveness. While we used to spend 2 1/2 hours in front of a screen everyday, it’s now over 4 hours per day and will zoom over 6 hours by 2016 as we connect to more and more devices where we shop, work, play, live and maybe sleep (we are quickly running out of consumable time after all). Already 21% of us feel “addicted” to our connected ways. Interestingly, although print and other media have taken it on the chin, this time has been all additive to our TV watching habits. So the debate – what will be the more important life appliance 4 years from now – the car or the smartphone?

Mobile Payments

Already a booming sector of growth in Asia, mobile payments are landing on America’s shores soon with experiments in place by startups like Square, tech competitors Google, Amazon and Apple, payment solution providers like Paypal and credit companies like Visa. Mobile wallets will balloon to over $600 billion worldwide as the idea of holding cash becomes a thing of the past.

Trust, Word of Mouth and Who We Listen To

With greater transparency and web-enabled scrutiny and activism, both CEOs (BP, Wall Street, banks, media wire taping) and government officials (Arab Spring, stalled congress) have taken some body blows to their credibility over the last 4 years. At the same time, people’s faith in other people has never been higher, ranking #3 as a source of credibility behind academics and technical experts. My anticipation is peer influence will inch up as the #1 source of credibility as more of us, more frequently, come to enjoy, delight in and benefit from the user-gernated inputs of the tribes of people around us.

So what are your best predictions for the year 2016?

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