Making the Future

Every new year starts with that sense of reinvention – that sense that things could be different, will be different, should be different. 2010 has started exactly the same way – I woke up in an old homestead in rural South Australia to a day of perfect sunshine, deep blue skies and an unbounded horizon. Many airports and a 75 degree drop in temperature later, I found myself in Las Vegas for the Consumer Electronics Show with its promises of new, new, new, and of course, this year, 3D everything. It was a study in contrasts and it got me to thinking about change. Standing on the floor of that convention center, I was thinking about the future too and what it might hold for Intel, and for our Consumer Electronics business and for my team of social science, design and usability experts.

Since late 2005, my team and I have been working to make the future that was on display in Intel’s booth at that Las Vegas convention center (image in this blog post). We showcased a range of new concepts, products and technologies in the consumer electronics domain – in particular we focused on new forms of gaming, and socializing for television, as well as novel ways to address the problem of searching for just the right show in a world of lots of content!

Like many attempts to make the future it has been a long and wonderfully messy road for us, littered with obstacles and unexpected diversions. Like realizing that to help Intel be successful in the Consumer Electronics space meant teaching the company to love television the way most consumers do. Teaching a PC company to appreciate television, it turned out, was really a big job. It meant putting “life” and “home” front and center in conversations usually reserved for technical specifications and it meant helping the corporation abandon some of its wrong-headed ideas and ideals: like, that lurking inside every television was a PC just waiting to be rescued or set free; or that television was going away, (when it was actually growing in scope and size and range); or that everyone had the same relationship to television as Americans did; or that all televisions were created equal and that there was one right way to make them better; or even that making television better meant introducing levels and layers of complexity. Undoing all of that took time and research, and a tangible vision for what TV could be. For us that means, acknowledging that the internet and TV will find a way to cohabitate, that television will change the internet (the smart phone is an interesting example of how new devices and platforms can change the internet – think about the app-store and what that means for the way the internet works) and that to be really successful in merging these two worlds, you have to respect what makes TV special and beloved – its simplicity, its flexibility, its sociality. And I think the line-up of new customers is a pretty good indication that we’re onto something.

For lots of reasons, we are pretty sure that 2010 is going to be a special year! So throughout this year, about once a fortnight (that’s every two weeks for our American friends), my team and I will blog here – about what we are seeing in our travels and our labs, what we are driving here at Intel, and what excites us, and perhaps more importantly why. I hope we can give a small glimpse into the kind of work we do, how we do it and where it is all heading. This blog will be about making the future, in all its messiness.