The past 10 years has been the decade of "disruptive technology."
And the easier the tech is for your average clod to use, the more disruptive it has been, is and will be in the decade to come. See "search engine, Google" and "iPod, Apple."
FROM A series that began Sunday in the Omaha World-Herald:
“In the year two thousaaaaaaand!”
That cry heralded one of Conan O'Brien's recurring late-night gags in the '90s, in which he listed ludicrous predictions of how the world would change in the new millennium.
In the year 2000, O'Brien said, political correctness would dictate that the term “homo-sapiens” be changed to “alternative lifestyle-sapiens.” Also, for no apparent reason, the color green would be renamed yellowy-blue.
Who could've guessed he wasn't being absurd enough?
Just 10 years ago, we lived in a world that didn't recognize the phrase “reality TV.” A world in which, for all we knew, Paris Hilton was a French hotel. It was a time before steroids killed baseball, before iPods killed CDs.
It's not just the simple stuff that's changed. Terrorism, war, political battles and financial struggle indelibly affected every aspect of our culture, even — or especially — the parts traditionally considered entertainment.
But the question is: What cultural elements will come to define the years 2000 through 2009?
You know what another good name for Google would be? The Internet's oxygen.
Google, the Internet search engine founded in 1998, is about as omnipresent as things get online — it's always around, it's absolutely essential, and like that odorless gas we breathe, its importance is pretty easily ignored if you're not paying attention.
Beginning with its fast, accurate and thorough search, the GooglEmpire (it's not a word, but it should be) has grown to include Google Maps, Gmail, Google Earth, Google News and endless other incarnations, innovations and creations.
Face it, it's Google's Earth. We just live on it.
It's a simple gadget, basically an empty — albeit pretty — hard drive and some white headphones. And yet, in just a few short years, Apple's iPod (first released in 2001) has staged a cultural coup and completely changed the way we listen to music.
As much a feat of marketing (joyous, bright musical commercials) and marketplace genius (iTunes, the most convenient music store ever) as it is beautiful hardware, the iPod forced the music industry to change its focus from albums to singles, and from CDs to online digital files. Two-hundred twenty-five million sold, and music may never be the same.
MAYBE I should revise my lede on this post. What if we only think the "noughts" have been the decade of disruptive tech? What if the first tenth of the 21st century only has set the table for the real disruption to come?
What if 2000-2009 has been high-tech's figurative working over of traditional media's midsection, with the odd jab here and there to newspaper's snout and broadcasting's swollen right eye?
And what if the next 10 years delivers the uppercut that finishes the job that started with the last 10 years of "softening up"?
Muhammad Ali, meet Steve Jobs.
Jobs, the brain behind Apple, bloodied and staggered radio and the record industry with the iPod and iTunes. And now, it looks like he's about to either save or kill off newspapers and magazines with Apple's long-rumored "tablet" computer.
Personally, I wouldn't even consider that Apple's tablet will save newspapers, but I mention the possibility because the analyst in the MSNBC video above did. He apparently has much more faith in traditional media's ability to embrace and adapt than I do.
DID I mention the age of tablet computing probably will be the death of radio, too? Just ask former radio man Jerry Del Colliano:
In my opinion when this device is debuted -- not if -- it will be the most successful consolidation of media ever -- far more successful than radio consolidation.
Apple will likely allow music, movies, email and web browsing. Some call it a potential Kindle killer because it is likely to compete in the book reader category that Amazon's Kindle has started.
This is purely out of the Apple playbook.
Let someone else test the market and they come in with a cooler, more intuitive device with a back structure that includes Apple's massive and growing iTunes store.
I've heard that the new device may also include a PDF reader making it a phenomenal choice for professional people (doctors, lawyers, disc jockeys -- sorry, I'm partial to radio djs) as well as an ideal replacement for student textbooks.
How popular do you think Apple will be if municipalities everywhere could stop ordering textbooks and have students access digital books through the iTunes store?
Let me be blunt.
If radio is not actively engaged in iPad content, it is over even sooner than the ten year life radio has left.
Older consumers will also migrate to the iPad. They showed a willingness to embrace the next generation's new tools when they adopted email, texting, Facebook and iPods to name a few. This will be no different.
The new iPad will be their own personal media device. Their bookstore. Their TV.
And radio's answer to simply stream terrestrial audio won't work here. In fact, radio needs to get video. And I'm not talking about a studio cam aimed at the morning dj (if they still have one).
The iPad is something very exciting and the only industry that has talent in place to occupy that space is the one industry that is firing all its talent.
You know who.
The iPad will be bigger than the iPod and iPhone but for radio and the music business it will be the iPlop if they don't get into the future right.
What we have today -- and what already is wreaking havoc on traditional media -- are version 1.2 devices, essentially. An Apple tablet will be cheaper than a good laptop, as capable as a netbook (and far more capable than a Kindle), easier to carry around than a newspaper and will offer a far more compelling multimedia experience than an iPhone or other "smart phone."
It will be like jumping directly to a version 3.0 device.
Unfortunately, broadcasting and newspapers -- at least those still working in broadcasting and newspapers -- by and large are partying like it's 1999.