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Trends in Consumer Digital Technology for 2019

For the past few years I’ve got into the habit of starting the new year with an article consolidating my thoughts on where we’re at with consumer digital technology; looking at the landscape, and at what the biggest players are doing—my focus is mostly on Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google, but it’s not exclusively on them. I want to tease out a few trends to help orient myself in my role for the year ahead. I try not to make predictions, but perhaps play out some possibilities.

There are two big declines at the core of this year’s trends, which I think set the tone for where consumer tech might head in 2019. They are the smartphone decline, and the Facebook decline.

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The Best Quotes I Read in 2018

I read a lot. For pleasure, for work, and for my newsletter, The Thoughtful Net, which is a little of both pleasure and work. As well as books I read a lot of online articles, especially long-form; I save a lot of links to Pocket, which is synced to my Kobo eReader, and then I read on my commute to and from work—averaging probably five or six articles per day. I share the articles that I like to my colleagues, on my Twitter, and a rare few exceptional ones to my newsletter.

What I enjoy very much is to collect quotes (or quotations, if you’re that type of person). A nice turn of phrase or a point that makes me stop and reflect, or think of something entirely differently, always gets saved to my Keep—with the hope that it will one day spark a new line of thought in me, or be added to a presentation deck to support my argument.

In this article I present the quotes I read this year that I felt were worth saving and sharing. The quotes aren’t necessarily from this year (some of them date back to the 19th Century) but they were new to me. Most of them, in some way, are linked to technology, which is both pleasure and work to me.

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People Don’t Change

I’d like to present a recording of my latest talk, People Don’t Change. It’s about the history of modern human behaviour, and technology, and how the meeting of those two affects society today. I presented it at Front End London in August, and I’m really proud of it because I’ve been thinking about it for a long time—if you’re interested to hear it, the story of how I wrote it is below the video.

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Why Is Every Company Making a Digital Assistant?

Many of the largest consumer digital technology companies have, or are preparing to introduce, a digital (or, virtual) assistant. The list includes Alibaba (AliGenie), Amazon (Alexa), Apple (Siri), Baidu (DuerOS), Facebook (M/Aloha), Google (Assistant), Line (Clova), Microsoft (Cortana), Samsung (Bixby), Xiaomi (Xiao Ai), plus any number of lesser-known assistants.

Although this is partly driven simply by advances in machine learning—digital assistants are happening now because they couldn’t happen before—the larger reason for all the interest is because of how consumer internet technology is changing—and how it’s set to change even more in the coming years.