As noted, my former colleagues at NCRI ran a public scenario planning workshop on Mapping The Future of Information Commerce in 1997. The results are summarized here. The time horizon for the Endstates was 2002.
Near the outset of a Scenario Mapping (nee Future Mapping) workshop, teams are asked to vote a database of plausible Events either Highly Likely (>=80%+ probable), Highly Unlikely (<=20% probable), or Uncertain. Using the voting results, the facilitators then construct and present a Conventional Wisdom scenario. The Conventional Wisdom scenario reflects the thinking of the "room" at the outset. To paraphrase former Royal Dutch Shell scenario planner Arie P. de Geus (Planning as Learning, HBR, 1988): If you want to change people's thinking, you first have to show them how they think.
Here are the main themes of the Conventional Wisdom scenario from the 1997 workshop as summarized in the published report. I have added my commentary after each bullet.
- High bandwidth will be widely available, affordable, and in demand by large segments of the population fairly soon (2-3 years).
Actually, it took what some might think a long time in the US for substantial broadband penetration and even now, the US lags some of the developed world both in penetration and typical broadband speeds.
- User interfaces will become both intelligent and friendly. Voice recognition, wireless connections, and smart sensors will all combine to make technology more friendly to new legions of non-technical users. Services such as agent technology and filters will play an important role in popularizing technology.
Yes and no. Are interfaces more intelligent? I wonder. Voice recognition? Maybe in the Enterprise for specific applications. We've certainly seen a lot of demos, but it's hard to see wider adoption in consumer markets. GPS sensors certainly have become more ubiquitous along with applications that try to leverage location information.
- New technology will lower barriers to entry and allow for many new competitors in content creation, while other advanced tools will threaten rights management.
There are two distinct thoughts here. The first seems right on the mark: image, video, and audio editing and creation tools have become both powerful and relatively inexpensive, including free (Audacity for audio, for example), and very likely lower barriers to entry. But the lack of ubiquitous DRM packaging tools means that creators have a hard time getting paid for their efforts, assuming that compensation is a goal.
- Rights management and payment mechanisms will be well established and will encourage the wide proliferation of on-line content.
Free and piracy seems to have more to do with the wide proliferation of online content. Some form of DRM will succeed in the distribution of HD video. DRM will make no difference in the record business.
- Strong encryption was seen as a must have, but teams were divided on what types of technologies will be used and in what timeframe they will be available
We have good enough encryption for most consumer commercial transactions (SSL and its relatives). I'm surprised that more consumer email isn't encrypted all the time.
- Books will survive and thrive in the new multimedia environment.
Seems to be correct. I'm surprised, though, that there aren't more multimedia books given increasing popularity of "graphic novels", visual language, and the like.
- Publishers' margins will decline for all but the most exclusive "coffee table" books, as titles compete with new media rich offerings.
I suspect that margins are just fine.
- Legislation will not have a major impact on how customers redefine their relationship with suppliers.
The Digital Millennium Copyright Act was not passed until October, 1998. Among other provisions, it prohibited the circumvention of Digital Rights Management, encryption, and other security measures. Although DRM has largely failed to protect the record industry because of business model rather than technical reasons, DRM is alive and well in some video distribution models, Blu-ray DVDs, and conditional access systems for cable, satellite, and increasingly, IPTV.
- Advertising and shopping will subsidize the advance of technology into homes and businesses. While there are many ways to pay for technology, advertising will offer the advantages of being well understood and easy to apply.
It's not clear that advertising and shopping have a direct economic impact on the penetration of networking and computing technologies. At the low end, advertising has been proposed as a way to subsidize access to municipal WiFi-based services, but this has been far from common.