Short-Run, On-Demand, And In The Cloud

In Buddhism, people speak of the impermanence of existence: the fact that nothing is fixed, and that all we have are moments that arise and fall away.

In "The Matrix," Neo and Morpheus stand in a blank white room, creating whatever the moment calls for -- a dojo, a city, a link to the Oracle -- as the need arises.

Ethereal. Fantastical. Futuristic. And, without a doubt, the direction in which we are headed.

At lunch today, the ineffable Nat Torkington proposed what to my mind is the ultimate in portability: the ability to take your configuration from device to device. Imagine if all you had to do when you bought a new phone was enter your username and password -- instantly populating your contact list, your app list, even your ringtone and email settings. It is neither hard to envision nor all that different from technology that currently exists: when you log into Gmail, for example, and get instant chat access to everyone you know regardless of where you're logging in from.



If we could make our online experience device-independent, the device itself becomes less and less important. Who cares if it's iPhone or Android, if all we're doing is connecting to our universal, disembodied identity in the cloud? Grab a phone, any phone, and you've got your personal setup, instantly generated on an as-needed basis.

TV is migrating to the Web at an ever-increasing pace, with some 2 million households estimated to be ditching their cable companies by the end of the year for offerings like Netflix and Hulu. The exodus is expected to boost the value the on-demand, streaming television industry to $800 million. TV isn't dead, any more than newspapers are; but both business models are dead, because the new expectation is "what I want, when, where and how I want it."

This kind of dynamic, spontaneous creation of your environment is happening offline as well. Our new T-shirt store is entirely on-demand: zero inventory, zero wastage, zero incremental cost for stocking new designs. We are not in the business of T-shirt manufacture and distribution and we don't want to be -- and we're not alone. Want to sell shirts yourself? Try Zazzle, Printfection, or CafePress. Have a design idea for a toy, a clock, a wind lantern? Ponoko will laser-cut it from wood or print it in 3D.

Even human organs have become on-demand, as you may remember from last week's reference to Antony Atala printing a human kidney on the TED stage. We have no excuse anymore for warehouses full of unwanted product. If you aren't Apple, with the commensurate confidence of selling millions of units of your device, you should be very wary of investment in inventory.

We are rapidly reaching the point where our world is continuously created anew, as we want it, as we imagine it, with few if any cost or complexity barriers. It is arising dynamically, in response to who we are, what we seek, and our changing circumstances. The past moment has faded away, the future moment has not yet arisen, and all we have left is the present, eternally manifesting itself.

How are you and your company adapting to the new rules of engagement, on-demand and in the cloud? Let me know, in the comments or on Twitter.

2 comments about "Short-Run, On-Demand, And In The Cloud".
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  1. Brian Hayashi from ConnectMe 360, April 8, 2011 at 4:37 p.m.

    As change accelerates, it becomes more difficult for the average customer-facing employee to adapt. Customers like you and I want quicker response, more product variety and a sneak peek at the Next Big Thing, and if we don't get it, we're going to consider other options.

    It's as if the ole' channel zapper has morphed into the mobile phone: don't like the restaurant you're at? Presto! Time to ditch people who don't value your business, and find someone who does.

    Here's the problem: most of the investment in web services to date has been made in services that empower the consumer, not the brand ambassador. As a result, customers who are entering stores are fully armed with the latest armament, while associates are generally armed with the equivalent of sticks and stones. Hardly a fair fight!!

    My sense is that we're on the cusp of some real innovation in enabling employees to capture and aggregate buyer intent across all of their customer touchpoints, and then bring in subject matter experts who really understand the customer's issues and the nuances of what it takes to make their day.

    It's like the dichotomy between home theatre and movie cinemas: while you can get a partial experience at home, smart retailers are investing in the infrastructure and services to deliver a WOW experience at their home turf. I think Groupon may be gradually introducing the concept of revenue management to retailers, but it's not really part of their DNA and I think future retail concepts will be more like TV network programming: lots of ideas, but only a few hits that really resonate with the zeitgeist.

  2. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, April 8, 2011 at 4:50 p.m.

    Cutting the cord also has a lot to do with cost. My new Comcast bill is over $159 (about $10 for phone and $40 for internet w/o taxes) and it will be discussed and reduced before they get a check. For those of you without a calculator handy, that's over $1800 per year. Think of those households with upteen expenses continually rising with their paychecks shrinking, living on less than $40,000 per year gross. Try it and then come back with an opinion. Over $10 per person for a movie drives the forces to wait a few months and watch it on line or buy a $13 DVD. Eat yourselves up.

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