Orange Silicon Valley: 6 trends in IT

On the first day of our Orange blogger bus tour, we dropped in at Orange Silicon Valley, which is actually in San Francisco. The goal of this place is to provide an interface between a gigantic mobile operator representing hundreds of millions of users, and the companies who are creating compelling applications, games and content. Of the $8.2 billion venture capital invested in US startups during Q2 2012, the Bay Area accounted for 42% of this, and the vast majority is in software startups. 

They do some pretty cool research at Orange Silicon Valley, looking at how the technology landscape is changing both within this weird microcosm and out there, in the real world. (For as brilliant as it is in the Valley, it most definitely is not the real world. There are very few places you get this concentration of big brains). Interesting studies have included: Where Did IT Go? and The Coming of the Porous EnterpriseDev Nation and Her Code: Women In Tech.

an introduction to life in the Valley

Georges Nahon, head of Orange Silicon Valley, gave us a whirlwind introduction to the current trends and practices in the Valley. Since the trends that begin here are typically those that then run around the world, it was as informative and interesting as you might expect.


Consider the fact that thanks to WiFi and the cloud there are no more disks. When is the last time you actually used a CD, a DVD or heaven forbid a floppy disk? Indeed, as Nahon pointed out, there is effectively no more Ethernet now - WiFi has superseded it and is the connectivity of choice for most users today. Hard drives are no more, with solid state drives giving users faster, quieter, bump-proof alternatives, while built-in dictation tools are addressing the increasing demand for speech.


Graphical user interfaces are even on their way out, with today's mobile and social-focused end-users preferring the gesture-based approach delivered by smartphones and tablets. The changes brought about by mobile computing and social media are well-known - that they are informing the next generation of hardware is perhaps a little less so. 


One of the most startling statistics presented by Nahon was that which referenced smartphone and tablet use and habits. Around 85% of American tablet owners use their tablets while watching TV. Is American TV that boring or do we have a generation of end-users so used to multi-tasking that they consider watching TV while gaming or interacting on social media to be the norm? Facebook, YouTube and games site Zynga are the top three sites visited while watching TV. This gives support to the idea of gamifying TV programs, where viewers watch their favorite shows and play that show's games to win prizes while they're watching.


Social is driving societal change too, with mobile phone usage habits hugely impacted by social networks and real-time communications tools like Twitter. Nahon called Twitter "the biggest success story of mobile", and it's hard to disagree. That said, the world is still watching to see where Twitter's business model kicks in and the company begins to create sustainable revenues. As Dominique Pietot of Rebellion Lab told the tour later in the week, "Facebook and Twitter were simply not designed with revenues in mind." I’m not sure I would entirely agree with that.


The changing nature of mobile use was also evidenced in Nahon's comment about voice call trends in the past five or six years. In 2006 the average phone call lasted 3.03 minutes - significantly this was before the launch of the iPhone. By the end of 2011 the average call duration was 1.78 minutes, a reduction of half in just five years. We might be using our phones more, but we’re talking less.


Mobile is driving search transformation too. The shift away from fixed terminals and even laptops is causing traditional search engines to re-think the way they work - Facebook handles 1 billion searches each and every day. To put this into some context, this is 20 times the amount of searches carried out through Microsoft Bing. It is clear that search engines must evolve and embrace mobile in a way that they have not so far. To give an indication of just how mobile is smashing down the walls of the search space, Nahon cited Google now admitting that 30% of restaurant searches now come from mobile devices. As Nahon concluded, "Tech is simply now all about mobile".


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Stewart Baines
Stewart Baines

I've been writing about technology for nearly 20 years, including editing industry magazines Connect and Communications International. In 2002 I co-founded Futurity Media with Anthony Plewes. My focus in Futurity Media is in emerging technologies, social media and future gazing. As a graduate of philosophy & science, I have studied futurology & foresight to the post-grad level.