From the discomfort zone: Digital graveyard

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Published: November 2, 2014 12:41 PM

Beginning of the digital graveyard by 2025: In my observation of the world...

Beginning of the digital graveyard by 2025: In my observation of the world, the digital graveyard is imminent from 2025 onwards. A new art revolution is likely to emerge, ideating with the blend of brush, mind and vibrant colours to focus on canvas that portrays the next level of the artist’s imagination for society’s future upliftment, just as the Dada movement from eastern Europe happened exactly a century ago. That was a rebellion against war and society. Since the Internet started, the concept of digital art has proliferated. Software tutors a person to make digital images where originality is barely there, destroying human creativity.

By 2025, people will shift from being zombied armchair travellers on the Internet’s virtual screen to physically travel more for tangible discovery to enjoy different cultures. By 2025, developed countries will bring the revolution of designing the human interface of any product or service to be warm, vibrant and inviting like flesh that will sit on a digital skeleton. This physical touch seduction and feel will inspire innovation in the urge for the next.

Art of mechanical edge: Gramophone, the first musical reproduction entertainment instrument from the last century, had hallucinating design edge. Instrument styles were recognisable, they were very different country-wise and even within competitors in a country. Using the same mechanical function, these delivered outstanding craftsmanship before electrical devices arrived around 1924. But the customer interface of all current digital products look similar, with barely any distinction among them. Due to digital technology, the output will be the same too, so how does the industry differentiate low to high pricing? At least in a low- to high-cost automobile, you can enjoy the basic to luxury difference due to engine, speed, quality and fit and finish. In a mobile handset though, it’s difficult to understand the logic of price differentiation hierarchy.

Mobile phones or tablets are like varieties of rice: Huge R&D spends make the screen size a few inches big or small, there’s an overdose of digital gimmicks with no rationale between need vs the unnecessary. Like varieties of rice, new launches come every six months confusing your two hands, two eyes and one brain. When you travel to a foreign country and forget to switch off mobile data, you suddenly get a bill of R50,000-R1 lakh on returning to India. Totally surprised, you can complain to the service provider, saying you did not use such data abroad, the answer you’ll get is your apps were continuously updating your mobile device. Should the customer get cheated for owning a costly phone and not being trained on its umpteen features? The manufacturer and service provider happily made this lollipop for the masses to suck and be fooled. But the day is coming that’ll send all these things to the digital graveyard.

TV set fooling us: Cumbersome and cubical, yesterday’s TV set takes too much space; bigger the screen, larger the cube. That’s all changed with digital innovation. Now, TVs are slim, with better picture quality and super advantage of wall fixing, saving space. Then came further innovation, curved Panavision TV. Taking you back to occupying the same cubic space at home without further benefit, such torturous innovation after frivolous innovation is discrediting the digital world, blaming it of befooling customers to spend money.

Commoditisation: The interface of digital products is getting totally commoditised due to its linear character. Anybody can mass produce and mass distribute such consuming products, collapsing all entry barriers. Actually, with software driving user connect nowadays, companies perceive hardware is becoming irrelevant. With minimal focus on the hardware interface, products are looking very generic. If it’s so easy to achieve human connect, cosmetics companies like L’Oreal, Estee Lauder, among others, would not have existed. By nature, people always prefer to embellish their look for others in society. So hardware of digital devices also require L’Orealish embellishment.

De-commoditisation: Swatch watch is my favourite example of how to de-commoditise a digital brand. The Swatch strategy has been to disrupt the interface of its digital product. The watch runs digitally on a printed circuit board, but its interface is totally analog driven. Swatch has never allowed the visual face of its digital timing to become generic. While being a low-cost, mass watch since 1981, Swatch still runs a prestigious reputation of being a trendy Swiss brand with a specific Swatch culture. Sales volume has enabled Swatch to grow tremendously profitable, allowing it to acquire most of the premium to luxury global watch brands.

Digital backbone is just a skeleton: The repetitive character of any digital interface is too boring, it kills visual elegance. Much ahead of its time, Swatch has managed to co-opt and embed the digital system as the skeleton inside its products, and titillate customers with a swanky external face. Undoubtedly, nobody can deny that digital technology is the essential backbone. By considering it only as skeleton, the flesh of human skill, creativity and embellishment can grow. At a German airport the other day, I saw a very high-tech Bluetooth wireless headphone. What heightened my thrill was its round carry case with a feel of jute cloth. So everything in this headphone looked analog, while having an outstanding digital skeleton.

Terrorism and other kinds of propaganda and garbage that spread through social networking are influencing children to leave their homes for jihad. I’ve witnessed parents traumatised by such happenings in France. Persons with malicious intention can spy on people who innocently and foolishly virtually expose their personal details for their friends on social networks. People in developed countries where this technology was born and is flourishing, are seriously beginning to revolt against such social espionage that different portals practice.

The digital aspect will never go away, but by 2025, it will be like water and electric light, which are commodities we cannot do without. It will become a basic, inevitable and necessary slave and commodity of human society.

Shombit Sengupta is a global consultant on unique customer centricity strategy to execution excellence for top management. Reach him at

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