Being an Enabler

When people ask me what does, my first impulse is to say that we’re the world’s premier enabler of innovation. More pragmatically, I usually say something more concrete, along the lines of "We deliver business information tools as a subscription service on the Internet" — but the former, higher-level mission statement is always on my mind.

It therefore caught my eye when that same verb of enablement appeared in the newly released report, "Strategic decision making for technology policy," produced by the United Kingdom’s advisory Council for Science and Technology. Following a rigorous and useful description of process and examination of critical efforts during the next five years, the report also identified four "platform or enabling technologies" including high-bandwidth communication and pervasive (or "ubiquitous") systems.

Thinking about bandwidth and ubiquity, I’m reminded of what I’ve often told my three sons about the two sure things in tomorrow’s economy:

  1. People will spend as much as they can afford (or more) to be entertained
  2. My baby-boomer generation will demand that everyone spend whatever it takes to keep them feeling under thirty

Put those two trends together, and you have a world in which people consume bandwidth for the fun of it until they’re too infirm to have fun any more — after which, medical science will consume at least as much bandwidth on the remote in-home monitoring and supervision that will be the only affordable means of scalable elder-care. And all that bandwidth will be carrying the nouns and verbs of data and code.

Developers should keep this big picture in mind. It’s not about the semicolons, it’s about what the user wants to do.

November 27, 2007