In the future, you probably won’t use your keyboard to get to this website.
So predicts of one of the internet’s top oracles, Mary Meeker, a partner at the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. On Wednesday Meeker, a long-time investor and financial analyst, unveiled her annual predictions of the technology industry’s future at a conference in southern California. The two big takeaways: people will do more talking to their computers and less typing on them. Oh – and the technology sector’s days of easy, red-hot growth may be behind it because an increasing percentage of the Earth’s population already owns a smartphone.
Meeker isn’t the first person to make either of these declarations. Apple, Google, Amazon and Facebook are all rolling out more voice recognition products and the slowing growth rates have been on display in corporate earnings. But Silicon Valley has been on enough of a wild ride during the past two decades that investors and entrepreneurs here crave any authoritative take on what’s happening.
In the past, Meeker has correctly spotted moves toward mobile video, messaging apps and China’s dominance – though how ahead of the curve she was is debatable.
In this year’s presentation, Meeker’s most sweeping predictions involve the way in which humans interact with their machines. As voice recognition technology has improved dramatically, she says, humans will spend and less and less time telling their computers and phones what to do through a keyboard. Meeker predicts that by 2020, 50% of all web searches will be made through voice and image search.
Google’s word accuracy rate rose from below 80% in 2013 to above 90% in 2015. At the company’s developer conference last month, executives said they have made more gains in the past year.
Meeker also pointed to the success of Amazon.com’s Echo smart-speaker, a device powered by artificial intelligence that is “always listening” for voice commands. Later in 2016, Google plans to start selling a similar device called Google Home that will let users dim the lights, turn up the heater, check their diaries and also act as a stereo.
But even as technology companies bring the world closer to a talking-speaker future, they may find it harder to continue to add users at the clip they have in the past few years, Meeker said. This is for two reasons. First, the world population is graying, global debt is rising and the world’s GDP is growling more slowly.
And secondly, technology has become a victim of its own success as it has brought more and more people online, especially in India. In short, it’s running out of markets to tap.
Global smartphone users grew by 31% year over year in 2015, compared to 21% in 2016, Meeker said.
This article was written by Danny Yadron in San Francisco, for theguardian.com on Wednesday 1st June 2016 19.40 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010