2008 was my first year in Austin. The year of the Zuckerberg interview. I knew basically no one in tech. And even fewer people knew me. I had just started working for VentureBeat. My badge, which I had bought before starting the job with VentureBeat, said I worked for ParisLemon.com.
Seven years is not a lot of time in SXSW-years — I know plenty of people who have been going for twice as long as that (and many more who have gone even longer). But it is enough time to have some perspective on the event — at least as it has existed in the “social, local, mobile” (I refuse to use that forced acronym) world. So here are some thoughts having just left SXSW 2014.
The entire thing feels muted. I don’t necessarily mean this in a bad way. It’s not like I’m saying “SXSW sucks!”, I’m just saying it doesn’t feel like it has the same energy that it did even in 2008.
Build a great product for people who will grab it out of your hand.
My single biggest takeaway from SXSW was all the talk about battery life. Every single person. All the time. People changing plans because they needed to recharge their phones. People walking around with chargers. People who were chargers. Mophies galore. People uninstalling apps that would drain power. People putting phones into airplane mode in areas of weak signal. People borrowing other phones so they didn’t have to waste the power on their phone.
Power. Power. Power.
This talk is nothing new of course, but it’s ramping up. As we transition into an LTE world, it’s going to be more and more of an issue, as Farhad Manjoo points out today. One of the most impressive things about the new iPad is the fact that it maintains the 9 to 10 hour battery life even with the addition of LTE. The next question is if they can do that with the iPhone as well. We’ll see. It’s gonna need a bigger battery.
To me, the most impressive thing about my MacBook Air isn’t its size, it’s the battery life. I routinely get 6 to 7 hours on one charge. Just a few years ago, this was unthinkable for a laptop (especially one this size). Part of that is better technology, but a large part is also simply a larger battery.
Manjoo is right that unlike the rest of the technology we use everyday, battery technology hasn’t evolved all that much over the past few decades. It’s constantly being refined and perfected, but it’s still largely the same. Want more battery life? Get a bigger battery.
If someone can truly disrupt this space, it will act as a lubricant that accelerates our already amazing pace of technological transformation.
I want a laptop that lasts for a week on one charge. I want a cellphone that lasts a month. I want to be able to go to SXSW without a Mophie in each pocket. I don’t want to have to be constantly worrying about battery life every single time I leave my house.
Today’s battery technology is holding back several other advances in technology in major ways. And we are about to see just how bad the situation is in the coming months. Maybe wireless power sources that constantly charge and re-charge devices is the ultimate answer. But it just seems like battery technology is really ripe for disruption.
I understood the value of Highlight immediately. Within hours of downloading the app, I walked into a cafe and ran into someone I had met before, but only in passing. Who was he, I wondered while talking to him in vague generalities so as not to give away my poor recognition skills. It was a pretty pointless conversation that perhaps could have been a great one if I could have just remembered who the hell he was.
I sat down and pulled out my phone which had been buzzing since I entered the cafe. There, right in front of me in the form of a push notification was the name of the guy I was just talking to. I swiped it and got taken into Highlight where I could see his picture, where he worked, and our common friends. Brilliant.