If you haven’t spent 60 seconds reading this article on how Google Fiber is the biggest thing BigG has done since Gmail, you probably should. Why? Because it underlines how important the next big disprupting to tech is going to be, even to (and maybe even especially to) pharma.
Tech specs: First there was dial up. Then there was DSL, which was about 10 times faster than dial-up. Then came modern cable internet (what most of us think of when we think of broadband) and that’s like ten times faster than DSL. But we’ve been stuck at eking out a few more bits per second from cable for the last ten years. Fiber (meaning fiber optics)? Well, if I said it’s going to be ten times faster than cable, I’d be lying. Because fiber is far faster than that.
In a world where we’re all very very used to downloading massive files and streaming Netflix, why do we need more speed? Well, remember when you couldn’t understand why you’d need more than a 486mHz processor to run Windows (to be fair, it was Windows 3.1)? Then came photo editing, and music downloading, and movie editing, and movie streaming.
There are new technologies on the horizon waiting for the bottle-neck of internet speed to get fixed. How will fiber everywhere change things?
Well, we’re start with wifi everywhere. No more dial-up like speeds at the Startbucks because 3 dozen people are leeching on a single connection (and one is on a video chat — who does that?!) to a computer in your pocket (who’s bottle-neck is also internet speeds via 4G). So that means any two people in America with two decent mobile devices can have a video chat pretty much anywhere with a high-res screen interface. Congrats, you just invented a way for a doctor to consult from anywhere: virtual office hours.
Or take EMR to the next level: the ability to collect patient data from anywhere. Not just from doctors, but a simple API would allow my health chart to collect data from my wifi scale, my Fitbit heartrate monitor, my ZEO sleep data, etc. Heck, just plug my Kinect and my doc can give me a pretty good physical… while i’m at home.
And pharma? As it starts to open up to being a health care partner instead of “just a pill-maker”, it can interact with all its customers in real-time. Mobile phone apps can become pill-reminders and track that data, embedding it into the EMR.
But the real breakthrough will be in understanding Adverse Events. With so much data now being tracked and dumped into a central location, pharma will be able to see in weeks that there might be an unanticipated reaction with some real-world factor.
For example, clinical trials reveal that 0.05% of people who take your brand get nauseous. Your clinical trial won’t give you enough data to see what other factor creates that condition. But four weeks after brand launch, you see that people in the real world reporting nausea have also been diagnosed with sleep apnea. A quick study can confirm the finding and that information is now added to the label.
Fiber brings everyone closer together, and that includes HCPs, patients and pharma.
Yesterday, my boss’s boss’s boss (hi, @ormshr) asked me to talk more about this idea I have about how certain sites/tools/companies have DNA that they simply can’t escape.
For example, the DNA of IBM means that it will always embrace structure, hierarchy, and rules, no matter what the rest of the world does. It may have taught elephants to dance when it moved from PC powerhouse to enterprise services, but it did so through structure, hierarchy and rules. When it finds a new challenge, it will fall back to that view of the world and itself to meet that challenge. That’s what mean by corporate DNA.
Let’s start with the DNA of Microsoft. You know what I hate? Microsoft commercials. All of them. It doesn’t matter what marketing team they hire, they will always be bad. Why? Because all of Microsoft’s marketing is based on its DNA, that all of our problems can be solved with the rigorous application of office tasks. Currently, there are two commercials which show a family hanging around the house, creating powerpoint slides (and no, Microsoft Word, I refuse to capitalize “powerpoint,” no matter how angrily you add red squiggly underlines). Now, I have to assume this is some sort of alternate dimension, because I’ve never been in a house where creating a slide deck was considered something fun a family did. Nor have I ever heard of a family deciding to buy a dog because of persuasive powerpoint deck. In the Microsoft world, the only reason you have a computer at all is to write memos, work on spreadsheets and craft slideshows. The web? Angry Birds? Facebook? These are distractions to the true purpose of computing: get a promotion. And helping you get that promotion is the nature of Microsoft’s DNA.
No matter what product Microsoft puts out, it will be in service of the office task. Whatever fun veneer they apply to it (the only reason the Xbox succeeded is because it was treated as an almost separate company from the start), the root DNA is all about the “TPS Report” or “Billable Hours” or “Corporate Memorandum.” What do you mean they can’t come up with an iPod competitor?! I’m shocked!
The mirror image of that Microsoft is Apple, who’s entire DNA is about how much you want to get out of the office. Every product they release is designed to make you forget about the office, that you should pick up your tools and work in a park or coffee shop, that the end of the workday is almost here and you can go play. If you have to be at work, at least the tools are designed around the idea of exploration, curiosity and play. I mean, what percentage of Apple commercials involve people dancing?
Even tools used in a professional setting (like current Siri commercials) don’t seem like “work.” It seems like a friendly, fun process to figure out what your next meeting is about, or what that last text said. From the smiley-face Mac that shows up on boot, to the magic mouse that is really a big touchpad, everything Apple produces is imbued with that feeling of discovery.
The reverse example: What was Apple’s biggest corporate failure in the modern Steve Jobs era? The Xserve server. No one wants to “play” with servers; it just didn’t fit with the DNA.
Then there’s Google’s DNA. Google started as a search engine, and that’s significant. Google believes that there is no problem that can’t be solved or any situation that can’t be improved when you are given the right piece of information from the right place at the right time. It doesn’t matter if what you need is a photo or book, web page or blog post, it wants to give it to you. Remember that email you needed? Or that document? Or that calendar event? Or that song? Or that movie? Google wants nothing more than to be the obedient puppy butler that gleefully retrieves it for you and waits, tail wagging, for your next request.
Google+ is a great example of what happens when you try to break out of your DNA. Google doesn’t understand social, it understands finding and delivering useful information. Google could be good at retrieving something on some other social network, but building its own doesn’t make any sense. When it tries to be truly social, it’s like watching Shaq trying to be a jockey: its DNA keeps it from succeeding. (G+ should be seen as a way to collect, store and share all your personal online information, not at a place to display your “status”.)
And then there’s Facebook. As the youngest company on this list, its DNA might be the easiest to see. Facebook’s DNA is a 17-year-old punk-ass, snot-nosed kid who wants to find a lot of people it can call friends without ever having to be too close, who respond to their whining and rants with cheers for more. Facebook’s DNA is our collective Id, responding with dopamine bursts at our righteous indignation and joyful squeals. Facebook wants to be your social secretary and best friend gossip, not talk about logic or complex issues. It’s is pure lizard brain, connected to 800 million other lizard brains.
Is it surprising that the idea of a meme, while fairly old, didn’t really explode on the internet until Facebook made it easy to share these ideas with our friends? David at the Dentist (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=txqiwrbYGrs and only 107 million views) and that surprised kitty (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Bmhjf0rKe8 and 60 million views) wouldn’t have existed if they didn’t cause some sort of protean emotional reaction in our reptile brain. And Facebook is the delivery mechanism.
Think about what additions and partnerships have succeeded on Facebook: Zynga games are all about distraction. Newsfeed tickles that “I need to know what’s going on RIGHT THIS SECOND” fear in the Id. And the Timeline is pure nostalgia trigger. Facebook will not be publishing a treatise on Plato or helping you navigate the complex waters of making important life decisions. There is no financial planning app in the works. Facebook’s communal Id is what makes Facebook so successful.
Chances are that if you were looking for an invitation to Google Plus, you’ve gotten one by now, right? Google doesn’t seem to be playing that Disney-game of opening the window for access every once in a while any more and the “Invite more people” icon seems fairly permanently affixed to my sidebar.
So my boss asks me this morning: What’s the deal with Google Plus? He doesn’t get it. And frankly, since 80-90% of all postings to Google Plus seem to be variations of “What do I do now?” I can’t imagine that this is an isolated question. Here is my perspective.
One: Google Plus won’t work until everyone you know is on it and has been assigned a circle. You don’t remember the way Facebook rolled out, where it was only to college kids, then anyone with a college email address, then the rest of us. This process of opening in ever-widening concentric circles ensured that when you jumped in, most of everyone you wanted to talk to was already on. Not withstanding this weird “Lets let them trickle in for a few weeks before we open the doors” model means that the first few people end up walking into a mostly-empty room. In the next few weeks, as everyone and their dog who gets social joins in, we’ll see how many of your friends stop posting to facebook and start posting to G+.
Two: G+ is an empty hub. A year from now (if not significantly less), G+ will be your home page. It will have your Gmail, your Gcalendar, Photos, etc. It’s already in that dark header across most of Google properties. G+ will be the place where social and non-social intersect. And until step one happens, this step can’t happen.
Three: This is a personal medium. Google has already stated that it doesn’t want companies and brands to set up G+ pages… yet. They have some sort of plan and it will probably be some sort of Facebook Pages thing. Though frankly, if 1+ takes off, people won’t need to build G+ Fan Pages: they will just use their own web site. Example: Aspirin would normally build a fan page, but instead, it just asks its fans to +1 its home page to show up on their G+ pages/feeds.
In the end, G+ has an opportunity to make a serious challenge on Facebook, which has been on top for a long time now (Bye bye MySpace and LiveJournal!). This much time without a challenge probably makes FB feel pretty invincable, to the point where it is pursuing a “Let’s just *be* the internet” strategy (much like AOL in the late 1990’s where your great aunt wouldn’t ever leave AOL, but felt like she was on “the online”). That’s a bad strategy, especially for us users (please note FB’s recent privacy stances which can be summed up as “You have as much privacy as we feel like giving you, you Farmville/status addicts”), so even a failing G+ that pushes back against FB is a win for all of us.
Comments are open and are checked semi-regularly, but you should argue with me via @digital_pharma. It’s fun!