The new normal – what Windows 10 tells us about youth culture

 

The launch of Windows 10 has been complemented with Microsoft’s usual unleash of a standard expensive and uninspiring marketing campaign to drum up interest.

As is now customary with any new tech product, there was a healthy dose of sloganeering that somehow manages to achieve the mean feat of being simultaneously deeply hubristic and insipid. Nevertheless, the TV advert for Windows 10 (which you can enjoy here), did inspire a thought.

The premise of the advert is that the next generation will have vastly different expectations of technology than today’s users. Apparently children will expect everything to be a touch screen or something.

But what level of privacy will children expect when they grow up? Will what people today consider to be ‘creepy’ be ‘standard’ for them? Will they actually expect businesses to know a lot of personal information about them and be annoyed if they don’t? What will these changing expectations mean for privacy, how tech companies collect and use data and interact with consumers?

>See also: Windows 10 may be free, but it comes at a huge price to your privacy

This isn’t an exercise in blue sky, futuristic thinking or classic intergenerational ‘in my day’ fist shaking. This change is happening with unprecedented speed.

Today’s teens are generally used to having their thoughts displayed to the world via Twitter and Reddit, their social life chronicled on Facebook and Instagram, and instant, rapid-fire conversations via chatting apps like WhatsApp and Snapchat.

Hundreds of thousands of them are probably right this very second discovering and using another means of tech socialising we won’t hear about until it raises an eye watering sum of VC or PE cash.

If you’re a teenager, your experience of privacy is manifestly different from your parents’ or even your older siblings’.

Whereas those aged 25 and above limited their indiscretions and hormone-induced musings to a select group of friends, a substantial number of teens broadcast them to the world. The vanguard of this generation is now leaving university and over the next five years will enter the key consumer demographic. 

The big question is whether this change in privacy expectations is a permanent shift that teenagers will carry through into their adult years, or a temporary blip that’s likely to induce a spate of photo detagging and account deletions.

On one hand, many of the ‘older’ generation have already increased the amount of information they are willing to share in exchange for goods and services. So there’s no reason to expect that the next generation will suddenly expect more privacy.

On the other hand, whatever the older generations might think, teenagers are not stupid. If you are immersed in a world where businesses constantly seek out your personal information and you are aware of the price of ‘over-sharing’, you’re likely to quickly realise the worth of personal data and the best way to protect your information.

The reality will likely be somewhere in the middle. The next generation will be willing to share more because that’s what they have always done, but they will also be savvier in protecting their privacy if they need to and recognising the value of their information.

For businesses, this creates an interesting dilemma. There is likely to be a very sharp divergence between how they should cater to each generation of consumer. Of course, every marketer worth their salt will tell you that different tactics are needed for each demographic, but the divide between younger and older consumers will soon become so sharp that businesses will need to undertake a radically divided approach.

What form of targeting and interaction should this take? Unfortunately, the only way to find out will be trial and error. ‘New’ consumers will generally give short shrift to marketing campaigns that aren’t ultra-targeted because they will know that these businesses target them based on personal data and they will have a good idea of what information they have shared.

Similarly, having grown up in a world where brands are bombarding them with ads on every platform and constantly asking them to provide more data, the cost/benefit equation for these consumers will increasingly move towards brands having to prove the benefit of their offering.

In other words, new consumers could subconsciously commoditise their personal data. They could recognise that using an app isn’t worth providing information on X. Theoretically, businesses will have to compete on both their offering and how they limit the use of personal data to work effectively.     

Finally, as Microsoft notes, tomorrow’s adults will expect every screen to be touchable. Actually, everything will likely be voice, thought or gesture controlled. In any case, the point is that the expectation that technology will work seamlessly and be fully integrated into our lives will only grow.

Social media, web 2.0, the internet of things and many other buzz word trends are all shiny and new. Consequently, most people understand some businesses being slower than others to adapt. They recognise that the customer service department at a retailer is likely not to know about a complaint they posted on Twitter when they call up.

>See also: IT departments need to prepare for a world of continual updates with Windows 10

Similarly, they’re comfortable about the shops they visit in the real world not having a huge impact on the goods and services they’re offered online. In other words, thanks to their rock bottom expectations, they cut businesses a lot of slack on how they use, misuse and develop tech products because they’re all learning.

Familiarity breeds contempt – living in a world where there have always been smartphones, social media, smart TVs and connected devices will undoubtedly lower people’s toleration for businesses that aren’t truly tech savvy.

Each generation takes the last generation’s breakthroughs for granted. However, this time the speed of development between generations is unparalleled in human history.

The impact this will have on how people think and work and how businesses react will be the great anthropological, sociological and economic issues of our age.

 

Sourced from Mike Weston, CEO, Profusion

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

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