Home ownership is still (mostly) in vogue. According to a recent Pew Research Center survey, 81 percent of current home renters still plan to buy a house one day – though the number of individuals who “strongly agree” home ownership is the best investment a person can make is just 37% compared to 49% when the question was asked two decades ago in a CBS News/New York Times survey.

But outside of home ownership renting is the new owning and I suspect it will influence home ownership rates in the decades to come if the general acceptance of renting v. owning sticks. Individuals are even getting increasingly comfortable renting there own possessions to others.  Here’s a story on renting your own cars, and here you can rent your couch for the night. Here are just a few examples of the growing influence of renting:

Most are familiar with how zipcar has changed car ownership.









Longer-term bike rental is increasingly popular in major cities like Washington, DC.  For $75 a year you can grab a bike when and where you need one.












RentTheRunway  – for the girl who has a full closet and yet still nothing to wear. You can rent designer clothes.









Avelle lets you rent designer purses.  hwy pay $14K to own a new purse when you can “borrow” one for the month for jsut $1,500.







Cengage is trying to bring textbook rental into the mainstay.  The secondary textbook market is so robust, it behaves today as a textbook rental market.







Of course, where the rental model is gaining the most traction these days is with content.  Sites like Netflix (movies), Vudu (movies), Amazon Istant Video (movies), iTunes (movies), Pandora (music), and Rdio (music) – just to name a few – are reviving the rental model for content which in turn is also reviving the subscription model.  Look for the subscription model to gain a stronger foothold in the months to come.

Had an interesting conversation with a reporter earlier this week on the topic of “green tech.”  Green tech has always been one of those loosely defined segments of consumer tech.  Many want to box it concretely – but increasingly green is a story of relativism instead of absoluteness. Many (dare I say most) consumer electronics products today have lighter shades of green.  Their singular or primary purpose might not be to lower one’s carbon footprint, but by providing a unique service or offering they might indirectly also provide environmentally beneficial results.

The following was published in January 2008:

Throughout the history of the consumer technology industry, the home has remained the hub for content. Today, households consume 75 percent of their total video content while at home. Even portable devices aren’t straying far. With 66 percent of consumers using their portable MP3 players and digital media players in the home, more consumers are using their portable players there than anywhere else.

But consumer interests are changing. Consumers are becoming increasingly comfortable with the portable and mobile environment and they are mixing more content into their mobile experience. For example, while few consumers are currently watching television content on their portable devices, 38 percent indicate an interest to do so in the future.

The following was published in Dealerscope in November 2007:

The first International CES debuted 41 years ago. Since then technology has made great strides, introducing a plethora of innovative products that not even George Orwell could have predicted. The 1970s were the information decade. The average household owned just 1.3 technology devices, and consumer technologies were largely used to receive information. Families gathered around a television or radio at a set time for the latest news and entertainment.

The 1980s introduced the productivity decade. The technology industry unveiled the mobile phone and the personal digital assistant (PDA). The fax machine took off and software began leveraging the awesome power of the personal computer.

The following was original published in CE Vision Magazine. You can download the full issue here.

The presence of electric vehicles at CES continues to grow with 2011 setting records on multiple fronts. As gas prices rise and show little sign of retreating any time soon, interest in electric vehicles will continue to peak in the years ahead. Here is some math to consider.

First, electric vehicles are good for domestic economic growth. Remember, economic growth in the U.S. is measured by GDP which consists of consumption + investment + government spending + exports – imports. Every dollar we import counts against domestic growth as we measure it under GDP. This includes things like lumber from Canada, consumer electronics from Asia or oil from the Middle East. If we replace vehicles that use traditional combustion engines with electric vehicles we presumably need to import less oil. We replace that oil demand with electricity demand that is created (and consumed) here in the U.S.

Adding an electric vehicle to a household should reduce the gasoline consumption of that household significantly, but it will conversely increase the electricity consumption. A single electric vehicle will increase electricity consumption by a third to one-half and two electric vehicles will consequently increase the electricity use for that household from 60 percent to possibly double the electricity use of that household.

Technology diffusion has a geographic component. A neighbor buys a new technology— be it a computer or an electric vehicle—and some of the first to notice are those most intimately associated with that individual. These are frequently neighbors, family, coworkers or other individuals in overlapping social circles. They likely live in relatively close proximity to one another, creating a geographic factor as technology diffuses from one party to the next. In the case of electric vehicles, this geographic component might be exacerbated in the earlier years because some of the vehicle manufacturers are restricting the markets where the vehicles can initially be purchased. Driving Demand Where might we see high electric vehicle adoption in the future? Basic accounting suggests electric vehicles are most financially lucrative in areas with the lowest electricity prices. The average retail price for electricity in the U.S. is roughly 12 cents per kilowatt/hour. Many of the states with the lowest electricity rates are in the western U.S. Another factor likely to influence electric vehicle demand is average miles driven. The fewer daily miles driven, the more cost advantageous an electric vehicle becomes. According to somewhat dated information from the U.S. Energy Information Agency (EIA) that has presumably not changed in relative terms, individuals in the western U.S. travel the least during the year. While we don’t have daily miles driven, these figures likely provide a good proxy and highlight another positive attribute to western states when it comes to identifying future electric vehicle demand.

Because electric vehicles can be expensive, household income also will play a role in diffusion. As you might surmise, above average household incomes are typically correlated with higher electricity costs. Only nine states have above average household incomes and below average electricity prices. Many of these states are in the West where miles traveled are relatively low. These include Colorado, Nebraska, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming. The other states not in the western U.S. are Iowa, Minnesota and Virginia. There are a variety of intangible characteristics that will influence electric vehicle demand and the subsequent impact and timing they have on the U.S. economy. If I was making the call today, I’d watch the nine states listed above.

This week Barnes & Noble upgraded the software running on their Nook Color e-reader tablets. Users can now access apps, have email pushed to the device and watch flash videos.

There are a variety of reviews on the web (see: here, here, and here) discussing the anticipated update so here I’ll take a differ tack and discuss two things: what we learn about the evolution of technology in the Nook and what it means for adjacent categories like tablet computers (as opposed to tablet e-readers).

While their initial foray into personal electronics with the original nook might have been more than just an experiment, B&N moved relatively quickly onto the Nook Color. The original Nook was launched in November 2009 and while it was largely sold out during that introductory holiday season, there was likely very little opening stock available. By June 2010 the price had been cut consistent with pricing cuts across the entire e-reader category. Within a year of the initial Nook launch, B&N had a higher-end, full color screen e-ereader tablet and the Nook line collectively was “the company’s biggest bestseller ever in its nearly 40-year history.”

The following was published in Dealerscope Magazine in December 2010:

The last three years have been a volatile period in the history of consumer electronics. While a recovery is slowly taking shape, I believe the next few years will offer as much change as the in the last year or so. Here are a few trends worth watching:

Store-within-a-Store Model Expands
In the late 1990s, Apple’s presence within major retailers began to change, ultimately transforming into the now familiar store-within-a-store model. This gradual transformation pulled Apple products together within the store. Instead of merchandizing Apple products within the category where the products would sit next to similar devices, Apple products were increasingly merchandized next to other Apple products. The retail presence for Apple changed from an existence within categories to one of brand. As the Apple ecosystem of products expanded, so too did Apple’s store-within-a-store presence.    While this trend has yet to catch-on widely within the U.S., it is starting to emerge outside of the U.S. for other brands. We’ll see this trend accelerate in the U.S. and beyond.

To create a 360-degree experience (a combination of hardware, software and ecosystem) for consumers, companies are highlighting how the interoperability of their different devices can provide a seamless experience for the end-user. The store-within-a-store model is also expanding slowly as the more traditional categorical view recedes. When devices move away from conventional category definitions, brand becomes the natural organizational default.

Back in January I wrote that Apple’s AirPlay would drive a renaissance for audio.  Networked audio solutions have been building slowly to a crescendo I believe plays out over the next 24 months.  Of course companies like Sonos and Logitech with their Squeezebox suite of devices left important early footprints while defining the market for networked audio solutions.  Several years ago I spoke with the guys at BridgeCo (who’s  JukeBlox Connectivity platform now enables Apple AirPlay) and could see the potential of network audio solutions.

Today several pieces have come together to make 2011 the year I expect to see networked audio move into the mainstream.  First, television sales are declining which will free dollars that can be spent on other tech categories (like audio). This development started in 2010 and will continue for at-least the next 4 years. At the same time consumers are maintaining their historically high levels of spending on technology relative to other durable goods. After spending a decade plus updating and upgrading video in their homes, consumers are starting to look at audio – something I’ve expected to see for the past several years, but is now just materializing. More, the strong growth in portable products like tablets and smartphones is creating the network effects that will ultimately power this ecosystem.

10 predictions for 2011 published in the January edition of CE Vision.  You can see the entire issue here.

1)      The unemployment rate will end 2011 close to where it is today

During the muted economic recovery many metrics and measures have significantly underperformed past economic recoveries despite the fact that the significant depth of the 2008–2009 recession should have been followed by a steeper recovery. The rate of unemployment is one of the most noteworthy of these underperforming metrics. While the economy will begin to more fully recover in 2011, the unemployment rate will not.

The most successful companies – especially in the digital world – will be built around organizing dispersed information (something I said I would expound upon).  Name a successful company in the digital space, and you will see data organization at its core.  AOL for example – while best known for its ISP business in the 1980s – was centered around a destination page that organized information (including email).  AOL was one of the first sites to organize dispersed information in the form of rudimentary news, weather, and other information relevant to the user.

Yahoo in turn expanded this by building its dynasty around organizing information and increased user time on their site.  Search – in the purest sense – is based on organizing dispersed information. Because the ability to toggle between sites is minimal, sites are becoming centralized around carefully culled genres like technology, politics, weather, or news. In many instances, once a topic reaches some minimal threshold where it can support a following it splintering into sub categories.  You see this in areas like technology (ie wireless, automotive, computer, television) or politics (ie right wing, left wing, moderate). Sites like Groupon and LivingSocial are successful because they have organized around a specific genre (local daily deals).

Today apps and other sites are creating “skins” that allow individuals to highly personalize what information is relevant to them.  These “skins” allow individuals to unorganize aggregated and organized information in order to reorganize it by creating a highly personalized flow of information. The future of the web will be a series of organizing, “unorganzing,” and again reorganizing bundles of information.