CTIA, San Francisco, ’08: Teenage Wasteland?

CTIA, San Francisco, ’08: Teenage Wasteland?

The last day of this year’s second CTIA show in San Francisco featured an interesting new focus: teenagers. Friday boasted two sessions about teenage mobile use: First, there was a panel discussion with seven teenagers (between the ages of 13 and 19), who answered questions about their relationships with their mobile devices; second was a session titled: “A Generation Unplugged–Insights to Improve Your Business Performance,” which focused on data gathered by a Harris Interactive/CTIA survey.

The information presented in each session overlapped, but the second session’s motto sums it up nicely: “Mobility–The Biggest Thing Since Rock n’ Roll.”

To someone who constantly uses lyrics by The Who in her headlines, this claim seems specious, but obviously I’ll waive a discussion of historical musical importance. The gist of it is (and most of us will not find this shocking), teenagers are primarily concerned with their status in social hierarchies which, to paraphrase Dave Barry, overhaul themselves entirely about every 12 seconds. Indeed, 47 percent of the teenagers in the CTIA teen study said 
their social lives would end without mobile communications. In a virtual world, taking away kids’ mobile devices is virtually grounding them.

The study proferred other statistics proving that teens are driving device and app sales, but what’s that got to do with enterprise applications?

The theory I thought was the most interesting had to do with how teens are very trusting of technology. Looking at the desired features listed by surveyed teens, it’s pretty clear: flexible material, just software, paper thin, appended to your eyes, wearable, a projector screen. “They redefine the entire industry since they were raised on Star Wars,” said one panelist. Sounds like science fiction to me. But if that’s the case, one needn’t engage in the debatably distasteful activity of talking to a teenager to figure out what the next great innovation will be. Just get out your Red Dwarf DVDs and your Douglas Adams and get to work.

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