Blurring the Lines
Generally speaking, the quality and power of technology at home today has at least pulled even with technology at work—if not surpassed it. What’s more, billions of people constantly use a wide array of devices and apps well after they leave the office. The distinction between “at home” and “at work” has blurred, if not become meaningless. One can just about work anywhere these days, spawning the terms virtual or distributed companies. And the very notion of a computer is changing before our eyes. Smartphones and tablets are replacing desktops and laptops as the primary means by which people connect to the Internet and do much of their work.
Today, the lines between consumer and business markets are fuzzier than ever. Perhaps they may have even been eradicated. And this blurriness goes both ways. Consumer-oriented companies such as Amazon, Apple, Google, and others established themselves as not just consumer product and service companies. They all now offer business services as well—and have for some time. Even Facebook, though its business fan pages and applications, is no longer a pure consumer play.
Along these lines, we’ve seen the rise of the prosumer. The term has taken on multiple meanings—and not all of them are in synch. Duncan Riley defines the word as “a combination of producer and consumer that perfectly describe the millions of participants in the Web 2.0 revolution." While some see as a professional–consumer hybrid, it reflects a much more active consumer than that of years past. No longer is the average customer willing to wait for established brands and companies to “get with the times.” Individuals are no longer passive; they are becoming more involved the actual production of goods and services. This is why terms like crowdsourcing have gone mainstream. Sites like Kickstarter even allow consumers to becomede facto producers--for a product with an already established market.