By Charles King, Pund-IT®
There have always been synergies between business and consumer tech products, including instances where success in one area leads to equal or greater development and success in the other. The thing is that it is difficult, at best, to predict or determine exactly how these synergies will appear or proceed. However, enterprises’ generally deep pockets mean that they can be more proactive than consumers when it comes to adopting and adapting to new technologies.
That is a point worth considering related to the immersive and metaverse-related announcements Lenovo made at its recent Tech World 2022 conference.
The metaverse: Consumer hype or business opportunity?
How do commercial technology synergies usually proceed? Consider a few examples. For one, powerful workstation components, hardware and software set the foundation for what eventually became sophisticated gaming systems and applications, a market that drives tens of billions of dollars in annual sales. For another, most businesses and IT staff weren’t impressed by consumer PCs in the 1980s and resisted or refused to purchase them. It took the initiative of workers who brought their own PCs to the office to show bosses their value and benefits.
In some circumstances, success depends on the parallel development or evolution of supporting technologies. The contributions that robust, widely deployed wireless networks made to smart phone adoption and sales can’t be overstated. But the opposite can also be true—you can have a good idea and most or all of the supporting technologies you need and still fail to reach the lofty goals you envisioned.
To paraphrase Field of Dreams, just because you build it, people will not necessarily come.
That is a criticism that has dogged the aspirations that Meta (formerly Facebook) CEO Mark Zuckerberg espoused over a year ago for the company’s metaverse strategy and development plans. For people who have been around a while, the backstory, value proposition and even the avatars used in the launch event bore striking similarities to the Second Life virtual world that Linden Labs launched in 2003.
Zuckerberg and company clearly hope that their efforts won’t result in the heady rise and steady fall that Second Life suffered. However, betting large on consumer behavior and their future buying trends preferences carries a huge amount of risk.
Would focusing on metaverse solutions and services for businesses be a wiser course? That is arguably a sounder strategy and offers antecedents that seem to support it. In fact, Meta itself has been shifting its messaging to focus on how its services will support or compliment commercial businesses, industrial design and professional training. Lenovo’s vision of the metaverse is even more granular.
The metaverse at Lenovo TechWorld 2022
So what metaverse-related solutions and initiatives did Lenovo announce last week?
- Cyber Spaces is a future concept that the company said will replicate immersive face-to-face experiences by providing interactive, physical, holographic solutions for telepresence communication and teamwork.
- Somewhat related were new advancements in what Lenovo calls “virtual personas” or “digital humans” that aim to address challenges in traditional video conferencing by enhancing bandwidth, quality and privacy.
- A new Remote Work Enablement solution delivers hardware, software and premium services straight to remote workers and helps them get set up quickly to work productively.
- Lenovo demonstrated a Virtual Classroom solution that uses virtual teachers to instruct students, provide personalized tests and offer individualized guidance and recommendations.
- The company’s Production Decision Engine uses AI and big data analysis to address digitalization pain points. Similarly, AI features support Lenovo’s Supplier 360which identifies, analyzes and mitigates supply chain risks to help plan for ‘what if’ scenarios.
- The company also presented its Smart Services solution, which forecasts repair needs and optimizes the network of parts, service engineers and logistics support. Plus, a new remote video collaboration solution connects frontline workers with remote experts to help perform and complete repair jobs.
What were the takeaways from metaverse- and AI-related solutions and initiatives Lenovo announced at TechWorld 2022? First and foremost, the company believes that the metaverse holds significant commercial promise and should provide substantial benefits to both individuals and organizations. Lenovo also believes that pursuing and achieving those benefits will require a multitude of innovations spanning endpoint devices, commercial and consumer PCs, infrastructure hardware and software, enhanced edge of network solutions and advanced services.
In fact, the company is already working with enterprise clients to capture some of the potential and substantial benefits that metaverse-related solutions promise. In his TechWorld session, Lenovo Solutions and Services Group (SSG) GM Ken Wong showcased a customer case study with Qingdao Special Iron and Steel that discussed how Lenovo’s Digital Twin solution is helping to improve manufacturing process efficiencies, reduce downtime and lower labor costs. (Please note, the Quingdao case study is about ¾ of the way into the presentation at the above link).
In essence, Lenovo is focusing more on the practical requirements of getting to to the metaverse and the potential benefits that can accrue from that journey than it did on presenting entrancing visions of what might be experienced there. Overall, Lenovo’s strategy and approach are far more likely to spark an enduring interest in and support for the metaverse than pretty pictures and cartoonish avatars.
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