I think you've covered all the bases here, Beth. The only trend we haven't seen is one that mitigates vendor lock in. As tools continue to expand from point products to full-blown PLM suites, I'm not sure that will ever really be addressed.
Yes, there is a wide range of communication. The focus on social networking is probably because it's new and it has facets not found in other forms of communication -- bringing in people without regard to distance or even time. Plus there is the ability to create groups with individual interests. There is also the ability to archive the communication for later recall or further sharing. From a professional point of view, there are strong attributes.
I agree Ann, that having multiple modes of communication is preferred. I think the real productivity surges come by having these multiple forms of communications, including social media, tightly integrated into the design tools so there is constant collaboration and interaction at every stage of the development effort and no matter where the team is located.
I have a tough time understanding what's so great about only being able to use 2 modes of communication. Isn't it better to have multiple modes at one's command? In addition to texting and Facebook-ing, I can fax, email, phone, type or handwrite (printed or cursive) and send that via snail mail, or visit someone in person. Moreover, my brain's vision algorithms recognize cursive handwriting as well as hand-printed letters and various typefaces, and they even interpret hand gestures and facial expressions (something I'm not always sure is true about teenagers).
Meanwhile, I think social media is probably revolutionizing the integration and interaction of far-flung global engineering teams.
The cloud can really make an impact in design tools. The major way this happens is to make more back end computing available to CAD users. As the front end tools and platforms become more portable and powerful, the ability to intergrate back end processing to realize a more on-demand computing approach will help revolutionize CAD tool design as well.
And yes, I can relate to the notion of Facebook and texting as the primary communication tools of the phone for young users. The other day I was driving my 15-year-old daughter to dance. She was either texting or on Facebook (this is constant) and her phone rang. She was startled. She looked at the phone like it was from outer space. Then she answered it. It was her mom, one of the few people who actually call her.
I would guess the social networking tools will evolve to manage individual groups of users who have varying levels of access to the design: internal users, vendors or customers, and outside experts. Facebook is developing and deploying group tools to segregate communication based on individual groups, so the ability to manage groups is coming if not already there.
Absolutely, Rob. My 14-year old thinks it's weird to call someone on the phone and rarely graces his email. It's either texting or Facebook as a means of communication. That said, young engineers are not going to conduct vital engineering work in the open forum of a Facebook or another public social network. But many of the conventions that social network tools bring to the fore--the idea of communities of experts, ratings, likes and dislikes, commenting, search functionality--those can all be brought to bear in traditional CAD and PLM tools to make them more social and more akin to how the younger generation perfers working.