I used to watch TV -- a lot. In fact, growing up it was always on and for a time became part of the background noise in the house. You turned it on and content just showed up. You didn't have to go find it. You didn't have to analyze it if you didn't want to or if you didn't need to. It was just there and that was great. There were periods of interesting content segmented by commercials -- some of which came up frequently and some quite interesting -- most of it not.
Email used to be my to-do list. In fact, some startups are banking on the fact that email users still treat email as the daily to-do list. As the email continues to grow it's starting to look like TV. It's always on with content continually pouring through the digital pipes. There are sections of content segmented with a "commercial" promoting the next event, product, or activity. It's now part of the background noise. Productivity coaches tell us to check email only two or three times a day and no more. It's no longer the to-do list even though some users are desperately fighting to keep it that way. So what comes next?
Hopefully, the next generation of email will be able to manage content from a multitude of sources and for many purposes. It should be able to list messages by priority and importance rather than time and date of arrival. It should integrate with other tools so it can move files and links from one application to another without manual entry. It should form collaboration groups more efficiently and tie results to a calendar or project management list more effectively. It should leverage social media more effectively rather than run independently from it.
Perhaps the next big thing will be the next generation of email.