Products have been getting smaller for years, but the pace at which technology is allowing the size of products to shrink has been seemingly shortening with each new product line introduction. The public has responded to Apple's shrinking Ipod favorably, maybe the reduced price of each new model has a little to do with it. Acceptance of this trend is also being helped along by the accompanying desire/limits of today's consumers for portability, energy conservation and smaller spaces.
Where is this trend heading you ask?
Well, with the increased use of embedded computers and wireless connectivity many products will simply disappear from view, particularly those whose primary function is to store and transport information. Data will increasingly be stored and then retrieved via the internet, leaving the need for information tools that perform a unique task (e.g. phone, camera, calender, calculator etc.) or better yet a single tool that can modified perform a desired task when needed.
The miniaturization trend coupled with flexible manufacturing techniques is creating the opportunity to easily create customized products. Many would-be entrepreneurs are responding to this new ability by designing products for micro-markets (themselves and friends).
What impact will the democratization of design have on the designer you ask?
Well as with any informed constituent it will raise the bar of expected knowledge and skill requirements for the designer. Conversely, many pseudo-designers will be exposed, if not tared-and-feathered, and those with talent will be rewarded with more work then they can handle. But ultimately, the demand for well thought through products solutions that address the needs of a user group will continue to provide opportunity to those who can deliver.
As an industry the cell phone manufactures over the last ten years have reflected this movement to miniaturization and customization (think ring tones) better than most.