What’s Next

Epocs of Consumer Tech - Ben Thompson

From Ben Thompson’s post – “The State of Consumer Technology at the End of 2014”

While the introduction of the iPhone seems like it was just yesterday (at least it does to me!), we are quickly approaching seven years – about the midway point of this epoch, if the PC and Internet are any indication.4 I sense, though, that we may be moving a bit more quickly: the work/productivity and communications applications have really come into focus this year, and while the battle to see what companies ride those applications to dominance will be interesting, it’s highly likely that the foundation is being layed for the core technology of the next epoch:

  • Wearables is a possibility, and it certainly seems that Apple is trying to accelerate the category with their ambitious Apple Watch rollout. However, no matter how good the Apple Watch is, I’m not sure it’s an epoch definer, especially if it cannot truly standalone
  • Bitcoin is a definite possibility, particularly if there ends up being a “tick-tock” to epochs: device (PC), then protocol (Internet), device (smartphone), then protocol (Bitcoin). Blockstream, an attempt to create sidechains for non-monetary applications that run on top of Bitcoin, is particularly interesting in this regard
  • Both of the mobile applications that I identified could be core technology for the next epoch: were Uber to become ubiquitous, could businesses be built on top of it? What would such an operating system look like? An out-there idea to be sure, but in the realm of possibility.

More likely is that the messaging services become so dominant that they render the underlying mobile platform unimportant. This too would be similar to the effect of the Internet on the PC: the biggest reason the Mac was able to make a comeback from near death was because the Internet – and web apps – ran everywhere. It didn’t matter what browser6 or OS was on your actual PC. Similarly, if all essential apps and servers are routed through your messaging service, then the underlying OS – whether iOS or Android – is increasingly irrelevant. In fact, I strongly believe this is the future in China in particular, one more reason why Apple is investing so strongly in non-tangible qualities like fashion.

In response, Fred Wilson offer’s his perspective on the core technologies critical to defining “What’s Next”:

Ben’s framework is roughly similar to ours but his conclusions are a bit different as follows:

1) I would substitute personal mesh for wearables

2) I would substitute the blockchain stack for bitcoin

3) I would bet on messenger as the next mobile OS over anything else. We have already seen that happen in China.

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