Fashion, Maslow and Facebook’s control of social

This is the 'New Look', created by Christian Dior in 1947. It was a very conscious shift away from the restrictions and sumptuary constraints of the war, and a move to a very different way of feeling about how you looked and how you lived. It was a move away from narrow profiles, limited use of cloth, 'make do and mend' and women's clothes designed for working in munitions factories. It used twenty metres of fabric for an outfit instead of two.

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This was a big change - many people were furious at the 'waste' of fabric. Indeed, it was so different that some outraged Parisiennes physically attacked a woman wearing the clothes. 

There's a common idea that in some way fashion designers get together in a room and decide what the fashion will be next year. That's a pretty fundamental misunderstanding. Rather, they propose what might fit the Continue reading "Fashion, Maslow and Facebook’s control of social"

The scale of tech winners

We all know, I think, that there are now far more smartphones than PCs, and we all know that there are far more people online now than there used to be, and we also, I think, mostly know that big tech companies today are much bigger than the big tech companies of the past. It’s useful, though, to put some real numbers on that, and to get a sense of use how much the scale has changed, and what that means.

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So, the four leading tech companies of the current cycle (outside China), Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon, or ‘GAFA’, have together over three times the revenue of Microsoft and Intel combined (‘Wintel’, the dominant partnership of the previous cycle), and close to six times that of IBM. They have far more employees, and they invest far more. (Once can of course quibble with the detail of this - the

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Winner-takes all effects in autonomous cars

There are now several dozen companies trying to make the technology for autonomous cars, across OEMs, their traditional suppliers, existing major tech companies and startups. Clearly, not all of these will succeed, but enough of them have a chance that one wonders what and where the winner-take-all effects could be, and what kinds of leverage there might be. Are there network effects that would allow the top one or two companies to squeeze the rest out, as happened in smartphone or PC operating systems? Or might there be room for five or ten companies to compete indefinitely? And for what layers in the stack does victory give power in other layers? 

These kinds of question matter because they point to the balance of power in the car industry of the future. A world in which car manufacturers can buy commodity ‘autonomy in a box’ from any of half a

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GAFA’s org structures as a platform for growth.

Earlier this week I did a podcast with my colleague Steven Sinofsky talking about the management structures of Google, Apple. Facebook and Amazon ('GAFA'). These companies now have around 10 times more employees than they did a decade ago, yet they still manage to function, and function extremely well, producing a stream of great work. The interesting thing is that the management structures that they've used to achieve that are actually very different.

Amazon, at one extreme, is radically decentralised, with hundreds of different small teams all operating independently on top of common platforms - reflecting its need to scale across an indefinite number of different product categories. Apple, at the other extreme, is a deeply structured and systematic company - reflecting its need to produce a hundred million of this new product in three months, three years from now. And Google and Facebook, in turn, have their own highly specific Continue reading "GAFA’s org structures as a platform for growth."

Content isn’t king

People in tech and media have been saying that ‘content is king’ for a long time - perhaps since the VHS/Betamax battle of the early 1980s, and perhaps longer. Content and access to content was a strategic lever for technology. I’m not sure how much this is true anymore.  Music and books don’t matter much to tech anymore, and TV probably won’t matter much either.  Most obviously, subscription streaming has more or less ended the strategic importance of music to tech companies. In the past, any music you bought for your iPod had DRM and could only be played on Apple devices, and the same was true in reverse for music from any other service. Even if you’d just encoded your own CDs (or downloaded pirated tracks, but in either case without DRM), physically transferring them to a different device with different software was a barrier. Your music library Continue reading "Content isn’t king"

Creation and consumption

There's a pretty common argument in tech that though of course there are billions more smartphones than PCs, and will be many more still, smartphones are not really the next computing platform, just a computing platform, because smartphones (and the tablets that derive from them) are only used for consumption where PCs are used for creation. You might look at your smartphone a lot, but once you need to create, you'll go back to a PC.  There are two pretty basic problems with this line of thinking. First, the idea that you cannot create on a smartphone or tablet assumes both that the software on the new device doesn't change and that the nature of the work won't change. Neither are good assumptions. You begin by making the new tool fit the old way of working, but then the tool changes how you work. More importantly though, I think Continue reading "Creation and consumption"

Not even wrong – ways to dismiss technology

There’s a story told of the theoretical physicist Wolfgang Pauli that a friend showed him the paper of a young physicist that he suspected was not very good but on which he wanted Pauli's views. Pauli remarked sadly "It is not even wrong”. For a theory even to be wrong, it must be predictive and testable and falsifiable. If it cannot be falsified - if it does not make some prediction that could in theory be tested and proven false - then it does not count as science.  I've always liked this quote in its own right, but it's also very relevant to talking about new technology and the way that people tend to dismiss and defend it. For as long as people have been creating technology, people have been saying it'll never amount to anything. As we create more and more - as 'software eats the world', the
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