The death of the newsfeed

When I got married, my future wife and I were both quite sure that we would have a nice small, quiet wedding - none of these massive, extravagant parties with hundreds of people for us! We’d just invite close family and friends. Then, we actually made a list of ‘close family and friends’… and realized why people have 100 or 200 people at a wedding. You know a lot more people than you think.

I was reminded of this recently by the fact that, according to Facebook, its average user is eligible to see at least 1,500 items per day in their newsfeed. Rather like the wedding with 200 people, this seems absurd. But then, it turns out, that over the course of a few years you do ‘friend’ 200 or 300 people. And if you’ve friended 300 people, and each of them post a couple of pictures, tap like Continue reading "The death of the newsfeed"

Steps to autonomy

The standard way to talk about autonomous cars, shown in this diagram, is to talk about levels. L1 is the cruise control in your father’s car. L2 adds some sensors, so it will try to slow down if the car in front does, and stay within the lane markings, but you still need to have your hands on or near the wheel. L3 will drive for you but you need to be ready to take over, Level 4 will drive for you in some situations but not others, and Level 5 doesn’t need a human driver ‘ever’ and doesn’t have a steering wheel.

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This seems pretty straightforward, until you start thinking about how you might actually deploy this - and about the fact that some places are easier to drive in than others. 

As we can already see with the early tests being done with prototype autonomous cars (with Continue reading "Steps to autonomy"

Steps to autonomy

The standard way to talk about autonomous cars, shown in this diagram, is to talk about levels. L1 is the cruise control in your father’s car. L2 adds some sensors, so it will try to slow down if the car in front does, and stay within the lane markings, but you still need to have your hands on or near the wheel. L3 will drive for you but you need to be ready to take over, Level 4 will drive for you in some situations but not others, and Level 5 doesn’t need a human driver ‘ever’ and doesn’t have a steering wheel.

IMG_0274.JPG

This seems pretty straightforward, until you start thinking about how you might actually deploy this - and about the fact that some places are easier to drive in than others. 

As we can already see with the early tests being done with prototype autonomous cars (with Continue reading "Steps to autonomy"

Bridges and LIDAR

In 1999, when WAP was the future of mobile, the industry group behind SIM cards worked out a way to use the programmable space on a SIM to build a complete WAP browser. This meant that instead of having to wait for consumers to buy new phones with WAP built-in, mobile operators could push a WAP browser onto every phone already in use over the air and get people to start using these services straight away. 

This looked like genius - if you worked for the SIM industry group. The problem was that any phone that hadn't shipped with a WAP browser also, ipso facto, had no kind of dedicated data network access (GPRS at the time) and so would be accessing these services over dial-up at something under 9.6 Kbits/second (and paying per minute for call time), and also almost certainly only had a one or two Continue reading "Bridges and LIDAR"

Bridges and LIDAR

In 1999, when WAP was the future of mobile, the industry group behind SIM cards worked out a way to use the programmable space on a SIM to build a complete WAP browser. This meant that instead of having to wait for consumers to buy new phones with WAP built-in, mobile operators could push a WAP browser onto every phone already in use over the air and get people to start using these services straight away. 

This looked like genius - if you worked for the SIM industry group. The problem was that any phone that hadn't shipped with a WAP browser also, ipso facto, had no kind of dedicated data network access (GPRS at the time) and so would be accessing these services over dial-up at something under 9.6 Kbits/second (and paying per minute for call time), and also almost certainly only had a one or two Continue reading "Bridges and LIDAR"

Bridges and LIDAR

In 1999, when WAP was the future of mobile, the industry group behind SIM cards worked out a way to use the programmable space on a SIM to build a complete WAP browser. This meant that instead of having to wait for consumers to buy new phones with WAP built-in, mobile operators could push a WAP browser onto every phone already in use over the air and get people to start using these services straight away. 

This looked like genius - if you worked for the SIM industry group. The problem was that any phone that hadn't shipped with a WAP browser also, ipso facto, had no kind of dedicated data network access (GPRS at the time) and so would be accessing these services over dial-up at something under 9.6 Kbits/second (and paying per minute for call time), and also almost certainly only had a one or two Continue reading "Bridges and LIDAR"

Smart homes and vegetable peelers

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A few weeks ago I spent several days marching around CES in Las Vegas (along with close to 200,000 other people), and as in previous years I saw 'smart' versions of just about anything you can imagine and many you can't. I also heard just about any thesis you can imagine, from 'this is all nonsense' to 'this is the next platform and voice-based AI will transform our homes and replace the smartphone.'

I'm not quite sure what my grand unified thesis on 'smart home' is, but I think there are some building blocks to try to get closer to one:

  1. Will people buy 'smart' anything at all? Will people buy a whole lot of smart things, or just one or two (for example, a door lock, a thermostat and nothing else). Why?
  2. If they do buy more than a handful of things, will they all be connected into Continue reading "Smart homes and vegetable peelers"

Smart homes and vegetable peelers

IMG_0795.jpg

A few weeks ago I spent several days marching around CES in Las Vegas (along with close to 200,000 other people), and as in previous years I saw 'smart' versions of just about anything you can imagine and many you can't. I also heard just about any thesis you can imagine, from 'this is all nonsense' to 'this is the next platform and voice-based AI will transform our homes and replace the smartphone.'

I'm not quite sure what my grand unified thesis on 'smart home' is, but I think there are some building blocks to try to get closer to one:

  1. Will people buy 'smart' anything at all? Will people buy a whole lot of smart things, or just one or two (for example, a door lock, a thermostat and nothing else). Why?
  2. If they do buy more than a handful of things, will they all be connected into Continue reading "Smart homes and vegetable peelers"

TV, retail, advertising and cascading collapses

Two months ago I gave a presentation talking about the fundamental structural trends in tech - on the one hand, we talk about what we can build on the billions-scale platform that the smartphone gives us now, and who can compete there with GAFA, and on the other, we wonder what the next decade-scale, billions-scale platforms or trends might be - machine learning, autonomous cars and so on. 

However, there are also some important current trends that don’t necessarily fit into those over-arching narratives, but might have almost as much impact in the next, say, five years. I’ve written some long pieces about what might happen to TV, and to discovery in general, but I haven’t written a single unified theory of the future of retail (and I’m not sure anyone could), nor advertising. Yet there is a set of accelerating and interlocking changes happening in TV, advertising and Continue reading "TV, retail, advertising and cascading collapses"

TV, retail, advertising and cascading collapses

Two months ago I gave a presentation talking about the fundamental structural trends in tech - on the one hand, we talk about what we can build on the billions-scale platform that the smartphone gives us now, and who can compete there with GAFA, and on the other, we wonder what the next decade-scale, billions-scale platforms or trends might be - machine learning, autonomous cars and so on. 

However, there are also some important current trends that don’t necessarily fit into those over-arching narratives, but might have almost as much impact in the next, say, five years. I’ve written some long pieces about what might happen to TV, and to discovery in general, but I haven’t written a single unified theory of the future of retail (and I’m not sure anyone could), nor advertising. Yet there is a set of accelerating and interlocking changes happening in TV, advertising and Continue reading "TV, retail, advertising and cascading collapses"

The Amazon machine

When you look at large manufacturing companies, it becomes very clear that the machine that makes the machine is just as important as the machine itself. There’s a lot of work in the iPhone, but there’s also a lot of work in the machine that can manufacture over 200m iPhones in a year. Equally, there’s a lot of work in a Tesla Model 3, but Tesla has yet to build a machine that can manufacture Model 3s efficiently, reliable, quickly and at quality at the scale of the incumbent car industry.

More than any of the other big tech platform companies, Amazon is a machine that makes the machine. People tend to talk about the famous virtuous circle diagram - more volume, lower costs, lower prices, more customers and so more volume. However, I think the operating structure of Amazon - the machine - is just as important, and perhaps Continue reading "The Amazon machine"

The Amazon machine

When you look at large manufacturing companies, it becomes very clear that the machine that makes the machine is just as important as the machine itself. There’s a lot of work in the iPhone, but there’s also a lot of work in the machine that can manufacture over 200m iPhones in a year. Equally, there’s a lot of work in a Tesla Model 3, but Tesla has yet to build a machine that can manufacture Model 3s efficiently, reliable, quickly and at quality at the scale of the incumbent car industry.

More than any of the other big tech platform companies, Amazon is a machine that makes the machine. People tend to talk about the famous virtuous circle diagram - more volume, lower costs, lower prices, more customers and so more volume. However, I think the operating structure of Amazon - the machine - is just as important, and perhaps Continue reading "The Amazon machine"

Presentation: Ten Year Futures

This autumn I gave the keynote at Andreessen Horowitz's annual 'Tech Summit' conference, talking about the state of tech today and what's likely to happen in the next decade: mobile, Google / Apple / Facebook / Amazon, innovation, machine learning, autonomous cars, mixed reality and crypto-currencies. 

(I had a cold). 

This is in part an expansion of some of the things I wrote about this post in the spring: 'Ten Year Futures'.  

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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Continue reading "The scale of tech winners"

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.

Slide1.png
Slide2.png
Slide3.png

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

Screen Shot 2017-10-12 at 2.01.30 PM.png
Screen Shot 2017-10-12 at 2.00.38 PM.png
Continue reading "The scale of tech winners"

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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Continue reading "Winner-takes all effects in autonomous cars"

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

IMG_0069.jpg
Continue reading "Winner-takes-all effects in autonomous cars"

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."

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."