What comes after smartphones?



For as long as most people can remember, the tech industry has had a new centre roughly every fifteen years. A model of computing sets the agenda, and the company or companies that win that model dominate the industry, and everyone is scared of them, and then a new model comes along, forms a new centre, and the old model stops mattering.  Mainframes were followed by PCs, and then the web, and then smartphones. 

Each of these new models started out looking limited and insignificant, but each of them unlocked a new market that was so much bigger that it pulled in all of the investment, innovation and company creation and so grew to overtake the old one. 

Meanwhile, the old models didn’t go away, and neither, mostly, did the companies that had been created by them. Mainframes are still a big business and so is IBM; PCs are still a big business and so is Microsoft. But they don’t set the agenda anymore - no-one is afraid of them. 

Today, multitouch smartphones are getting on for 15 years old, and the S curve is flattening out. All the obvious stuff has been built, Apple and Google won, and the new iPhone isn’t very exciting, because it can’t be. So, we ask “what’s the next generation?” 

There are several ways to try to answer this. 

First, each of the previous S Curves unlocked a dramatically larger new market, but well over 4bn people have a smartphone today and there are only (Read more...)