When I was very young, the hottest tech companies in the world were IBM, Xerox, Control Data, and Sperry-Rand. Two of those companies aren’t even around anymore and the other two are never mentioned when you talk about consumer electronics, the biggest part of the tech world.
As I got older, People talked about GeoCities, AOL, Yahoo, and MySpace. GeoCities is long gone and the other three, while still around, hardly carry the cachet they once did.
No, the tech world today is dominated by two companies: Apple and Google. Apologies to Microsoft, who would clearly be #3, but it’s a two-horse race. Microsoft does have a lot of impact on how we work, but they long ago lost out on the race for a gadget you crave. Apple’s products, technologically slick and stylishly overpriced, are often a step behind in overall capabilities. Google’s products, while advanced and full of features, often fail to inspire the loyalty and droolworthiness of their biggest competitor. It’s a classic story of hearts vs. minds and one day in the future someone will make it into a movie, guaranteed.
The end of Apple and Google
One day, Apple and Google will stop being important. They may even disappear. It’s guaranteed to happen. And, given the pace of innovation, it could happen by the end of the decade. Think they’ll have to pry that iPhone from your cold, dead hands? That’s what people said about Blackberries 15 years ago. Think you’ll never be able to divorce yourself from your Google Drive? That was the exact thinking of folks with 250 VHS tapes in a beautiful cabinet in 2000.
It’s going to happen. It will happen when something better comes along. I don’t know what that something will be. If I did, I’d invent it and I’d be the next tech billionaire. Something will come along that completely changes the way we interact with tech. Suddenly those sleek black rectangles will look about as tech-forward as a Model T. And we’ll all move to the old thing, except for a couple of folks who still keep their cell phones in those belt-mounted pouches. We all know someone like that.
What would it look like?
For decades, the futurists of this world have imagined some sort of computer-brain interface. There are those who think it will be possible by 2030, and there are those who are surprised we can’t do it today. I think that sort of thing will be wonderful for folks who can’t use their limbs the way they want. But I don’t think it’s really the future. People are afraid of that sort of augmentation.
I think the next tech company, the one that dethrones Apple and Google, will concentrate on providing a better life experience. Our devices were supposed to free us from our desks and let us live our lives. Instead, when we’re not on lockdown we are slaves to the buzzing notifications that never seem to stop. Whatever the next thing is, it will have to simplify, not complicate, our life experiences.
I’ll look forward to it. Maybe it’s a smartwatch or smart wristband that learns your habits and helps you focus on who and what’s important. Maybe it will be some way to train your brain out of giving a little endorphin rush when we get a text. I don’t know. Maybe it will be a way to avoid the sinking feeling of an unanswered message. It could be the one device that finally gives us “no mo’ FOMO.” That would be incredible. Now if only I could actually invent the thing.