Sunday, January 06, 2013

The fifth horseman never gets invited to the good parties

This article was originally posted on Google+.

Yesterday +MG Siegler argued on +TechCrunch that Samsung is the fifth horseman of technology, filling in for the ailing Microsoft, when the four horsemen: Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google go riding.

I have to disagree with the underlying assumptions. We're at yet another tipping point in technology. A few years ago we moved from the beige box to the black rectangle, but the black rectangle won't be with us for as long as the beige box.

That black rectangle, the ubiquitous form factor of today's smart phone, is a transition device and it's going to disappear quickly as the speed of technological change is accelerating rapidly. Of the four horsemen only Google seems to be working on alternatives with +Project Glass. It's possible the others, including Samsung, have working hardware, but the successor to today's smart phone is going to be all about context and user interaction.

I've stood up in front of audiences before and argued that our smart phones have our lives on them, the next generation of mobile technology is going to stand between us and our lives and add context. It's hard to do that without a lot of information about the user.

It's also going to be a big leap for the horsemen to make. Despite getting into hardware recently Amazon is about selling content, Facebook has never done hardware and I don't think have this sort of paradigm shift in their corporate bones, Apple has, but without Steve Jobs I don't think they'll have the guts to kill the iPhone and innovate. Samsung, the fifth horsemen that never gets invited to the good parties, is a box shifter. They know hardware, but they don't know design, and they don't know anything about their end users. Their customers are other companies, like Amazon, not you and me, the eventual consumers.

So out of all of them Google  seems to be the only one positioned to move forward, and it'll be a big leap for them even so. The developer release of +Project Glass later this year is going to be crucial. If I had the money to lose making a wager, I'd wager that it'll be some startup you or I haven't heard of yet that makes the leap to the next ubiquitous form factor.

Either way, it's going to be an interesting year...