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TECH TALK: Tech’s 10X Tsunamis: The Past (Part 2)

July 18th, 2002 · No Comments

Microsoft Windows 3.0 (1990)

Microsofts first two releases of the GUI-based operating system, Windows, had not got much of a response. But version 3.0s release in 1990 narrowed the gap in terms of user-friendliness with Apples Macintosh (introduced in 1984) and crossed the threshold for mass adoption. Windows 3.0 also changed the game in the applications software space. As hitherto leaders like WordPerfect and Lotus, dithered in releasing versions of their software on Windows, Microsoft came from behind with Word and Excel to take the lead in applications. This twin monopoly that Microsoft built on the desktop (with Windows and Office) even today contributes a third of its revenues.

The extent of Microsofts ambition can be gauged from a quote made at that time by Mike Mapes: If someone thinks were not after Lotus and after WordPerfect and after Borland, theyre confused. My job is to get a fair share of the software applications market, and to me thats 100%. Few of the major software applications vendors realised that the release of Windows 3.0 was a strategic inflection point in the industry, and by the time some did, it was too late.

The Pentium Flaw (1994)

It was a small flaw in the floating point unit of the Pentium one that most users would never come across (or to put it more precisely, an average spreadsheet user would run into the problem only once every 27,000 years of spreadsheet use). But this small flaw ended up costing Intel half a billion dollars. More importantly, it hit home the realization that the computer industry had matured and was now mainstream. It highlighted the fact that Intel, though it never sold directly to consumers, was in fact in that business. Technologys impact on our lives had dramatically increased during the preceding years, and it was this one event that brought it all so alive. From something used in the backroom, technology become front-page news and it has stayed that way ever since.

Andy Grove described the feeling in his book “Only the Paranoid Survive”:

Its like sailing a boat when the wind shifts on you but for some reason, maybe because you are down below, you dont even sense the wind has changed until the boat suddenly heels over. What works before doesnt work anymore; you need to steer the boat in a different direction quickly before you are in trouble, yet you have to get a feel of the new direction and the strength of the wind before you can hope to right the boat and set a new course.

It is a feeling we have all experienced at some point in our lives. The cheese has moved, and we havent. Keep Andy Groves words in mind as we will, later, look at some of the 10X changes which are taking place today and some which will hit us in the future.

Tomorrow: The Past (continued)

Tags: Tech Talk

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