I was listening to Warren Buffet in an interview on CNBC. When asked why he did not invest in technology, he had a very interesting answer — he could not tell who would dominate technology in 10 years. It wasn’t clear if there was any such thing as a long-term competitive advantage.
I thought of a word for this – “permavantage” (permanent advantage, like permalink). Look at the past quarter-century in technlogy (that may be too short a time-frame in Buffet’s world, though). The baton for technology leadership keeps shifting. IBM, Compaq, Microsoft, Cisco, Oracle, Nokia, AOL,Yahoo — everyone has seen leadership come and leadership go. Today, each of these companies faces challenge going ahead. Leave alone visibility for the next decade, many of the companies don’t have visibility for the next quarter!
So, is there such a thing as a permavantage? I think there is, and that comes from owning a platform. Microsoft has succeded in doing that with Windows and Office, though I think it will be hard pressed to maintain that with the next set of PC buyers for whom cost considerations will be of paramount importance. Intel owns the CPU platform, but as the ground shifts to a graphics-intensive world, it too is being threatened by Nvidia. Nokia now has to worry about companies like Samsung because it never really built a platform in cellphones. Brand yes, but not a platform. In fact, all the technology leaders have great brand, but to build a sustainable advantage, what is going to be needed is platform leadership.
That’s what we will need to accomplish in Emergic. We have to think of Emergic as a platform for the technology needs of the world’s emerging markets. Building one or two products may be easy, but building a platform is going to be our greatest challenge. To succeed means getting a hundred things right, and not a single one wrong. Only one company in the past quarter century has managed to come close — Microsoft.
The basic vision of Emergic can be summarised in 3 sentences:
– a computer on every desktop and in every home – for no more than USD 100
– all the software needed for USD 5 per person month
– combine the bottom of the (enterprise) pyramid into emergent networks (where the whole is smarter than the sum of the parts)
Emergic will definitely need to build a brand on the marketing front, and a platform on the technology front. There is an opportunity in the world today — as companies look inward and focus on how to survive the downturn, we need to think disruptively and innovatively to build out Emergic as the Next Technology Platform, covering Computing, Software, Communications and Business Processes.