New Killer Apps?

Barron’s has an interview with Pip Coburn of UBS Warbug, who also identifies possible new technologies emerging over the next few years. But none of them will make a near-term dramatic impact. Says Pip:

A lot of people want to believe that the 45-year run of the integrated circuit is still alive and well, and that we just have to wait a bit for it to recover. But I don’t think that’s right. In a recent report, we went through 18 possible candidates for the next disruptive technology and sketched out where we thought they were relative to “tipping points,” where adoption accelerates. (See chart.)

We looked at all the usual suspects, plus a few others that we get asked about fairly often. We wanted to lay out two things: how close those technologies were to tipping points, and the size of each market. And we concluded, with 85% conviction, that if you look out five to seven years, there isn’t going to be new technologies to save the IT market for investors during that period.

There’s the question of whether people want to change the way they are doing things. Are you solving a problem for someone, or are you just coming up with something cool? My thinking is that you need people to feel they’re in a ‘crisis’ to change their habits. So is anyone in a crisis today if they don’t buy a Palm Pilot? Most people, no, a few people, sure. If people don’t have broadband at home are they in a crisis? Some people on the margin, yeah. A lack of home networking isn’t much of a crisis yet. Having a tablet PC? Pretty much no one on the face of the Earth considers it a crisis if they don’t have a tablet PC. The difference between luxury and necessity is between our ears. In 1975, no one had to have a Betamax. Ten years later, everyone had to have a VHS recorder. It’s a cultural adoption process. Usually, it isn’t the technology — usually the technology can do the job more so than not. Then prices come down. Then people have to ask why they’d buy, which is where the rubber meets the road. We sold 400 million cellphones last year. Why? Because my mom could figure out how to use that pretty darn quickly. The PDA is much more difficult. Wi-Fi is more difficult for most people.


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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.