Time is what tells the future of technology


Published: Monday, October 7, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, October 4, 2013 at 6:11 p.m.

It’s interesting that smart watches are being lauded as the next “big thing” because timing is everything when you’re seeking relevancy.

There is no better petri dish for this principle than the tech industry where dynasties rise and fall faster than a teen idol. Unlike other industries that bank on holding true to what made them successful, tech companies can become billionaires overnight and yesterday’s news by the afternoon.

Remember Microsoft? The latest news is a growing chorus among shareholders who believe co-founder Bill Gates’ remaining interest in the company should be absolved. Gates relinquished day-to-day control of the company more than a decade ago because his mountain of cash had already extended beyond the clouds. Nonetheless, the suits see his remaining 5 percent share of the company as enough to scare off any hopes of landing a new CEO with fresh ideas.

The notion of a Gates ousting would have been considered fools prophesy a few short years ago. Gates put the “G” in geek. I would suggest they keep a pair of those famous thick glasses he wears because they might need them to see what future is left in the company.

Then there is Blackberry. The downfall of the former cell kingpin is like a bad crash on the highway. You really hate to look but simply cannot help yourself. How long ago was it that we likened our addiction to these devices to that of crack cocaine? You can’t blame the company for holding on to the Coca-Cola principal of not fussing with a good thing. Remember “New Coke?” Bad idea, stay true to your principals. Sadly for them, phones are a little different than soda and Blackberry failed the blind taste test next to tastier offerings from Apple and Samsung. Now Blackberry can’t give away phones. Stores don’t want to stock them and it looks like they will be sold for a fraction of what they were once worth.

Remember that old phrase “Dude I’m getting a Dell?” Just a few short years later we have folks begging the trash guy to please haul off that old Dell. Do you still Yahoo? Didn’t think so. I once desperately wanted a Motorola Razr flip phone but now couldn’t give a flip for anything Motorola makes. My 10-year-old son thinks that Kodak is a misspelling for kayak. Good old Blockbuster was rendered lackluster by a few red boxes outside the drugstore.

The list is indeed baffling. The fatal flaw? Timing, relevancy and the delicate balance in between.

Look at something as silly as Angry Birds. The mindless little video game that sells for a buck has fueled a new breed of games that have people questioning the future of Xbox and PlayStation. Rovio, the maker of the game, has surpassed billions in sales mostly because it released Angry Birds at a time when people were just transitioning to smartphones. Smashing pigs with birds just happened to be the perfect activity for a new device that operates via touch.

Facebook? The social media leader arrived just as many of us became so busy in our non-virtual realities that we needed an escape whenever possible.

Google has made a throne room for itself by offering free products aimed at maximizing the precious time that we do have. Sitting idle is the last thing Google does. It makes sure that whatever we are consumed with involves its search engine.

Of course timing and relevancy is a concept almost defined by Apple. During the 1980’s the company delivered computers that we didn’t even know we wanted and became an overnight hero. Then of course Gates and Microsoft found a way to separate Apple from the hardware business by monopolizing the software business. Almost overnight Apple was deemed burnt toast and its charismatic, yet maniacal leader, Steve Jobs was ousted. For almost a decade Apple tried to get back in the game of relevancy without much traction. Then, when time finally healed the rift with Jobs, he came back, determined to maximize on the lessons he so painfully had learned. Delivering relevant products at the right time became the mantra. The rest is history.

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