Last fall, the world of big technology was significantly dominated by a few companies. Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) and Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) formed the smartphone duopoly that seemed untouchable, and Samsung was a hardware manufacturer that was challenging Apple for sales, but appeared to be the Android poster-child. Fast forward a few months and the landscape looks incredibly different, as Research In Motion Ltd (NASDAQ:BBRY) fights to survive, Nokia Corporation (ADR) (NYSE:NOK) and Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) have mounted a serious challenge in the smartphone space, and Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) is threatening the status quo in how we interact with our smartphones. And that’s just in smartphones.
Samsung is developing a new operating system that hopes to challenge Android, it has moved into Best Buy Co., Inc. (NYSE:BBY) retail locations to challenge Apple’s retail model, and it has put together an ecosystem that allows it to become a single solution for smartphones, tablets, laptops and home entertainment. Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) has released its own hardware, become a major player in cloud computing, and upped its game in everything it touches — video games, music, enterprise solutions and more. Intel Corporation (NASDAQ:INTC), largely as it sees PC sales get hit, is working with Samsung on the release of the Tizen operating system and has upped its game in the server space to stave off its own stumble. These are just some of the example of shifts that have taken technology to the next level recently.
What’s really changed?
It’s certainly reasonable to argue that technology is always in a state of violent transition, with what Joseph Schumpeter called “creative destruction” driving us forward. The concept states that the creation of new technologies must, by definition, destroy old ones. The process is a fluid one, and it’s always going on, particularly in the area of high tech.
So if this process is constant, you ask, what’s different about right now? The answer is simultaneously “nothing” and “quite a bit.” The process does march unstoppably forward, but there are always events that create little accelerations that can’t be denied. These events are not always obvious, but they change perception in ways that are hard to escape.
If you’re wondering what has changed this time — and knowing that I will receive violent disagreement to this argument — the introduction of Windows 8 has made a sweeping difference in how tech looks at the world. Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) changed the world with the introduction of the iPhone and then the iPad. The touchscreen as a way to interact with a computer was revolutionary and deserves credit as being the spark that got things started.