First Click: What comes after the smartphone?

October 30th, 2015

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The crew at a16z produce one of my favorite podcasts. A recent episode features analyst Benedict Evans and Microsoft’s former head of Windows Steven Sinofsky talking about what comes after the smartphone. It’s a short (22 minutes) but fascinating listen for anyone interested in the future of tech.

As the premise goes, mini computers disrupted mainframes and PCs disrupted minis. Then the smartphone put an end to the dominance of the PC. The companies that got in early were able to capitalize on the trend and prosper. Those that clung to the past disappeared.

So what’s next? When all 7 billion people on Earth have a smartphone in their pockets, what comes along that’s ten times the size to keep progress progressing? Easy, everything.

The promise of the Internet of Things, or IoT, is that the things around us will be connected to everything else in some meaningful way. And if you think about the number of things you own versus the number of smartphones you own, we’re looking at a market increase from one, to tens or even hundreds of devices per person.

Last year, over 1 billion smartphones were sold. IoT sales could dwarf that with 10 to 100 billion devices sold each year.

That’s why Apple rolled out HomeKit and Google bought Nest. Google’s going deeper, though, in an effort to own the foundation of IoT with its Brillo operating system, Weave communications protocol, and Thread mesh networking protocol. Microsoft’s also in the race with Windows 10 IoT Core, while Huawei has LiteOS, Tencent has TOS+, and Samsung has Tizen. Samsung’s also trying to own the underlying hardware required to make all those things smart with its Artik chips. Intel and Qualcomm have similar offerings.

Right now it’s anybody’s game though Apple and Google have the advantage of controlling the phones and tablets used to control all those smart devices. And whoever owns IoT will own the future of computing.

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