Jim Morris's Thought of the Week (or month, or year, ...)
Friday, July 14, 2006
Can Computers Generate A Next Big Thing?
Today's opinion is that the next big thing will not be in computers. Yes, the Internet is still growing, but venture capitalists want to invest in things whose future growth has not already been recognized by the market. As a result, investment, excitement, and the people who follow it are migrating to biotech, alternative energy, and other things not computing.
However, we underestimate the potential of the computer business because of a blind spot about non-linear growth. We tend to predict the future using a linear model; e.g. if sales grew by x units this year it will grow by 2x in two years. Some markets have quadratic growth—if there are x Internet users today, there will be x2 next year. Exponential growth, represented by Moore's law, is more ferocious—chip performance of x going to 2x each year means that chips improve as much each year as in all previous years combined. Each year or two could bring a paradigm shift if other things did not dampen the effect.
What can dampen growth? There are fundamental limits like the total number of people in the world, so the number of human Internet users can't grow forever. Another dampener is human choice represented by investment and government policy. For example, in the 15th century, the Chinese had a flourishing oceanic exploration program, but the government decided to kill it, which created a lucrative opportunity for the Europeans.
"Do the math" often means deciding which of two large numbers is bigger. If investors did real math that analyzed non-linear growth, they might make different decisions.
posted by Jim Morris @ 10:34 AM
Friday, July 07, 2006
posted by Jim Morris @ 7:44 PM
Thursday, July 06, 2006
Who Will Be The Network Police?
It’s common to describe an operating system as a traffic cop that makes programs share resources fairly. Historically, the resource to be managed was memory.
However, in the age of increasingly less expensive memory, we might not need a policeman for that, but we surely do for other things.
Screen space remains a scarce resource, not just because of screen size but also because human eyeballs can only take in so much. The creators of software are motivated to dominate screen space to capture the brains behind those eyeballs.
I once fantasized that Windows might become a screen-space policeman if Microsoft were broken up and the OS part were declared a regulated monopoly. In return for being a sanctioned monopoly, Microsoft would serve as a screen-space policeman. As it turned out, Microsoft kept favoring its own applications in the screen space wars.
Now the closest thing to a good traffic cop is Google, which restricts advertisers to the right side of the screen. Google was the first to discover we didn’t like being accosted by banners and pop-ups.
The need for policing goes much further. As science fiction writer Bruce Sterling observes, cyberspace has become a slum—full of scammers and spies. Now real lawmakers and police are being called in, but they are outmatched by the dark element of the hacker community.
Maybe Microsoft, like the legendary gunslinger, will sign up to be the sheriff now that it is being out-gunned by Google.
posted by Jim Morris @ 9:57 AM