Technology Past, Present & Future with Benedict Evans

Technology Past, Present & Future with Benedict Evans
Benedict Evans discuss the key themes in technology from past to future: mobile, digital transformation, app stores and privacy.

In episode 346, Benedict Evans shares his perspectives on the history and trends of technology. Benedict explores the different narratives spanning across the mobile wars between Apple & Google, generational shifts in digital transformation of enterprises, the challenges of app stores and digital advertising & privacy. Last but not least, he asks the key questions on what's next for technology.  

There's some industries where 10 years time is the next product cycle. There's some industries where, you know what your rent's going to be in 10 years time. There's other technology: 10 years is right on the edge of science fiction.  You really don't know what you know, anything beyond 10 years, you really don't know what's going to happen, except there'll be more stuff. - Benedict Evans

Here are the links and show notes for this episode:


Technology Past, Present and Future

  • Reference: Mainframes, Machine Learning (ML) and Digital Transformation
  • From your background as a student of history, my first question to you: what are the key lessons you have drawn from the subject matter?
  • How does it help to frame your perspectives in looking at technology history lessons and trends happening from the past decade to today?
  • We have passed a decade since the beginnings of Apple iOS and Google’s Android. I remembered a  time where some analysts argued that Google’s android strategy will subsume Apple and consequently, Apple would be doomed based on past history with the Microsoft and Intel strategy for PCs. Of course, history doesn't repeat itself but rhymes. The answer turned out to be different. What did the analysts get wrong and what did Apple do to avert their fate in the previous incarnation?
  • If I were to think about cars then, so there are a lot of car makers and there's Tesla, what stops maybe apple, someday coming into the car business, or even Google coming into the car business, what would be the set of questions that are asked to say, this is a new trend?
  • Let’s look at digital transformation for enterprises given that I have been on both the buy and sell side. I often explained to people that everyone loves transformations but they hate to change. I remember that we used to hear, “Nobody gets fired for buying a IBM”, then something changed, and today, I suppose, “Nobody gets fired for buying a <fill in your blanks> cloud or AI vendor”. How do generational shifts in software happen for enterprises and how do we identify the turning points typically for businesses to shift with the technology available, for example, on-premises to cloud computing or automation to mass customization with machine learning?
  • Can we reduce the current paradigm of digital transformation for a company to just a set of microservices solving a set of workflows in a specific department/industry and a network layer that captures the workflows of the ecosystem? Is it the way how you unbundle every bundle them that will actually unleash the killer app?
  • Whether it’s crypto (or web3), biotech (in the form of mRNA and CRISPR), augmented reality and virtual reality, there is a turning point or a killer app emerges that changes the game. What are the ingredients that will potentially jumpstart any of these industries?
  • Reference: Does app store rules matter?
  • Apple has been inconsistent with their app store rules which led to their current challenges. How did these inconsistencies arise and subsequently evolve towards the current situation?
  • Is Apple’s anti-trust’s situation its own doing or what are the key conditions for the regulators to argue that they are being anti-competitive?
  • What are your thoughts on the recent app store issues arising from Japan [link] and Korea [Link]?
  • What do you think that they would have done differently to avoid the outcome?
  • Reference: Ads, Privacy and Confusion
  • With the destruction of cookies and privacy coming to the Internet in a big way (given that Apple has started to do this since the Tim Cook era), is the entire industry confused about where it is heading or do they at least have some consensus on the issue?
  • You have broken down this confusion into three key questions which simplify the conversation and I briefly summarize them in this way: 1/ can we achieve the underlying economic aims of online advertising in a private way? 2/ what counts as ‘private’, and how can you build ‘private’ systems if we don’t know? 3/ the competition between the proposals of privacy vs the competition proposals on the table ending up with no consensus.
  • Let’s start with the first one, is data the new oil or the new sand as Tim O’Reilly puts it? In the case of the advertiser (Coca Cola, Toyota) and the platform (Facebook, Google), are their goals aligned with the introduction of privacy?
  • What are the best mechanisms for ensuring that we have our privacy? You mentioned that one clear one is to disclose what you are doing and get consent. What’s the problem with the model? Are there any alternative models you can think of?
  • For the last question, are there models that can resolve the competition between the proposals of privacy and the competition proposals? To reframe it another way, is the walled garden approach the cause that we can’t have privacy and digital advertising at the same time?
  • Here’s just the left-field question: the crypto industry often touts that Web3 will solve the ads and privacy issues with a public blockchain with the following poor man’s model of Google crypto search: imagine a user does a crypto version of search with a search token, he gets paid as part of the proof of work consensus, the advertisers pay the blockchain protocol for distributing the ads and by virtue, crypto protocols are governed by smart contracts, censorship-resistant and maintains privacy thru cryptography. Do you think that the crypto model can be one of the models which will resolve the conflict between ads and privacy?


Podcast Information: The show is hosted and produced by Bernard Leong (@bernardleong, Linkedin) and Carol Yin (@CarolYujiaYin, LinkedIn). Sound credits for the intro and end music: "Run it" by DJ Snake, Rick Ross and Rich Brian