In the world of technology, to say that a lot has changed in the last 10 years would be the understatement of… the decade. But even in the tech space, sometimes, just sometimes, a few things stay the same.
Take the top tech companies for instance. Five things have not changed in the US since 2010: Facebook remains the number one social network, YouTube is still the top video site, Google remains the leading search engine, Windows continues its run as the number one operating system, and Apple’s iPhone is still the best-selling smartphone around.
No surprises there, you might be thinking to yourself, and in some ways you would be right. But here’s the thing: so accustomed have we become to the “Big Five” dominating the tech space – and indeed many aspects of our everyday lives – we rarely stop and remember that not too long ago, some of the world’s most valuable companies and indispensable services didn’t even exist.
Come to think of it, neither did some of their founders. I mean, apart from Google which arrived on the scene in 1998, only Microsoft Windows was around in the ‘90s, a decade when Mark Zuckerberg was still a kid.
The 10-year reign of America’s tech giants is impressive given their comparative youth next to other heavyweights of the corporate world. But to an extent, there is an explanation for their continued supremacy.
Of course, the likes of Facebook, Google and Apple have all benefited from exceptional talent and leadership over time, and that counts for a lot. But there’s something else.
So rapid and fundamental were the changes instigated by their arrival, a phase of adaptation has since followed, which has allowed them to stay firmly at the top of the global technology tree.
Simply put, the focus has been on “better”, not “new”.
Make each tweak count
Each in their own way, Microsoft, Google, Apple, Facebook and YouTube have opened the doors to a new world of possibility, equipping people with hugely valuable tools and paving the way for a new wave of companies, ideas and innovation. But, as with all seismic shifts, it takes time to adapt to the new lay of the land.
And in many cases, companies have focused on making existing products better, rather than developing new ones and taking them to market. That’s partly why the iPhone is still number one, and why Facebook is still on top in the social networking stakes.
Same intent can work elsewhere
The same goes for other industries too. Take transportation: while there will always be exceptions, human and financial resources are largely being investing in making cars faster and more environmentally friendly, not in developing entirely new modes of transport.
However, the focus on better over new does not mean that innovation is drying up – far from it. Yes, the same search engines, social media sites and smartphones continue to dominate the landscape. But technology is moving fast.
In the US, it took 123 years to reach one million patents. Today, the country issues 1.15 million patents every single day.
And who knows? One of those could be the next Google, the new Microsoft or a twenty-first century Wright Brothers.
One patent is all it takes to trigger a whole new decade of innovation. In a world where technological advancement is as fast as it is sophisticated, the possibilities are mind blowing.
Just like Facebook shaped the social media landscape that now includes Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter and LinkedIn, today’s technological breakthrough will be transformed by tomorrow’s inventor into something we never thought possible.
The best part? What the world will look like in a decade from now is anybody’s guess.
Maybe Google will still be America’s top search engine and iPhones will still be a best-seller. But there is another possibility that is infinitely more exciting. While we debate the trends, products and technologies that will shape tomorrow, there is a very real chance that they don’t yet exist.
- Tommy Weir is CEO of enaible: AI-powered leadership and author of “Leadership Dubai Style”. Contact him at email@example.com.