Facebook is the new AOL, Google is new Microsoft, Qualcomm is new Intel ...


The Power of x480
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Facebook is the new AOL
Google is the new Microsoft; Qualcomm is the new Intel
Apple is the new Sony
Buzzfeed is the new Yahoo

The '90s are back.
They’re back in fashion, they’re back in music, and they are most certainly back in technology.
In a way this makes sense; the top end of the Millennial generation was just entering high school in the '90s, and now they’re in the workplace and armed with spending power, so it’s easy to appeal directly to their nostalgia. Look, here’s Salt-n-Pepa shilling for Geico!
But um, hey everybody: the '90s were a decade of excess and mistakes and excessive mistakes. The rollicking good times of the '90s ended with the dot-com collapse of the early 2000s, the memories of which continue to shape the industry today.

So it's worth noting that the broad outlines of tech in 2015 look surprisingly like the late '90s. The major players are set up the same, the fights are the same, and the mistakes will almost certainly be the same. It's going to be pretty fun until it all blows up, actually — some of these ancient dreams might finally come true.
2015 will be defined by the Revenge of '90s Internet: media and tech giants flirting with each other, dominant players throwing their weight around, and portals, portals everywhere. And CES, starting this week, will offer a big glimpse into what all that '90s dark lipstick looks like on a modern face.

Google is the new Microsoft; Qualcomm is the new Intel

Google has been the new Microsoft for so long that this shouldn't surprise anyone: nearly everything that happens on the internet touches Google in some way, giving the company nearly incomprehensible power. It's way beyond obvious things like search and YouTube, each of which are behemoths in their own right — it's all the way down to Google's DoubleClick for Publishers ad server and Google Analytics, which sit behind almost every major website. (Like this one, for instance.)
Google knows so much about how people spend their time and money on the web that it can easily make or break any new businesses it wants. This power is so huge that European countries keep threatening to break Google up, just as Microsoft was constantly under regulatory threat at home and abroad. And Google's ever-increasing complexity means that it will eventually create opportunities for competitors with simpler, more focused products to come along and disrupt it, just as Google and the web disrupted Microsoft and Windows.
The coming Sensor explosion is a dangerous moment for Qualcomm
But while the Google / Microsoft comparison is fairly obvious, no one seems to be paying attention to Qualcomm's incredible chipset dominance in mobile. Android and Snapdragon look an awful lot like Windows and Intel; every hardware maker except for Apple is beholden to the two giants behind the platform. (And even Apple uses Qualcomm's LTE radios and other chips in the iPhone.) Qualcomm has an incredible patent moat and it seems to be pushing Snapdragon along right on schedule, but that's exactly where Intel was before the smartphone explosion sent its roadmap spinning wildly off course. The coming explosion of internet of things devices, wearables, and other sensor-laden gadgets is a huge opportunity for every company that failed in mobile, and a dangerous moment for Qualcomm.

Facebook is the new AOL

Just think about it for a minute. Of course Facebook is the new AOL. Facebook is the beginning and the end of the internet for a huge number of normal people, a combination of primary service provider (user profiles, messaging, photo sharing) and '90s-style portal to the wider web. Facebook has its own IM platform, Messenger, just like AOL had AOL Instant Messenger. Then it went and bought WhatsApp, the messaging platform more popular internationally, just like AOL bought ICQ. Facebook groups are just AOL chat rooms; Facebook's permanently doomed commerce plays are AOL's permanently doomed commerce plays. (AOL's ultimate doomed ecommerce play? The acquisition of Netscape.)
And Facebook's core business of selling ads into the News Feed is the same combination of incredibly vulnerable and apocalypse-proof as AOL's dial-up business: it will continue minting money for as long as the parents and grandparents of the world start their day with Facebook, and it will stop growing the second all of their kids move on to something better.
The only remaining move is for Facebook to up and buy a media company
You can keep going: Facebook is now pitching itself to media companies as their savior, just as AOL once did. Most websites get a tremendous amount of traffic from Facebook; it's only a matter of time before Facebook starts aggressively charging for that traffic. And there's word that Facebook even wants media companies to start publishing directly onto Facebook's platform, ostensibly in the name of a better user experience — being kicked from the Facebook app to a browser or web view on mobile kind of sucks, after all. That's a play straight out of the AOL playbook; the only remaining move is for Facebook to up and buy a media company of its own, just like AOL spent the 90s building up to its disastrous January 2000 purchase of Time Warner.
You're laughing, but there's an old media company — probably a cable network scared to death of YouTube — looking at Jeff Bezos buying The Washington Post and thinking hard about how to sell itself to Facebook.

Apple is the new Sony

Sony was a hardware juggernaut in the '90s — it made the most beautiful gadgets, had the most iconic product lines, and commanded premium prices even when the products were mostly similar to other competitors. Trinitron TVs, Walkmans, Discmans, Mega Bass, VAIO, Clié, AIBO — the list of iconic Sony hardware products and features goes on and on. And Sony mastered the early part of the media game by buying its way into the music and movie businesses; while it could never bridge media and tech, it had all of the right instincts. The only company with a similar history is Apple, which surpassed Sony by combining hardware mastery with terrific media savvy and the software chops to actually bring both together.
Services are to Apple what software was to sony: a critical weakness
But while Sony's failure to understand software allowed Apple and then Samsung to overtake its core businesses, it's Apple's failure to understand services that remains its critical weakness. The tight combination of hardware and software has become religion at Google and Microsoft; new products from both companies are either tightly controlled (like Android Wear) or simply built in-house (like Lumia phones). Apple still hasn't figured out how to expand its platforms onto the wider internet in a way that makes them feel as safe and broadly available as Google; the best-known thing iCloud's ever done is leak nude photos. Solving this problem is where Apple needs to spend the most of its energy.

Buzzfeed is the new Yahoo

Buzzfeed, like Yahoo before it, is an enormous media destination with big technology aspirations. And like Yahoo and AOL, which have always been mirror images dancing in the night, Buzzfeed and Facebook are the push and pull of social media. Where AOL could never quite turn itself into a next-generation media company, Yahoo invested tons of money in platforms and products designed to compete with Google. But in the end, it still turned into a lumbering media giant.
Buzzfeed has the same dichotomous media company / tech company challenge as Yahoo: it's spending tons of money investing in its technology platform, but it's also building a big, talented news team. Buzzfeed content is ubiquitous the same way Yahoo was once ubiquitous. It's both a tech company and a media company, and Buzzfeed's overall value comes from the combination of the two in harmony: when Andreessen Horowitz's Chris Dixon announced the big investment in Buzzfeed, he characterized the company as a "full-stack startup."
Buzzfeed and Facebook are the push and pull of social media
But maintaining that harmony isn't easy. All you have to do is watch Marissa Mayer struggle to balance her desire to compete with Google in tech and her wild spending to launch... basically nothing with Katie Couric and David Pogue and whoever else. The upcoming challenge for Buzzfeed is pretty clear: figure out how to invest in and maintain a significant advantage in tech while keeping the media side of the equation in balance.

The Internet of Things is the new digital hub

This is more early-2000s than '90s, but hear me out. CES used to be a thriving market of things that plugged into your laptop or desktop: MP3 players, digital cameras, CD burners, printers, random doomed smart home controllers, you name it. This was the centerpiece of Apple's digital hub strategy; owning a Mac and Apple's iLife package made all those devices better.
But the past several years have seen a massive realignment between smartphones and tablets and traditional PCs, all driven by a new primary hub: cloud services. Instead of connecting to your laptop over USB, the new universe of peripherals connects to every device in your life through the cloud. We're about to see a huge explosion of gadgets that connect up to a web service and then down to apps on a huge variety of platforms, and some of them will be great. And lots of them will be just as crappy and confused as the explosion of USB gadgets was after the first iMac came out.

VR is the new VR

I love the Oculus Rift, but VR is just not happening anytime soon, just like it wasn't happening for Nintendo and the Virtual Boy in 1995. To everyone's credit, this is not a controversial opinion. Let's give it another few years and see how it goes.

BlackBerry is the new Apple

No, it's not; BlackBerry is doomed. But how fun would it be if Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis came back and stormed the industry, Jobs-style? You know they're thinking about it, late at night, on their yachts.

Read this, fun article with some great insights:
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