Expecting the Unexpected

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  • December 8, 2010
  • Kari Hernandez

I’m reading a book right now called The Next 100 Years by an Austinite and global strategy expert named George Friedman.  It’s fascinating. Friedman boils down economic, cultural and military motivations and trends like a declining birth rate to make bold, unexpected predictions (like forget China and the Middle East, it’s Turkey, Mexico and Russia to watch out for). To sell his readers on expecting the unexpected, he walks through the last 100 years demonstrating how quickly power changes hands.  After all, just over 20 years ago, the US and Soviet Union were at odds, Japan’s economy was soaring, China was an after-thought, and most Americans had never heard of Afghanistan. It’s a natural tendency to forget that the way things are today is not how they have always been and certainly not how they will be in the future.

Now I realize unexpected things happen all the time.  I mean Kelly Osbourne is on the cover of Shape this month (and looks fantastic I might add). But I find it incredible that power can shift so quickly and decisively with huge countries, and companies.

After my two days at D: DIVE INTO MOBILE listening to the top executives from Google, AT&T, Sprint Nextel, Palm/HP, RIM and new entrants like Spotify, Flipboard, Foursquare and OnLive (see videos and coverage of all interviews here), I’m reminded that the leaders of mobile today were not the leaders a few years ago. Apple was not even in the mobile phone business until 2007. Today, they don’t even have to show up to DIVE to be the center of every conversation and presentation.  Google’s Android is nipping at Apple’s heels (Andy Rubin introduced Gingerbread which integrates NFC for mobile commerce and VoIP support) while MSFT tries to play catch-up with Windows Phone 7. Who would’ve thunk it?

RIM was the king of mobile computing and now the Blackberry seems antiquated. The resolution and interface is almost unbearable to me after getting accustomed to an iPhone. Kara Swisher, whose quick wit and humor was a highlight of the event, joked that she used the very first Blackberry model to send updates to Walt while she was in labor and ended up with it gripped in her hand during an emergency c-section (“my doctor said, Kara, you have problems”).  She later told RIM Co–CEO Mike Lazaridis that she ditched her beloved Blackberry because it didn’t offer the same experience and features that the iPhone and Android phones offer. Lazaridis struggled to defend his position that RIM is not slipping.

Palm, now HP, top exec Jon Rubinstein discussed how the “market just moved too fast” and that Palm was forced to sell to the larger entity in order to scale and compete with Apple, Google, etc. The success of that decision remains to be seen but he said at this time next year there would be a WebOS tablet and several smartphones out from the new division of HP.

Driving this point home,  Gadget Guy Greg Harper entertained the audience along with Walt and Kara with a display of phones and gadgets over the last 20 years (including the first Bluetooth headset). It’s no surprise, all those gadgets that thrilled and excited us look ugly and huge today. Even the Motorola RAZR that attracted so many customers for its style looks clunky and dated.  I can’t wait to see what the perspective will be in the mobile industry a few years from now. Look at that iPad! Can you believe we had to actually touch the screen? 😉

Check back – I plan to post more on perspective from AT&T and Sprint on 4G networks, selling the iPhone, usage patterns, net neutrality, tiered billing and other related topics. . .