The tech industry used to think big.
As early as 1977, when personal computers were expensive and impractical mystery boxes with no apparent utility or business prospects, the young Bill Gates and Paul Allen were already working toward a future in which we would see “a computer on every desk and in every home.” And in the late 1990s, when it was far from clear that they would ever make a penny from their unusual search engine, the audacious founders of Google were planning to organize every bit of data on the planet — and make it available to everyone, free.
These were dreams of vast breadth: The founders of Microsoft, Google, Facebook and many of the rest of today’s tech giants were not content to win over just some people to their future. They weren’t going after simply the rich, or Americans or Westerners. They planned to radically alter how the world did business so the impossible became a reality for everyone.
Whatever happened to the tech industry’s grand, democratic visions of the future?
With a few taps on a phone, for a fee, today’s hottest start-ups will help people on the lowest rungs of the 1 percent live like their betters in the 0.1 percent. These services give the modestly wealthy a chance to enjoy the cooks, cleaners, drivers, personal assistants and all the other lavish appointments that have defined extravagant wealth. As one critic tweeted, San Francisco’s tech industry “is focused on solving one problem: What is my mother no longer doing for me?”
No, no, say the start-ups that, today, look as if they’re targeting the rich. The nature of the tech business is that costs come down. Through repeated innovation and delivery at scale, the supercomputers of the 1960s became the PCs of the 1980s, which in turn became the smartphones of the 2010s. The rich subsidize the rest of us — were it not for the suckers who spent more than $10,000 on early versions of the Mac, Apple might not have survived to build the iPhone, in turn begetting an era of affordable pocket supercomputers.
This is the basic defense of the new wave of on-demand start-ups: If their rosiest visions of growth come true, they’ll achieve a scale that will let them reduce prices, and in that way offer services that could radically alter how even ordinary people conduct their lives.
It is a plausible vision — but an unlikely one. To achieve the scale that will enable the start-ups to reach a wider audience, everything for these companies will have to go right, and success will have to feed on itself. That happens rarely in the tech world.
The Latest on: Tech Boom
via Google News
The Latest on: Tech Boom
- Coming Recession Will End Decade-Long Boom and Test California’s Resiliencyon March 23, 2020 at 12:30 pm
And while the tech sector that has driven so much of the state’s economic growth may very well ... which is particularly prone to whipsawing with each boom and bust. We may not know the extent of the ...
- The dot-com bubble burst 20 years ago this month — here's what tech experts say were the biggest lessons as coronavirus triggers another tech crashon March 22, 2020 at 7:47 pm
This month marks the 20th anniversary of the dotcom bubble bursting. Experts say it offers key lessons as coronavirus triggers another crash.
- Points of Progress: Serbia’s tech boom draws workers, and moreon March 20, 2020 at 2:56 pm
In good news: A tech renaissance in Serbia is keeping skilled workers in the country, global carbon emissions from electricity use dropped, and more.
- The perfect cocktail for a remote working boomon March 20, 2020 at 6:00 am
Even before the coronavirus forced companies all over the world to adopt remote working, there’s been a rapid emergence of software and tech platforms that power remote work. Now that coronavirus has ...
- Insights: China's Tech Boomon March 19, 2020 at 10:59 am
FORTUNE On-Demand ...
- NZ suffers unexpected boom in SIM swapping attackson March 18, 2020 at 9:10 am
In other findings from the report: CERT NZ said it had seen an increase in scam calls trying to extract information from people. A large portion were tech support scams. Automated calls claiming to ...
- Amazon hiring 100,000 warehouse workers amid coronavirus boomon March 17, 2020 at 2:08 pm
(Amazon's corporate office, like that of many other tech firms, is now operating with the vast majority of full-time staff remote as Seattle and the Bay Area are both under shelter-in-place orders to ...
- 8 ways tech pros are helping healthcare providers cope with coronaviruson March 17, 2020 at 11:01 am
Smart office tech meets physical security in new products from Targus & HP 4:44 How to set up your Raspberry Pi 3 Model A+ 10:20 Stopping the brain drain: Why universities need to hold onto ...
- Arizona Boom Draws Californians and Changes Political Hueon March 15, 2020 at 2:04 am
A decade after the recession hit hard, Arizona’s economy is a magnet for technology companies and for workers seeking an affordable middle-class life.
- The Limits of the Black Tech Boomon March 12, 2020 at 9:00 pm
Tandy Caraway was an early adopter when it came to tech. Upon entering college at the University of Texas at Dallas in the ’90s, she found herself immersed in the newly booming world of computer ...
via Bing News