First Q down, three to go
Sure don’t want to jinx anything, but a look at this issue suggests the industry is driving hard on the innovation front and in every imaginable direction, which is pretty typical for a first quarter. This is when you start laying the groundwork for the year. CES is a showcase time for new products, but it’s also a good time for running ideas up the flagpole to see if anyone throws money at it.
Obviously, recessions suck, and so do depressions, though I’m not actually sure which is which. It might be a depression if you’ve lost your job, and it’s a recession if you’re afraid of losing your job or you’re keeping a job you hate because you’re not sure you’ll get another one. In which case, it’s not surprising that many people around the world aren’t so sure the good times are going to roll again. However, this first quarter is a pretty good indicator that there’s optimism in the tech sector as companies revamp their businesses.
In the first quarter, the companies we cover have staked out territory. Seeking to maintain the business they have, they are fighting the zero sum game to the death, but they’re also looking for new games to play. Among the trends we’re seeing is renewed interest in human interface design. It’s is huge, and it’s enabled by a new era of fragmentation in the devices we use. Of course, we’ll probably go crazy for a while as we try to figure whether we’re supposed to wave, poke, or nod at our devices.
We’re also seeing an increase in endto- end strategies, companies build up to the cloud and they’re building out to the client, hoping to “own” the relationship to the customer every step of the way. Good luck with that, right?
Adobe’s revamp of Creative Cloud in the first quarter included support for 3D printing. We didn’t see that one coming, but it’s an indication of the importance of integrated software and hardware design. It’s the same emphasis we’re seeing from Intel coming from the other direction—hardware to software. Nvidia and AMD are also investing heavily in software. Devices run better if the software is optimized specifically for them. That’s another side of the end-to-end trend, but it’s also an indication of companies shifting resources to where they can get real bang for the buck. In conclusion, it utterly kills me to say this, but sometimes too much money is bad for business. Too much free money can tempt companies into making bad bets and to spend unnecessarily. CEOs earn their money during recessions (though maybe not all that money). They have to prune, and pare down, and carefully allocate resources before they can even think about doing something new.
This quarter, it looks like the hard work has been done. Companies are moving forward, and this quarterly issue is a pretty good indicator where they are headed.—K.M.