The “Decade of Greatness” Theory

A friend of mine was talking to me about a new theory he heard being expounded recently, well, new to me anyway.   It’s a variation on Andy Warhol’s ‘15 minutes of fame’.  The expert was making the point that the tech age seems to have shortened fairly dramatically – not just the produce life cycle, but the life cycle of corporations. 

I can recall during the late 1980s when I was a consultant to Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) (then the world’s second largest computer company) being told that a six-month delay in bringing a new product to the market would or could result in a 50% reduction of overall profits resulting from that product.  Ouch! We said, I wonder what it would be today.

So what exactly is the "Decade of Greatness" theory? It goes like this; when mobile phones took off in the mid 1990s, with the advent of digital, a relatively unknown manufacturer, Nokia, rose to prominence almost overnight, usurping rivals that, on the surface at least, should have been more successful.  I mean companies like Motorola who had achieved a dominant position in the analogue market but who were unable to leverage that dominance when mobiles went mainstream.  Nokia’s supremacy, and it was really the top dog, lasted about ten years when all of a sudden another unknown, BlackBerry, appeared on the scene.

BlackBerry too enjoyed its time in the sun, probably a bit less than a decade in fact when it too was supplanted almost overnight by the Smartphone, specifically by Apple and Samsung.  As this is written these two companies dominate that market with Nokia and BlackBerry both facing issues of survival, certainly as independent companies and possibly even as significant brands.  And while it is too early to see the emergence of a company likely to displace either of those, it would be foolish, I think, to see them as having the ability to stave off this seemingly unstoppable urge for ‘new’.  In fact the vaguest of murmurings are starting to be heard about Apple whose share price has dropped $200 ($700 to $500) over the last couple of months.  As they say in politics, momentum is everything.

But it’s not just phones; the same decade of glory seems to have struck the huge social media platforms, first it was Bebo, then (briefly) MySpace and now Facebook which, so far, has not proved it will be able to manage the transformation from the desktop to the mobile.  It will be interesting to see where the new challenge emerges from. Pinterest perhaps?

And will the same thing happen to Trip Advisor?   In five years time will there be a whole new Internet experience awaiting the room-hungry traveller?

We will watch with interest.

23 November 2012, 16:33