Microsoft to Asus, how tech companies are hedging their bets for the future
Written by Nandagopal Rajan | New Delhi | August 20, 2015
Microsoft accepts that one of its biggest miscalculations was thinking that the personal computer will always be the hub of all digital activity. But then the smartphone came along and Redmont was left scampering to offer a viable platform for this new generation of devices and users, some of whom had never seen a PC.
With Windows 10, Microsoft is trying not to repeat that mistake. Even with smartphones being where they are in 2015, they don’t want to plan for a future that will maintain this status quo. “To make the same assumption about the mobile phone is not a construct that we want to go into now as we believe we are setting ourselves up for the future. We look at mobility very differently. We believe there will be a cloud fabric that will intertwine devices of all kinds, even outside our ecosystem,” Vineet Durani, Director Windows Business Group at Microsoft India, told me just before the Windows 10 launch.
Durani said the team that worked on the new operating system “looked at how they could engineer for a operating system that could last for the multitude of devices that are existing today and a multitude that will come into existence in the future”. And they know there are new technologies on the way, ones that could change the way we interact with computing devices forever. Microsoft is itself working on the Hololens, “the first fully untethered, see-through holographic computer”.
But then other large corporations like Google and scores of innovative startups around the world are working on devices and technologies that have the potential to change the world. We never know when one of these might click.
In the past decade or so we have seen how disruptors like the iPod, the iPhone or iPad can end up taking consumer preferences into unchartered territories. Many big names have fallen by the wayside because they could not anticipate the change that was about to happen. And this could be why others are becoming increasingly cautious. They no longer want to bet on a certain type of device or technology. The punts are now being broad based.
Asus CEO Jerry Shen, who had come to India in the first week of August to launch the company’s new set of affordable smartphones, said the Taiwanese tech giant — among the largest PC vendors in the world — was now focussing on “mobility”. With so much stakes still in the PC business, it might have been hard for him to stress that the company was shifting its resources and energies to conquering the smartphone market. But he went on to add that there were four things the company was devoting its time to these days — PC, mobile, IoT and robotics. And the last item on the list is the most interesting. “We want to take robotics to the consumers and that has never been done before,” he told me.
While he did not elaborate on how Asus wanted to do this and what sort of products this will end up in, the statement was eerily similar to that of another Taiwanese tech honcho. HTC chairperson Cher Wang has been talking about how she wanted to make virtual reality more accessible to common people.
Earlier this year the company was confident that it would have the first mass use version of a virtual-reality device, the HTC Vive. But with a couple of bad quarters in between, during which the company has been forced to announce large scale staff cuts, this dream might not become a reality soon. Wang had said she wanted to change the way we consume content with VR being used in the education and healthcare sectors, not just gaming. Yes, the tech major are thinking beyond mobile for the future.
And it is not just the Taiwanese companies that are hedging their bets. Across the tech world companies are working on radical technologies, even while they continue to invest heavily on incumbents, hoping that this would be the next big thing.
They are now willing to leave their comfort zones, or are left with no option but to, hoping to be able to plot where the trends are going. They know there is a big disruptor lurking around the corner and are hoping it is in their R&D labs and not in a garage somewhere down the road.
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