Turning Points are Hard to See, But We Might be Nearing One

It once would have been impossible to imagine the computing business without IBM at the top, during the mainframe era. It would have been inconceivable to imagine the minicomputer era without Digital Equipment Corp. at the apex.

Likewise, an industry not lead by Microsoft and Intel during the personal computer era would once have been nearly unthinkable. 

But computing eras change. And while nobody quite knows what to call the coming period--mobile, pervasive, cloud or something else--most believe a new era is arriving. 

If history proves instructive, new leaders are going to emerge. That means names such as Google, Apple, Facebook or Amazon might not be among the industry leaders. 

Such turning points, though, always have happened before. Every era has been lead by different firms. 

To be sure, there is always a chance that the pattern will be broken. 

Apple doesn't quite fit the pattern, but some will argue Apple never lead the personal computing era. 

Still, as impossible as it is to envision a computing era not lead by names such as Google, Facebook, Apple or Amazon, the odds favor new names emerging. 

Architectures and processors always have mattered in the past, so many will look there for new names. But some things really  have changed. 

Google was the first technology leader whose business model was based on advertising. That never has happened before. Based on that precedent-breaking development, one might suggest other business models could be part of the next era. 
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