The State of Tech

I often get asked about the state of the tech industry when I share bigger picture trends with companies we work with. Up to this point, I have been articulating the tech industry as being in a bit of a lull while we wait for the next major category or paradigm of computing to shift. I have since shifted to describe the tech industry as being in transition and not necessarily a lull.

It sounds odd to describe an entire industry as in transition, but when you step back and look at the forest in the trees, it becomes clear the tech industry is moving toward a moment when technology can be labeled by a few categories or industries to when every industry and product category becomes a part of the technological whole.

Just look at how many big problems technology companies are looking to solve and how each of these are still in their infancy. Machine learning, artificial intelligence, robotics, autonomy, logistics, agriculture, smart grids, and smart cities, education, retail and commerce, health and wellness, home and living spaces, transportation, and the list could keep going. The broad point of that list is to show how little, or how immature technology is as a whole even if it exists in some of those industries.

The history of computing has focused on a specific computing product like a desktop or notebook, then the smartphone and tablet. But with those categories maturing, the much bigger world is becoming tech’s playground.

This is a good evolutionary path for what we consider technology today, but it is also one that is harder to measure, or sometimes see, and also one that will take much longer to manifest as a whole. As we think about this, there are two fundamental things still needing to happen before we could see an inflection point of the “technolofication” of everything.

Continued Advances in Semiconductors
I’ve written several articles on the semiconductor golden age, but the point still stands that needed innovation in silicon at the CPU/GPU/accelerator and overall architecture design is still needed. We still, and may never, have enough computed power to fulfill the needs of industries from a technology standpoint.

We have come a long way with semiconductors, but there is still a long way to go. A big question is if we will get there with pure silicon-based technologies or whether something like Quantum computing designs are necessary in order to lead us to the breakthroughs that bring tech to the next level.

Besides advances in process technology, for example, we are just entering the 7nm phase for core computing silicon, which will bring advances in power and performance. However, innovation and creativity in the architecture design and overall system of the silicon as well. This goes beyond just one chip and focuses more on how all the different pieces of silicon work together as a complete system. One thing mentioned here has been the chiplet architecture, which has enabled design innovation as well as faster time to market, but I still sense new architectural system innovations are still ahead.

The other critical component is 5G. I know the pushback I get from readers who still don’t see the value or need for 5G, and I’ll go into a much deeper article on this point I’m about to make at some point. But, the best way to think about 5G is that it is the way we will bring high speeds, low-latency, long battery life, and more to everything beyond the smartphone. Yes, 5G will have benefits for your smartphone, but 5G is really the first time we see a path to bring connectivity to all the other IoT products that need for mission-critical applications. Edge computing for visual processing, smart cities, and smart grids, autonomy, robotics, etc., are the things 5G is really built for.

5G is barely into its first inning. And while by the end of 2021 it will be common in the vast majority of smartphones sold, 5G is truly about enabling the broader world of computing objects and connecting them to the Internet in ways that enable computing and connectivity in ways we have not had before.

In my broader discussions on trends and my current way of explaining tech as being in a transition, it is important to set a baseline expectation that this transition may take much longer than people realize. 2025 is likely the earliest we see the fruits of the labor of work going into new silicon designs and 5G infrastructure. Even in 2025, we may still feel like we have not progressed much from today since these things move gradually.

This is not to say interesting things won’t happen between now and then but that we just went through a time when over the course of 10 years we saw significant innovation in core consumer computing product. Because of that intense period of innovation and adoption of technology, this next phase will feel rather boring, perhaps. But the point of this article, and others I’ll write over this time horizon, is to help set a baseline of expectations along with some of the innovation points along the timeline to watch for which will help enable the more obvious market solutions we can point to along the way.

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Ben Bajarin

Ben Bajarin is a Principal Analyst and the head of primary research at Creative Strategies, Inc - An industry analysis, market intelligence and research firm located in Silicon Valley. His primary focus is consumer technology and market trend research and he is responsible for studying over 30 countries. Full Bio

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