There’s always a bigger fish

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Hall One at Mobile World Congress — a single space more massive than most conference centers in major cities — contained only a few displays. Although a quarter of the room housed small phone and mobile manufacturers, Huawei controlled the rest, creating a walled-off compound patrolled by women in folk costumes from many lands.

The Small World After All jollity stopped at the gates. This was Huawei’s war room. Mere mortals were not allowed to tread its hallowed ground as the ladies at the gate kept out all but the invited and kept folks from crossing through the booth. Sure, whatever lay behind those electronic gates were simply phones, and the company recently bungled a carrier deal in the U.S., but the company also recently surpassed Apple as the second biggest phone manufacturer in the world.

If I were Samsung I’d be quaking in my boots. But it should also be a lesson to startups attempting to take on giants and giant ideas in the next few years.

There’s always a bigger fish.

I bring this up while thinking about the future of technology and, more specifically, incumbent companies. If there is anything we have learned about modern tech it’s that everything is in flux. Today, decentralized applications are considered crypto moon shots or, worse, moon bat fiction. In a few years — I’d wager by 2020 — they will be a valid alternative to centralized data storage and application control. Today the token economy is a white-hot mess. In the future it may be the de facto standard for early company-building.

There are waves that pass through the tech industry that are, if you’re looking, quite visible. Some years it’s a color — piano black was quite popular before the financial crisis — and some years it’s a true innovation. There haven’t been many clear waves of late as CES was a dud and MWC was essentially an attempt for small app and service providers to make a little extra money this year, but I sense a change in the air that I last felt when Linux was slowly entering the mobile space.

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