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martes, 23 de septiembre de 2014
Opinion: An Oracle without Ellison is like an Apple without Jobs
Apple, Microsoft, Intel and now Oracle have lost their leaders, bringing an end to true innovation
For the stock market and all who love technology, it is quite a kick in the head: One is dead and three now retired.
The giants — the generators — of History’s Great Technology Boom in the form of Apple’s AAPL, +1.42% Steve Jobs, Microsoft’s MSFT, -0.72% Bill Gates, Intel’sINTC, -0.19% Andy Grove and now Oracle’s ORCL, -1.54% Larry Ellison, who announced his retirement as chief executive officer last week, are either going or officially gone. (Sure, Ellison, who turned 70 last month, will be on the payroll as executive chairman and chief technology officer, meaning he will meddle here and there. He co-founded Oracle in 1977.)
These four were a point of pride and economic growth for huge swaths of the technology world. For more than a generation, they spun innovation out of air and gave a volatile field a steady mooring. It is only a slight overstatement to dub them technology’s Lords of All Creation. And now the Four Lords are all gone, and there is nothing we can do about it.
We can, though, dispense with the laments and look forward. Even without the Four Lords, there is probably no need for investors to throw their hopes over a bridge railing, right?
After all, just as the Big Four of the New York Yankees will come to a close shortly with the retirement of Derek Jeter and be replaced by — well, something — so, too, will technology’s Four Lords be replaced by — well, what exactly?
Every 15-year-old is an app waiting to happen.
First up, reality. Technology’s Four Lords were able to form near-monopolies — or at least ridiculously dominant companies — because they sort of invented technology. But now, with fragmentation and maturing markets, even Apple faces competition from enough quarters to fill a roll. Moreover, the Four Lords were basically able to sneak up on the world. Few, if any, were paying attention, as Gates, Jobs and Ellison were busy dropping out of college to dream chase.
As a result, we may never see other lords as dominant for so long. Technology just doesn’t work like that anymore. An increased level of volatility will follow.
These days, there is hardly an ambition or wrinkle of innovation that someone/somewhere is not shouting to the skies about on CNBC or over the Internet. Harness that to the fact that the tools of technological innovation are far more accessible than they were in the days of yore and the market for ideas has become way more efficient and liquid, which means opportunities for domineering Lords of the Future will become limited.
Every 15-year-old is an app waiting to happen. Andy Grove, who famously wrote in his estimation of business that “only the paranoid survive,” probably didn’t know the half of it.
It is not only a near clinical level of paranoia that tomorrow’s Lords will have to sport. They will also have to be good mergers-and-acquisitions operators. With innovation moving so quickly and from such varied sources (see: 15-year-old), tomorrow’s Lords will have to integrate rather than merely innovate their way to financial superstardom. Think about it: Apple, Microsoft and Intel did not really make acquisitions by the cartload early on. Oracle was an acquirer, but these days you are already seeing the likes of Google GOOG, -0.81% FacebookFB, +1.31% and Twitter TWTR, +0.29% make sizeable acquisitions more early and often. Look for more.
Honing the ability to find the right purchase and bring it into the fold will be a supreme value. The extreme valuations of today’s technology companies compared to those of yesterday’s will make consummating the acquisitions easier. But that’s not the challenge; the true challenge is making them work. That is why though the Four Lords were generally lone wolves, Tomorrow’s Lords might partner up with high-profile merger men and women.
Leadership always reinvents. Rest assured, it will here too. Problem is, it’s quite a trick to emerge in the wake of a legend. Derek Jeter, a Hall of Famer in waiting, may be followed by Stephen Drew, current owner of 0.155 batting average. Likewise, it will be hard, if not impossible, to follow all the wonderful innovation and paranoia we saw from Jobs, Gates, Grove and Ellison. That doesn’t mean that — for either technology or the Yankees — we should throw hope away. Just perch it on that bridge ledge for a spell.