Are Microsoft and Google dead, or is Roger McNamee wrong?


A few days ago I saw what I consider a great talk on TED: While he doesn't spell everything out, and does jump a bit to conclusions, I find his talk very interesting and credible. His vision at the very end of the lecture, regarding advertising is similar to that of the start-up I am building these days.

I looked at the comments on the site, and saw that many people disagree with him, and I wanted to get this community's opinion on the matter (you guys are much more relevant then the TED audience anyway).

So what do you guys think? Are his 6 hypothesis reasonable, or did this legendary investor (29 years, from EA games to Facebook) get it wrong?

Technology Trends

asked Nov 17 '11 at 08:15
Ron Ga
2,181 points
  • How is this startup related? It seems like it is just a discussion/subjective – Tim J 12 years ago
  • The end of the lecture is very much related to my start-up, since my product will be similar to his vision regarding affiliate market sales done from within the current website using HTML5 (rather then taking the users out of the current website). In general, this is related to trends that affect most start-ups, so asking what people are thinking about these trends seems like a relevant question. I didn't want to ask "this is my business model, what do you think" since that would be advertising my start-up... – Ron Ga 12 years ago
  • So then you should state the issues clearly rather than have everyone go listen to that and come back here. This is not the right way to ask the question... – Tim J 12 years ago
  • The guy is purposely misleading people. I remember that "windows and desktops are dead" nonsense from 1997. Set top boxes were going to be all the rage and kill PCs. It hasn't happened. Won't happen. Mobile markets will get bigger, but the demand for desktops will never go away in offices or for servers, etc. – Tim J 12 years ago
  • I've always liked the quote "Innovate or die," Which I think applies to these big tech companies. Apple lately has been very innovative, RIM on the other hand not so much. As long as Microsoft and Google find ways to innovate effectively they likely will stick around as some of the biggest names in tech. – Todd B Fisher 12 years ago
  • Instead of requiring folks to go off-site and watch a video to answer your question, I suggest you summarize the main points here. – Zuly Gonzalez 12 years ago

3 Answers


1 - Yes, the figures speak for themselves.

2 - Yes, indexed search has never delivered well and as per the point above the shift has already happened and the figures speak for themselves. One thing that is not mentioned is aggregation sites like Reddit and Digg which I think still play an important part in what bubbles to the surface. There is still a small portion of your friends or friends friends who are willing to scour the bottom of the internet looking for the next gem. The way people discover new things and share them has changed. People can't find the funniest lolcat this year using Google until it is already viral. Google only shows what is already popular. It's like the guy who retells a joke a million times after it has long stopped being funny. People prefer fresh and indexed search comes too late to the party.

3 - Apps are not better than the web and are not the revolution or the evolution of the web. The two things play out in a different space. I could go into a 2 page rant about how they are completely different, but don't imagine that ultra closed ultra protected model is going to be the new "web" or even integrate with it. Apples and Oranges, not fruit salad. It's Nintendo cartridges on a large-easy accessible scale, don't think for one second that it's going to become the next platform for the free flow of data.

4 - Gigantic IF people wanted flashy sites they would have built them in flash, right? I always spend time pondering why people don't stick theme music or background music on their sites. Like a department store, why doesn't eBay play something classy while you browse their site? The answer is people already gave a resounding thumbs down to this type of garbage ruining their access to the real info. Don't imagine for a second people will be dragging and throwing stuff around their screen in an internet app until it is a hell of a lot better. HTML5 has some other useful parts to it, but it isn't a level higher than flash when you are talking about multimedia, its just slightly more accessible.

5- Sure, tablets are winners. Apple got there first, but don't think for a second they won't have decent competition within the next 2 years. My guess, is that Apple will lose where they have always lost: competitors will deliver something that is 80% as good as Apple at 50% of the price. Then I will buy one and my Mum will buy one and my neighbour and Uncle will buy one.

6 - Facebook will be the next MySpace. Remember Myspace was valued at $12 billion at one point and recently sold for $35 million. Anyone who says there won't be something bigger than Facebook has no idea about reality. All roads led to Rome, now all roads lead to Facebook, but somewhere in the next 10 years or much earlier there will be another platform. It's a foolish statement to say all new platforms will have to link of Facebook, sure they may need to provide some integration. It's the same as this guy now saying Google is dying, but 2 years ago everyone was saying how if you want to be noticed you need to optimise your site for Google. Don't be fooled by the current big thing, participate, but think ahead.

answered Nov 17 '11 at 09:10
1,257 points
  • "Google only shows what is already popular. It's like the guy who retells a joke a million times after it has long stopped being funny" - @xiahouzi79 You hit that nail on the head!!! Great Answer – Sunil 12 years ago
  • Great insight there! Is there a blog where you go into the two page rant? I would love to read it :) I agree with most of what you said. I think that HTML5 still has a long way to go, but I do expect it to be adopted by artists, like the old flash art when it just came out (though youtube replaced most of that, it is less interactive). Also, flash is dead in mobile, and mobile is king... What do you think of his closing statements, about how you will be able to buy a book in a widget without leaving the recommending site? Will this replace the affiliate marketing method? – Ron Ga 12 years ago


What I see is that the market of computing has changed from being mostly business oriented to be now mostly consumer (leisure time) oriented. In the prior decades most computers were used to work and study, now most computing devices are used for communication, either from a bar, the beach, a bus or anywhere you are and anybody you are (a kid, a grandpa, a tourist, etc.).

But, at least for my business, the relevant market has not changed so much: People who must do real work, which mostly is not mobile and deal with many people, documents, formats, information sources and so on (I cannot imagine an accountant doing a balance with a tablet device while taking the sun on a resort).


answered Nov 17 '11 at 09:04
Nestor Sanchez A
690 points
  • I agree that for work, PCs are better then tablet or laptops these days, but that is mostly for two reasons: 1) They are more powerful, and cloud based services still don't run as fast as local applications on weaker computers 2) The ultimate input device for work is still the keyboard - tablets don't have them and laptops are two small to be comfortable. That being said, you have 1B PCs in the world and 4B phones (which are getting smarter) so they dominate. You can lead your life on a Pad and still work on a PC at the office. The tech that needs disrupting here is the keyboard. – Ron Ga 12 years ago


  1. Rumours of Windows death have been greatly exaggerated; McNamee's chart only shows Windows machines as a %% of Internet-connected devices, it seems the absolute number of Windows machines is still growing.
  2. I see that a lot of effort is expended on engaging consumers; I agree with Nestor that this transformed the Internet and computing into an entertainment platform chiefly sponsored by advertising. My view is that we are about to see the benefits starting to flow to the businesses that advertise online and balance of power shifting from media towards advertisers.
  3. Which means the pendulum between business and leisure has swung too far towards leisure and the next wave will be about businesses rather than consumer gadgets. This is the area where Microsoft rules and Apple has no meaningful offer.
  4. If points above are valid, I expect HTML5 to have a bright future. It is a programming language and is good for doing business. Perhaps xiaohouzi79 is right and consumers do not want apps. But businesses do. Currently writing a web-enabled business app is a horror story, supporting it for multiple browsers/platforms is a daylight nightmare. HTML5 goes some way to alleviate this.
answered Nov 18 '11 at 12:23
Sergei Veinberg
429 points
  • Interesting insight regarding the need for and difficulties in business apps! Since software is now moving to the could (SaaS and such), HTML5 seems like if would make those solutions even more powerful. I am still not sure if enterprise is big enough when compared to social... LinkedIn might be able to charge for premium services, but Facebook is much larger. Same for BlackBerry vs iPhone. – Ron Ga 12 years ago
  • It is not about LinkedIn vs FB. Business software is hidden from view but it exists and it is very data-intense. What we know is FB, Google, LinkedIn all live off advertising. So, we conclude, there are businesses that benefit from this. – Sergei Veinberg 12 years ago
  • Pls ignore previous post. Business market roughly equals consumer, just like two sides of the coin. When consumer dominates economy, we get debt problem like now in the Western world. So business software market should be roughly equal consumer. Consumer stuff just made a major advance, so business should follow, like we walk - first one foot, then the other. A prime example of business software taking advantage of consumer internet is hubspot, where Dharmesh is working. – Sergei Veinberg 12 years ago

Your Answer

  • Bold
  • Italic
  • • Bullets
  • 1. Numbers
  • Quote
Not the answer you're looking for? Ask your own question or browse other questions in these topics:

Technology Trends