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Who Will Be Here One Generation From Now?

By - August 01, 2011

crystal-ball-2.jpg (image) I just re-read my post explaining What We Hath Wrought, the book I am currently working on. (Yes, I know that’s a dangling participle, Mom). And it strikes me I might ask you all this question: Which company do you think will be around, and let me add – around and thriving – one generation from now?

I could install a widget and let you vote for a company, but that’s the easy way out. I’m looking for folks willing to take the time to name a company in the comments or maybe on Twitter (#wwhw), and defend why you think, when my kids grow up, that company will still be a dominant force in our culture. In a month or so, I’ll have redone the site, and added Disqus, but for now, it’s hard to comment, and hard to follow them. Sorry about that. But stay old school with me for a minute, and help me with this, will ya?

I’ll throw out a few names to get you started. And after you all answer, I’ll give you my gut feel:

- Apple

- Amazon

-AT&T

- eBay

- Facebook

- Foursquare

- Google

- Groupon

- HP

- Intel

- LinkedIn

- Microsoft

- Twitter

- Verizon

- Yahoo

- Zynga

I’m sure I missed any number of companies, so tell me what you think. Who will be a dominant force one generation from now? And why?


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13 thoughts on “Who Will Be Here One Generation From Now?

  1. Jordan says:

    Gut feeling, the following will still be around:
    – Apple
    – Amazon
    – eBay
    – Facebook (though in a different form)
    – Google
    – HP
    – Intel
    – Twitter
    – Verizon

    The following will be gone:
    – Foursquare
    – AT&T
    – Groupon
    – LinkedIn
    – Microsoft
    – Zynga
    – Yahoo

    More specific thoughts on a few of them:

    - Facebook will continue to exist, thought wrapped tighter around the architecture of the internet. I don’t know if it will still be primarily its own online destination or merely a layer on top of the rest of the web.

    - Apple knows good design and, as people care more and more about the ease with which they use devices, that will be invaluable. Same for Google.

    - Zynga is a company built on somebody else’s platform, which tends not to be a sustainable strategy. So, I doubt their survivability.

    - Foursquare, Groupon, and LinkedIn all have the feel of interesting yet unsustainable ideas. LinkedIn in particular adds little value to the world and has little respect for good design, and Groupon doesn’t add much value to businesses (one-half of the equation that makes it work), so I think they’re on their way out.

    - Yahoo had its day but hasn’t adapted quickly enough; it’s a new-media company run like an old-media company, and that simply cannot work.

    - AT&T has made some shortsighted brand decisions in the past (killing Cingular, the one part of its brand perceived as “cool,” for instance) which makes me doubt their ability to hold the line for another decade.

    Just a few thoughts from someone wholly unqualified to give them. Also, I’m curious what people think about Tumblr; that should’ve made the list!

  2. Soren says:

    Hard to really answer this without writing a 20-page document.

    However, in short, curiously my top would be Amazon. For social media like Facebook, Twitter, etc, there is more chance that the next generation will want that better defines them. Verizon, Intel, HP, AT&T will still be around, but seems Amazon (and to a lesser extent eBay) have a niche that will continue and for which there are not a lot of competitors.

    Foursquare, Zynga, too early to say.

    I could see a young person saying some years from now, “You still have a Mac (or HP)computer. Really?” or “You still use Facebook, that is so yesterday.” But harder to imagine them saying “Do you still shop on eBay or Amazon?” It is less an activity that defines, so greater chance to continue.

    Of course, so much depends on each companies ability to innovate and re-define themselves.

  3. Steven says:

    The hardware companies — Intel, HP — will still be a force. Dominant? Not sure, but they will be major players.

    The telcos — AT&T, Verizon, etc. — will likely be gone, or they will have morphed so much that only the name remains the same. They do not have a long term sustainable business model/protective moat in the face of Internet phone, ubiquitous WiFi, additional bandwidth, etc.

    Apple will not survive Jobs for very long, not because they don’t make some great products, but because the corporate culture isn’t transferable. It’s a one-man show — not only in design “gut feel,” but in corporate leadership.

    eBay, Groupon, LinkedIn, Foursquare, Twitter, Zynga: none will exist. What’s their business model? Where’s their moat? They’re easily replaceable by the next fad-that-becomes-a-must-have-of-the-moment.

    Yahoo — why are they even on this list?

    That leaves Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft, and Google. All have terrific, and terrifying, next-generation management challenges, but they are challenges that can be overcome. Google’s leadership is young enough to make it through, especially with some outside “adult supervision.” Google is fragile, but I think they’ll make it. Amazon is evolving into an infrastructure-of-selling business, which should be long-term successful. Microsoft’s cash cows will probably be out of milk in 20 years, but with an infusion of new leadership and new creativity, they’ve got a shot — but they’ll have to go through some major transformations.

    Facebook has no business model as yet… but is becoming incredibly well situated as a gateway. Will business URLs become Facebook like-me pages? On one hand, Google or Microsoft could coopt their business… but neither has done so as yet. Facebook’s inexperienced management could screw up, but so far they’ve done well recovering quickly from mistakes. My bet: they merge at some point with Google or Microsoft, a true merger of equals.

    There are at least two companies you left off the list that I think will be doing just fine in 20 years: Cisco and IBM. Cisco has stumbled recently, and has yet to capitalize the way it should on desktop video and Internet phone, but they’ve done too many things well to not figure this out. And IBM, well, there will always be businesses that need what they offer, whether hardware, consulting, or cloud systems (which they *will* offer).

    Or maybe some unheard-of upstart buys them all out!

  4. Steven says:

    The hardware companies — Intel, HP — will still be a force. Dominant? Not sure, but they will be major players.

    The telcos — AT&T, Verizon, etc. — will likely be gone, or they will have morphed so much that only the name remains the same. They do not have a long term sustainable business model/protective moat in the face of Internet phone, ubiquitous WiFi, additional bandwidth, etc.

    Apple will not survive Jobs for very long, not because they don’t make some great products, but because the corporate culture isn’t transferable. It’s a one-man show — not only in design “gut feel,” but in corporate leadership.

    eBay, Groupon, LinkedIn, Foursquare, Twitter, Zynga: none will exist. What’s their business model? Where’s their moat? They’re easily replaceable by the next fad-that-becomes-a-must-have-of-the-moment.

    Yahoo — why are they even on this list?

    That leaves Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft, and Google. All have terrific, and terrifying, next-generation management challenges, but they are challenges that can be overcome. Google’s leadership is young enough to make it through, especially with some outside “adult supervision.” Google is fragile, but I think they’ll make it. Amazon is evolving into an infrastructure-of-selling business, which should be long-term successful. Microsoft’s cash cows will probably be out of milk in 20 years, but with an infusion of new leadership and new creativity, they’ve got a shot — but they’ll have to go through some major transformations.

    Facebook has no business model as yet… but is becoming incredibly well situated as a gateway. Will business URLs become Facebook like-me pages? On one hand, Google or Microsoft could coopt their business… but neither has done so as yet. Facebook’s inexperienced management could screw up, but so far they’ve done well recovering quickly from mistakes. My bet: they merge at some point with Google or Microsoft, a true merger of equals.

    There are at least two companies you left off the list that I think will be doing just fine in 20 years: Cisco and IBM. Cisco has stumbled recently, and has yet to capitalize the way it should on desktop video and Internet phone, but they’ve done too many things well to not figure this out. And IBM, well, there will always be businesses that need what they offer, whether hardware, consulting, or cloud systems (which they *will* offer).

    Or maybe some unheard-of upstart buys them all out!

  5. Adam says:

    Apple, Google, Craigslist, Linkedin.

  6. Steve says:

    Hey John – since you listed the names above as “just getting us started” then I’ll add some, just in China:
    – China Mobile
    – Alibaba
    – Samsung
    – Foxconn
    – Tata

    Why: Enormous companies already, their willingness to learn, business pragmatism, and enormous native market advantages will propel them into Western countries…they want our markets too, not just theirs.

  7. Peter says:

    Around as independent companies? Microsoft, Ebay, IBM, Intel, Apple, Google, Amazon. The rest will be victims of disruptive technologies or will be acquired (or a little of both).

    Statistically that’s probably over-generous; the survival rate in prominent tech cos from 1980 is maybe

    So why those 7?

    Microsoft and Ebay limp along on network effects.

    IBM and Intel limp along on client list and patent portfolio.

    Apple limps along on Jobs’ residual influence on culture (via hires).

    Google and Amazon are the aggressors.

    Both arelogical focal points for start-ups to combine into. Think a blob of bacteria that forms early in a dish.

    These 2 blobs are focal as the 2 main ways of making money online: middleman and advertising. The first is customer-service-centric (Amzn), the second is engineering-centric (Goog).

    The rest of the list will combine into one of those blobs or they’ll go to Myspace hell.

  8. Chris says:

    I tend to agree with everything Steven said with two minor additions.

    First is that eBay by itself will be gone but unfortunately I think PayPal is here to stay. I hope that another player steps up to fill this slot but for the time being they’ve got a lock on centralized online payment systems. Google Checkout isn’t exactly changing the game and I have a feeling others will have the same fate. That’s not to say that one of the big guys won’t swoop in and buy up the PayPal piece of eBay though…

    On a related note I’m very impressed with the way Amazon is approaching their cloud services business. Don’t get me wrong, Azure and some of the other folks all have their place, but Amazon is certainly ahead of the game here. Without this component their fate might go a different direction but with the addition of AWS they’re here to stay.

  9. Jez says:

    In my humble opinion in twenty years time, I see a need for three different organisations.

    1. You’re providing equipment >> We’re talking both Hardware and Software here, and we’re always going to need to have :

    a. Something for ME to work on, for this I need a portable device, with an operating System and a connection to the internet.
    b. Something for ME to connect to, and for this I need the people I’m buying a service from to have all the right equipment (management software, servers, storage, network, buildings)

    IT vendors are the people that provide all this, and there revenues continue to increase. You only really mention Apple, HP, Microsoft and Intel here, but you’ve completely forgotten IBM, AMD, Dell, Oracle, EMC, Cisco.. that’s just the American companies. What about those in the Far East? Samsung, Hitachi, Huawei?

    Who will be the winners here?? I personally think the world will be just 10 massive hardware vendors in twenty years time. Some will rule a particular space (intel and AMD for chips), while most will do everything .. this will create the ability for other companies around the world to buy everything from ONE vendor, because it works VERY well together.. just make sure it talks to others easily. Four biggies in the US ( will go with APPLE / HP / IBM / ORACLE), two biggies in EUROPE (SAP and ??), two biggies in ASIA (Samsung and Huawei).. everyone else will be bought or merged!!

    * You’re providing a service >>> now this service could be shopping, Amazon should still be here, but companies like WalMart and Tesco have massive buying power, and they could set up an online presence that could wipe out Amazon if they really tried hard enough. What about your service being a social hangout?? Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn… each important, but will they still be around or will the cool-kids be laughing at those crusty FB users by then? They do get the press, but they won’t be massive, not unless they pull something really left-wing out the bag. Cloud companies will be ruled by ISPs (public cloud), and local/regional/global companies providing some spare capacity for other companies (mix of Hybrid and Private cloud)

    But who will be the winners here?? You need to be an ISP, so Verizon, AT&T (someone else in US), Vodafone, DeutschTelekom (someone else in Europe), China Mobile, China Telecom (someone else in Asia) and there will be some bit players in other regions. Amazon, Tesco, Walmart all provide B2C services.

    * Lastly, you’re providing both >> Here we’re really talking Google. It doesn’t really make anything, but you could say have said that about Microsoft (before XBOX) and Oracle (before they bought SUN). They all create phenomonal software, and make it simple for others to use it.

    Who will be the winners here?? I can only guess at Google, but I do believe that Uncle Sam will do unto Google, what they did to Microsoft a few years ago.. so watch out for those coming out of Asia here..

    (This is not the opinion of my employer > HP)

  10. Logan says:

    In this week’s New York Magazine, Seth Mnookin argues that the New York Times’ relative success compared to other traditional papers is in large part thanks to its 100-year stewardship by the Sulzberger family and their devotion to the paper and its policies.

    With that in mind, I’d argue that the companies with staying power are likely to be the ones that have already proven themselves to be allegiant to a mission and open to innovation and change to get there.

    If I had to choose one, I’d pick Amazon as the company most likely to stay dominant. They’ve already seen a great morph in their business-model since their launch as the world’s largest bookstore. They’ve shown talent in diversification, patience in profit, and a willingness to take risks and move on when those risks don’t work out. They strive to be the best place to buy things, and they succeed, again and again.

    Of course, Jeff Bezos is still running the show, and we’ve only seen Amazon under his tutelage. Does the house of cards fall down after he decides to step down? I can’t imagine it, but anything, of course, is possible.

  11. John says:

    Thanks for all the great input folks. Very smart POVs here. I’m reading them all closely.

  12. Deanna says:

    Google and Apple (around and thriving)
    Facebook and Amazon (around)

    There’s a lot here to discuss but i’m thinking I might wax about it on my fledgling blog (browngoods.net).

    Great question.

  13. Marko says:

    Hmmm, for every company you mention it’s easy to imagine a disruptive technology which would wipe out this company.

    I think the biggest factor here is not the current business model but the ability to adapt. And I’m not talking about incremental steps – which of these companies would be able to completely give up their core business and do something else? (Like Nokia, which started out as a paper manufacturer.)

    I’d say most likely the companies which cause/invent a disruptive technology will be around, so my bet is on IBM and Intel.

    Also it’s hard to imagine big, diverse corporations like Samsung or Siemens going out of business.

    But Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Apple? Niche players UNLESS they react smartly.

    Groupon, Ebay, Foursquare, Linkedin, Twitter, Yahoo? Gone. Unless they take their money and invest in something else.