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Remember Bill Gates’ famous jibe at the auto industry? Reportedly, in a comment at COMDEX some years ago, he opined: “If GM had kept up with the technology like the computer industry has, we would all be driving $25 cars that got 1,000 miles to the gallon.”

Years later, the metaphor can still be pushed to extremes. Taking it into ICT more broadly, the cost/capability curve would probably mean a supercar bought for loose change you found down the back of the sofa. On a per unit basis, global interconnectivity has become very cheap indeed. It also has become extremely powerful.

This extreme outcome has made a huge impact on the world – both inside and outside the ICT sector. Year on year, we’ve gotten used to 20% price declines and seeming near doubling of performance. Outside, it has reshaped global economic life and probably rerouted economic history. On both counts, it has also been a major PTC focus, touched on in many different ways. We’ve seen new connectivity, new projects, and new players. But we’ve also seen and discussed the enormous dislocation now taking place inside the industry.

Going more – and more – extreme

This dislocation – the result of what we can call “extreme ICT” – is creating some major challenges. Some of these challenges seem to affect different players differently producing lop-sided outcomes. Deflationary behaviour has disrupted the industry value chain in connectivity, for example, to an extent where OTT players seem to be capturing value over infrastructural ones. Price squeezes are taking place at the same time that premium consumer products such as iPhones take centre stage.

How this plays out is anyone’s guess. Will it get more extreme still? Some participants say an uncomfortable snap back is inevitable from such disruption. But everyone – particularly at PTC, which has continued to track and discuss outcomes from all parts of this value chain – acknowledges that extreme ICT has seen “new-ness” where new players, technologies, practices, and business models have appeared. Extreme ICT is innovation-based ICT.

Ironically, Mr. Gates’ quip about the 1,000 mpg auto performance was ultimately broken – quite easily – by researchers at Switzerland’s Federal Institute of Technology. In creatinga one-person capsule car with innovation on all fronts, they in fact achieved the equivalent of 12,000 mpg. But that world record has stood more than a decade. Only now are we seeing more positive moves in the auto industry to cope with what may be its own disruptive future. In comparing the auto industry with the ICT space, Bill Gates was probably correct. But he could have levelled an additional comment that innovation is indeed at hyperspeed in our industry.

Staying put, it seems, is not moving forward.

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