In the last few weeks I had some meetings with people from the print industry. There were a very depressing meetings. We that lives the Internet every day can easily forget how fast the Internet is changing complete industries and people lives. Reflecting back, I can still remember that just 10 years ago I was probably subscribed to 5 different magazines, and names like PC Mag and Mac World were creating the standards in our industry.
The Internet is not the first technology to kill and shift complete industries, but it is unique in the rapid fast pace it did it. Print was probably the first big victim, but music, TV and movies are just examples for other industries we already know will never be the same.
In fact, the pace of change today is so fast that we even see businesses who were born in the internet that have to already adopt to a new reality. Take Netflix as an example. The direct mail company changed the dvd industry, displacing giants like Blockbuster. But now Netflix themselves need to adopt to the new reality of video on demand, Tivo and online video streaming.
The big challenge of a dying business is not to figure out what you need to do next, but it is how to do the change soon enough. Most print magazines knew that the Internet requires them to change, and still they didn't move fast enough. What killed them was their inability to deliberately forgo their current money making machines in order to save their long term future. Instead of doing experiments with the web, while still maintaining focus on their print business that was still making tons of money, they should have moved all their focus into digital and kill the print business themselves, instead of waiting for all of us to do it for them.
By waiting and trying to milk their current business model to the end, they let new businesses born into the digital world to take their place as the leaders of the new medium.
Today we are on the verge of another big change that potentially will displace many businesses. The evolution of mobile computing is changing how people consume and use information. This time, the threat is not just for the old traditional businesses, but even to digital businesses which were born jut a couple of years ago.
Every big change has a tipping point. A point of no return. A point in which the pace of change becomes so rapid, that there is no way to stop it anymore. It took the Internet a lot of years to become what it is. There were many factors that got us to the tipping point, but probably one of the bigger ones was when broadband became a commodity.
It seems that the tipping point for mobile computing was around the introduction of the iPhone and also here, the large availability of 3G networks.
It's still too early to know how exactly the mobile revolution will change the way we do things on a day to day basis. It's still hard to guess who will be the new kings of this era. Companies like Google, Apple and Microsoft have their full attention and resources, trying to make sure that no one will take their place in this new world. And still, it seems that the mobile landscape is still open enough for a new king to come and rule.
Like before, it's easy to say that we have been talking about mobile for years but it never really happened. It's easy to think that you still have time and you don't have to change things today. And this is the fetal mistake that most of us do. The best businesses knows to take the hard decision and displace themselves, instead of waiting for the market to do so.