Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Self-drive & instant translate: two remarkable tech stories

The last couple of days have seen two remarkable developments in digital that I thought were worth covering.

First, Google announced that it would be making 200 prototype self-driving city cars to its own design. Second, Microsoft revealed its plans to put he natty instant translation tech it showed off in China a couple of years back into Skype. Why were these titbits of news worth interrupting my holiday for?

I've long been an advocate of self-driving vehicles and Google have long been the visible face of the technology. Their announcement will undoubtedly spur others to launch their own vehicles, most likely including Tesla, who have done for propulsion what Google have done for guidance. I would be now very surprised if a fully self-driving car was not available for purchase at an electric-sized price premium (c. 50%) vs the equivalent conventional car before 2020.

Microsoft's translation announcement is also significant as it shows how quickly natural language algorithms have advanced. IBM's Watson (2012) does the same sort of processing in a super computer environment. Now the same will be available in the cloud for mass use. 

Both this and Google's car are graphic illustrations of Moore's Law. The self drive technology was $80k in 2012. Now it's likely under $40k. Companies that are able to dominate the business models of a Moore's Law market are able to disrupt other markets like never before, leading to the type of multidimensional 'superpower' competition that I've written about previously. 

For most organisations this means investing in software and hardware IP in their business processes and products. The big tech question is when Apple are going to respond. 

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