ALEXIA TSOTSIS, Sunday, January 27th –
In doing research for a post on “The Enterprise Cool Kids” at the tail end of last year, I interviewed Silicon Valley veteran Marc Andreessen about where he thought the enterprise was headed.
While excerpts of that interview made it into the post, the transcript of the entire interview was so good it deserved to be published in its entirety.
Alexia Tsotsis: Since people like me (millennials) are putting pressure on our IT departments to buy products that we can actually use and aren’t blinded by, what do you think the enterprise space will look like in the next five years?
Marc Andreessen: Yeah. So let me maybe start with sort of – top-down and bottoms-up is how we think about it, because both are important — so let me start with historical context and then maybe go to the stuff happening right now. Is that all set?
Alexia Tsotsis: Yeah, it’s perfect.
Marc Andreessen: So the computer industry started in 1950 and basically ran for 50 years with the same model, which was a model where all of the new computers, all the new technology, all the new software started out being sold for the highest prices to the biggest organizations.
So originally the customer was the Department of Defense. It was the first customer for the computer. In fact, one of the big first computers was called SAGE, which was a missile defense, the first missile-defense computer, which was like one of the first computers in the history of the world which got sold to the Department of Defense for, I don’t know, tens and tens of millions of dollars at the time. Maybe hundreds of millions of dollars in current dollars.
And then five years later computers became — they dropped half in price and then the big insurance companies could buy them, and that’s when Thomas Watson, who ran IBM at the time, was quoted as saying, “There’s only a market need in the world for five computers.”
The reason that wasn’t crazy when he said it is because there were only five organizations that were big enough to buy a computer. So that’s how it started. And then IBM came along and productized the mainframe, and then all of a sudden big normal companies — manufacturing companies and banks — could start to buy computers. And then DEC came along and came out with the minicomputer, and then all of a sudden smaller companies could start to buy computers. And then the PC came out and then all of a sudden individuals could start to buy computers. But the PC only ever got to hundreds of millions of people. It never got to billions of people.
Now, the smartphone has come out and it can get to billions of people.
And so it has always been this kind of trickle-down model for 50 years. We think that basically about 10 years ago the model flipped. And so we think that the model flipped to a model where, today, where the most interesting and advanced new technology now comes out for the consumer first. And then small businesses start to use it. And then medium-size businesses start to use it, and then large businesses start to use it, and then eventually the government starts to use it. But this is a complete change from the way it has always worked.