Silicon Valley Luminaries Predict Next Big Thing

Photo: Tekla Perry

Tech luminaries Mark Andreessen, Pat Gelsinger, John Hennessy, Joe Tucci, and Dave Dewalt (left to right) discuss the next big thing for Silicon Valley.

Marc Andreessen, David Dewalt, Pat Gelsinger, Joseph Tucci, and John Hennessy —one VC, three CEOS, and one university president—came together on VMWare’s Palo Alto campus last week to come up with a State of the State report on Silicon Valley. Besides assessing the tech industry and interest in computing (booming), discussing fallout of “a big black eye” for the industry (the Edward Snowden revelations), they made a few predictions, because there’s nothing tech folks like better than looking to the future.

They each came up with very different (though not contradictory) views of what they expect to be the core technologies behind the next wave of innovations that will come out of Silicon Valley. The predictions:

Marc Andreessen on Bitcoin. Says venture capitalist and Netscape co-founder Andreessen: “We’ve been tremendously enthusiastic about Bitcoin, we think it’s a revolutionary financial technology, [though] the implications will take 20 years to play out.”

Photo: Tekla Perry
VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger coins a new acronym: SMAC, for social, mobile, analytics, and cloud.

Pat Gelsinger on SMAC. VMware CEO Gelsinger managed to introduce a new acronym, we’ll see if it sticks. The future, he said, is all about “SMAC—social, mobile, analytics, and cloud. They provide a foundation for so many things to occur:  Healthcare or biotech, automotive or Google glasses. It is those foundational infrastructure things that will disrupt every industry.”

John Hennessey on artificial intelligence. Stanford president John Hennessy thinks, we’re about to finally see “the true coming of age of AI, after decades and decades of investment. We’re seeing systems that can do something that amounts to common-sense reasoning, which we’ve never really been able to do before. It’s going to be exciting to get a computer that can do things a really good assistant can do.”

Photo: Tekla Perry
EMC Corp. CEO Joe Tucci is waiting for the sensor explosion to change the world.

Joe Tucci on sensors everywhere. EMC Corp. CEO Tucci is watching sensors “being built  into everything imaginable.” Says Tucci, “I think the ability to capture [this data], ingest it in a reasonable amount of time, reason over it, and act on it will disrupt every corporation and every government entity in the world.

Dave Dewalt on the Internet going satellite. FireEye CEO Dewalt is thrilled to see companies around the world building “an amazing new Internet structure that is constantly orbiting, constantly online, and has a tremendous increase in bandwidth to connect to your watch, your clothing, everything you have.”

Whichever of these technologies drives innovation in the coming years, Hennessy cautioned, Silicon Valley’s companies need to make sure it doesn’t become all about the money. Says Hennessy, “Wanting to change the world has always been the driver of Silicon Valley. If we stay focused on that we’ll be fine, if we focus on money, we won’t.”

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IEEE Spectrum’s blog featuring the people, places, and passions of the world of technologists in Silicon Valley and its environs.
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Senior Editor
Tekla Perry
Palo Alto
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