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.”
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.”
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.”
Tekla S. Perry is a senior editor at IEEE Spectrum. Based in Palo Alto, Calif., she's been covering the people, companies, and technology that make Silicon Valley a special place for more than 40 years. An IEEE member, she holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from Michigan State University.