Last year was challenging for technology stocks globally, but on the ground, the case for rising tech penetration has strengthened further. While a transformative innovation used to be a once-in-a-century phenomenon, the pipeline of potentially powerful technologies is now packed. Moonshots like quantum computing and neural interfaces offer the potential to upend the global economy. Closer to earth, areas like artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things (IoT), 3D printing, drones, and big data are already providing a glimpse into what the future may look like. The ramifications of people’s increasing reliance on digital business models are reverberating throughout the world—from retail and real estate to agriculture and e-commerce. These trends, which tend to be structural, are just getting started and have been accelerated by the coronavirus pandemic, during which people turned to the internet for many of their daily needs. And, as with every technological revolution, there will be winners and losers along the way.
It took the telephone 75 years to build a user base of 100 million people; it took AI-powered chatbot ChatGPT just two months. The last decade was defined by many such examples of technology-powered key secular trends—such as population growth, aging, and urbanization—that redefined commerce. A particularly powerful byproduct has been the displacement of entrenched players across industries, caused by the pace of disruption accelerating year after year. We think the decade ahead will be slightly different, though. While tech disruption should continue, digital transformation will likely take center stage as disruptors and forward-thinking incumbent players both wield the tools to transform the world around us.
Computing has progressed so fast that the addressable market has jumped by a factor of almost 10 during each cycle. And we believe despite the ongoing market dynamics, the next computing cycle—which we expect to be driven by artificial intelligence—will provide exciting opportunities along the way.
The COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting lockdowns across the world came as a major shock to many companies. To maintain business continuity, firms had to ensure employees could work seamlessly from home—a big test for IT systems worldwide. The consumer impact was milder, as people took the measures in stride by enhancing their digital engagement. Many countries saw an almost 50–100% increase in app usage during the outbreak, with notable rises in digital entertainment (like video streaming, gaming, and online shopping). The journey has just begun as flexible working and digital access have now become ingrained in daily routines thanks to smart devices. These have become great productivity tools and are serving as storehouses for our desires and memories.