Expensive Smartphones will disappear in a few years

Harvard professor talks about the prospects for the smartphone amid fierce innovation. As the technology matures, you get a disruption. It’s not a disruption of technology, though, but a disruption of the business, the high-margin business.

The high margins that Apple and Samsung get on the smartphones are going to be eaten away by companies like HTC, Huawei, and others to be named. They’re going to introduce smartphones that are almost as good and most people are not going to be able to tell the difference.

In the short run, I don’t think they [google glass and smartwatches and other wearables] are any [danger to] smartphones. What people don’t talk about is those form factors aren’t big enough for the processor, data storage, cellular communications circuitry, and especially the battery, so you still need a smartphone. The watch still connects to your smartphone, and I believe the glasses will still need to connect to your smartphone, because you still need someplace to store the data and provide a communications link to the Internet and the rest of your stuff.

People predict the demise of things, but it doesn’t happen as immediately as people think. It takes a long time to dismantle something. But once it starts to happen, it can happen very rapidly.

It takes about five years for a dominant technology to fall

Digital cameras were around a long time together with film cameras. And all of a sudden — I think it was within a span of five years — nobody bought a film camera anymore. So they’re kind of a traveling along slowly and boom, it’s gone. I think laptops and desktops were going along pretty smoothly, and all of a sudden people stopped buying desktops. And so that’s the kind of thing that happens.

Feature phones, the ones replaced by smartphones, were going along with smartphones, which had been around since 2000. They were always there, but never took off. A few years after Apple introduced their first iPhone was when smartphones just started to take off.

I don’t like to talk about “cool gadgets.” I prefer to talk about: What is the job that needs to be done? Why did smartphones take off? Because I have this necessity to be connected to my email as well as be able to talk to people. And I have necessity every now and then to look at stuff on the Internet, which is annoying, by the way, because it’s such a small screen. But sometimes, out of necessity, I have to look for my reservation code number, for example, because I have to check in at the airport.

Because of that, I choose to buy a smartphone, since it is able to do those jobs. You can think of all sorts of other jobs and once people think [a technology] is important enough and does that job well enough, people will elect to use that device. In the end, it’s people using the technology to do a job. People buy it to do a job.

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