Horowitz, Hoffman On Technology Shifts And Innovation

The next big technology shift is right around the corner. We just don’t know what it is.

Or better said, we don’t know its consequences.

That’s what makes predicting the future difficult and why Ben Horowitz, general partner at Andreessen Horowitz, and Reid Hoffman, partner at Greylock Partners and executive chairman of LinkedIn, deserve credit for putting stakes in the ground.

Both appeared at the Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco late Wednesday and weighed on what they see as the next technological transformations that will change the tech industry and potentially our lives.

For Horowitz, this great fork in the road is cloud computing. Hoffman (pictured) sees large-scale mobile and social data mashups as the source of a new category of applications.

Both observations make sense.

For Horowitz, cloud computing is a shift similar in impact to client server computing, where small distributed servers from Digital Equipment Corp. and Hewlett-Packard replaced mainframes from IBM.
The result was applications had to be rewritten and new tech leaders emerged. The same will be the case with cloud computing.

“I believe we’re in the middle of a really interesting platform shift now,” said Horowitz. Every application will need to be rewritten and written better for the cloud, he said. And computing and network architecture will change, creating challenges for today’s leaders, such as Cisco Systems.

Hoffman refers to his transformation as Web 3.0 and says a new wave of application development will follow. What differentiates it from mashups of the past is the new applications will be built directly for people instead of designed simply to bring together two online services to create a combined service.

The data fueling this transformation will come from social networks, location aware mobile devices and elsewhere.

These apps will become increasingly common in the next five years, Hoffman said.