About the Author

Geoffrey Moore

Managing Director, TCG Advisors Venture Partner, Mohr Davidow Ventures

Geoffrey Moore is a best-selling author, a Managing Director at TCG Advisors and a venture partner at MDV.  More...

November 2008

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Dateline Davos: The Shifting Power Equation

Dealing with shifts in power is the theme of this year’s World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, and it makes a very good platform to discuss a wide range of issues, including the following power shift vectors, all bubbled up in from a 750-person multi-track opening plenary:

·          From developed economies to emerging markets

·          From public markets to private equity

·          From established states to rogue states

·          From energy exploiters to energy resource owners

·          From enterprises to consumers

·          From certified authorities to collective intelligence

·          From the middle aged to the young and the old

·          From social to virtual relationships

The shift that has caught my attention, however, is that from computing systems that communicate to communication systems that compute.  The implications for technology vendors are straightforward but dramatic. 

For communications vendors—including companies like Cisco, Motorola, AT&T, and Akamai—the opportunity is to smarten their pipes.  This entails a migration of value creation into the network, achieved by computing more and more on the data it carries while it is carrying it.  All forms of behavioral targeting, real-time transaction resolutions, and the like call out for this shift.

For computing vendors—including IBM, HP, Dell, EMC, Oracle, and SAP—the opportunity is in the opposite direction: to reframe their offers to accentuate their role in a communications system.  This means redesigning the PC, its peripherals, the database, the applications, the storage architecture, the middleware stack, and a portion of the server base to shift from automating transactions to feed systems of record (people in service to computers) to enabling interactions to drive relationships of value (computers in service to people).  Think of the PC as a much better cell phone, the application as an adjunct to a real-time interaction, the googlization of data access, and the like.

The shift from computing to communications also has profound implications for the redistribution of power.  As the Internet continues to work its transformation of the globe, the single most powerful force it is unleashing is memes, that class of ideas that are uniquely able to capture people’s imaginations and shape their behavior.  Some of these memes are inspiring and uplifting (think spirtuality and altruism), some are crass and banal (advertizing and, yes, much blogging), and others are dark and pernicious (sexual exploitation and suicide bombing).  All are vying for a commitment from each of us, and when we give that commitment, we give it for free and put all our life energy behind it.  That is what makes memes so powerful.

The ability both to create and promulgate such memes and to recognize when a meme is acting upon you or one of your constituents is core to being effective in this new reality.  A connected world places an enormous premium on people who are fluent in communications: expressing ideas, positioning offers, inferring power relationships, decoding nuances, deflecting the manipulations of others.  We are witnessing the rise of the articulate and the marginalization of the inarticulate, whether in our political and business leaders or in our leading brands and most favored Internet sites. 

In sume, if the past few decades were heralded as the revenge of the nerds, the next few will be the revenge of the liberal arts graduates.


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Link: Dealing_with_Darwin: Dateline Davos: The Shifting Power Equation. Geoff doesn't post often but when he does it usually quite insightful. Here he comments on many different kinds of power shifts but particularly on the shift from those that don't ... [Read More]

» Revenge of the Liberal Arts Graduates? from Ben Casnocha: The Blog
Geoffrey Moore, author of the pathbreaking and essential business book Crossing the Chasm, just blogged about the Davos '07 theme The Shifting Power Equation. Moore says:The shift from computing to communications also has profound implications for the ... [Read More]

» From Computing to Communicating from En Garde!
Geoffrey Moore doesn't post too frequently on his Dealing with Darwin blog, but I enjoy reading when he does. His most recent blog is about the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos and its theme this year on shifting power [Read More]


Michelle McLean

I enjoyed this post, and I agree that companies that have been focused on one or the other end of the communicate/compute spectrum need to shift to offer more of both services.

I contend security companies have had to live in the middle of that spectrum all along - they both process all the data they're looking at and derive broader communication patterns underlying those transmissions. They have to both compute and communicate to effectively secure assets.

Of course, my favorite part of your post is the last line - as an English major who happily fell into tech, communication's been the lifeblood of my career, and I couldn't agree more with your conclusion!

Jobi George

This is a great validation of some of the concepts I had been thinking about. I have blogged about it (http://jobig.blogspot.com/2006/10/pcs-and-web20-part-1-what-made-pcs-so.html)

Surely the PCs of tomorrows have to evolve into the perfect interaction engines. And that is a great opportunity.

- jobi


Hello from China again.

I just sent you an email a minute ago. I was quite inspired by one of your recent post about the shift "from computing systems that communicate to communication systems that compute". There are two more things made me believe this more firmly.

The 1st one is Apple debuted its iPhone and at the same time wipe "computer" off its name. The 2nd proof came from an interview I conducted to Yaqin Zhang, the president of Microsoft China Research Group, who was in charge of Microsoft's Mobile Embedded Department. He said the convergent of PC, mobile devices and TV would be a necessary trend. And Microsoft China is now developing a kind of low end smart phone.


I enjoyed this post, and I agree that companies that have been focused on one or the other end of the communicate/compute spectrum need to shift to offer more of both services.http://www.spotesya.com/

Outta Names999

I'm not so sure about all this.

I wonder how much of it is just your own personal awareness level being projected onto the world vs. true shifts. The media and the telephone have been around a lot longer than s-curves, early adopters and bowling pin markets.

All the trends you mention have been in view for decades. None is new and the profundity of their effects is debatable as far as I can see.

As to power accruing to those who can articulate themselves, I'm not so sure about that either. Connectivity is at best a hygiene factor. Power is as power does, and few if any of those with real power are anywhere to be found online. In fact they shun the exposure, lest it sap their power. They seem to get along just fine, and the rest of the world does not miss hearing from them. Is their power thus diminished? I doubt it.

I suggest it's not communication that will thrive, merely messages, mostly of a transactional nature, and that means machine to machine.

Humans are pretty much reduced to bystanders, viewers and machine tenders as the messages fly around on autopilot in the invisible, sub-audible background and become the new collective unconscious.

The truly important human communications at the forefront will continue to be delivered face to face. The techno-assisted messages are doomed to be the marginally important ones in our lives.

As connectivity becomes ubiquitous, it like other media-like human extensions will reach the flash point and its effects will be reversed. As the novelty wears off, consumers will become numb to its effects, and they too will start turning off and disconnecting.

But then, perhaps it is merely I who am projecting. :)

Carolyn Ann

I'm sorry, Mr Moore: I simply can't agree with you. I wrote an extensive response on Valeria Maltoni's blog; I won't iterate it here.

However, I will not hide behind the anonymous nature of another blog, so will make my objections known to you, albeit indirectly.

My apologies for the indirect nature of my comment.
Carolyn Ann

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