Why This Next Era in Tech May Favor the Incumbents

As those of you stuck in traffic in San Francisco this week or still gawking at your Uber surcharges can attest, it was a big week for non-Bay Area companies descending on our shores. IBM hosted its annual developer THINK conference while Goldman Sachs hosted its annual Internet company conference a few blocks away. I attended parts of both events and spoke to a range of executives and attendees at each.

In some respects, they were quite different. At IBM THINK, the discussion was all about the future of business and specifically how the 80% of tasks companies are still doing on legacy systems that aren’t tied to the Internet will migrate to the cloud. (Here’s a summary of a 201-level panel we put on with IBM at the event.)

At Goldman Sachs, tech executives from companies ranging from PayPal to Salesforce took the stage, largely sticking to comments they’ve made to investors before. The conversation in the halls was more about the economy (recession more likely in 2020 or later than in 2019), tech IPOs (it will be a big year but valuations are a wildcard) and China (a trade deal will get done, but lots more to figure out in the relationship).

But there was one striking parallel: the reminder (perhaps warning) that in a place so focused on the new and the shiny, we would be fools to count the incumbents out.

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