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One of the investment themes I’m intrigued with is human computer interaction (HCI). I believe that in 20 years the notion of typing on a keyboard and moving a mouse around will seem quaint. If you are skeptical about this, remember that punch cards were all the rage a mere 35 years ago when IBM came out with a new 96 column format, our good friend the IBM 3270 came out in 1972, and the ubiquitous VT100 came out in 1978.
If you are in NY and walking down 14th Street near Union Square today, you’ll see is simple example of what I mean by HCI. Adobe has an ad up on the wall of the Virgin Megastore that is interactive. The wall is 7 feet by 15 feet and while it’s a marketing campaign (vs. a functioning UI), it’s a colorful example of some interesting things that are coming – and fast.
Bruce Wyman, the Director of Technology at the Denver Art Museum, sent me a beautiful demo from TED2007 by Blaise Aguera y Arcas of Photosynth. In addition to being graphically brilliant, it’s a phenomenal example of how the computer infrastructure should be doing all the work (rather than the user.)
I expect one of the big buzzes tomorrow will be Microsoft’s Surface Computing initiative. The first articles are appearing and on10 has a First Look: Microsoft Surfacing Computing! video up that shows off a great demonstration.
I’ve recently been exploring a theme I call “Human Computer Interaction.” A metaphor speaks volumes – if you remember John Anderton in the movie Minority Report, you can envision a much more interesting way to interact with a computer than using a mouse and keyboard.
Several experiences, including my investment in Harmonix Music Systems (the makers of Guitar Hero), finally coalesced in my mind about a year ago resulting in the idea that there was a real opportunity around creating platforms and applications to change the way that humans interact with computers. This isn’t a “consumer” problem or an “enterprise” problem – it spans the entire spectrum of computing applications.
I’ve made one new investment in this area and expect to make several others in the next few years. Of all the things I’ve played with and thought about in the past year, this area has the greatest opportunity to radically transform the way computers work. For a while, I’ve been suggesting to anyone that will listen (mostly my dog) that I’m ready for my implant that will jack me directly into the metaverse. As each day comes, I get a step closer.
Last week the CEO of one of the companies that I’m an investor in asked me why all the companies I was blogging about were Web 2.0 companies. I despise the Web 2.0 label so this made me cringe and I asked him to give me more feedback. We talked for a few minutes and he helped me see my blogging through a different filter than my brain.
I’ve always been a “thematic investor.” I pick a theme that I’m interested in that I think has a long term (greater than ten year) investment horizon, hope I’m a couple of years (vs. a decade) ahead of the curve, and then go to work with great entrepreneurs to create some companies. Themes that you may have heard me talk about here including email, RSS, and the Implicit Web.
Over the last dozen years, I’ve refined my thinking about how this works and am confident that I’ve got an approach that will serve me well over the balance of my investing career (I figure I’ve got another twenty years in me.)
One of themes I’ve mined successfully in the past is one I call “IT Management.” As I’ve watched the shift to SaaS, Microsoft’s 2007 product release cycle, the rise of the Enterprise 2.0 meme (gack), and the reinvigoration of corporate IT spending, it’s clear that there are lots of nifty new product / company opportunities in this arena.
However, I think there is something more profound going on. Rather than invest in “security” or “application management”, I take a top down approach that is a result of my secret weapon, a person I call “The Architect” (the reference to The Matrix is deliberate.) I’ll try to channel him more frequently on this blog to distract y’all from Web 2.0.