It was always going to be a weighty session. With a title like “The Big Picture” and panelists such as Greg Greeley, Dmitry Grishin, Paul-Bernhard Kallen, Arkady Volozh and Niklas Zennström, it could have been little else.
Arkady Volozh started by reminding the packed hall of ancient history: those bad old days when we all got online with dial-up modems and the internet was little more than a collection of pages nobody quite knew what to do with. That was then. Now, somewhere in the vicinity of 1000 tech professionals fill a packed hall in Munich eager to hear what’s next — and how to make money from it.
The answer, he said, is emerging markets. China has more than 500 million internet users. By 2014, India will have 300 million. Mr Volozh, whose search engine Yandex is the market leader in Russia, has a simple plan to take advantage of these numbers. “We’ve noticed that the leader [in search] generally has a share of 60%. The main competitor has a share of 30% and everybody else shares the last 10%. If we can be number two in several countries, that is a good model for us.” Yandex is already competing in Turkey.
His fellow Russian Dmitry Grishin sees education and knowledge as the next big drivers of innovation. “Cool things are already happening. You can get Stanford courses, MIT courses online,” he said. This is only the beginning. People are going to gamify education, he said. That’s when we will see real change.
Greg Greeley of Amazon said growth and innovation can, at the present moment, be taken as a given. “There is a strong tailwind helping us,” he said. “And Moore’s law is still applying.” Yet, he foresees problems. “There are headwinds too. Europe’s regulatory environment is one of them,” he said referring to Viviane Reding’s keynote speech at the start of the conference. Paul-Bernhard Kallen said he approved of the regulation in general although it had problematic aspects.
The biggest question mark about the future, however, was about jobs. David Kirkpatrick, moderating the session, suggested that productivity may be growing but jobs are not. A story in the New York Times this morning highlighted that. ”Retailers should get ready,” said Mr Volozh. “The last ten years will be nothing when compared to what is going to happen in the next five years.”
Mr Greeley described it as a “disruption”. But so was the industrial revolution. As mechanised factories reduced the demand for workers, people retrained for a new economy and better paid jobs. Perhaps the same thing is happening now. “It may take some time. It may even be generational shift,” he said. But it is bound to happen.
That should serve as advance warning. Remember folks, you read it here first.