2016 has been quite the year for the world at large and for tech specifically; it has certainly been a productive one for Stratechery. This year I wrote 143 Daily Updates (including tomorrow) and 46 Weekly Articles, and, as per tradition, today I summarize the most popular and most important posts of the year.
Here is the 2016 list.
The Five Most-Viewed Articles:
- Dollar Shave Club and The Disruption of Everything — Dollar Shave Club is a textbook example of how the new Internet economy will destroy value in incumbent industries.
- It’s a Tesla — Tesla is not a disruptor, but then again, neither is Apple, the closest comparison: both succeed by building a brand around being the best (Editor’s Note: That’s not to say that Tesla will have Apple’s success; there are lots of reasons for skepticism ($) especially after the unjustifiable Solar City acquisition ($)).
- Apple’s Organizational Crossroads — A core part of what makes Apple Apple is its organization structure; Tim Cook has said it will never change. However, if Apple is serious about being a services company, change it must.
- How Google is Challenging AWS — AWS seems to have a dominant position in enterprise computing, but Google is trying to change the rules to favor their inherent strengths; they just might succeed (see also: Google’s Go-to-Market Gap and Google and the Limits of Strategy).
- The Future of Podcasting — Podcasting is stuck between the open model of the past and the push for monetization in the future. Might there be a third way that actually benefits publishers?
Five Big Ideas
- TV Advertising’s Surprising Strength — And Inevitable Fall — TV advertising is having a good week at the upfronts, and it may be more resilient than expected. That, though, means the crash will be even more abrupt (See also: The Sports Linchpin).
- The Curse of Culture — It is very fair to say that Apple is threatened by the potential rise of AI. Google, though, is also threatened by its inability to own customers’ attention. The solution for both companies may entail changing their culture, a very tall order indeed.
- Everything as a Service — We have likely reached Peak iPhone, and if not, it’s only a matter of time; physical goods can only scale so far. The future, thanks to the Internet, is everything-as-a-service.
- The IT Era and the Internet Revolution — The history of technology is of two distinct eras: information technology enhanced existing business. The Internet revolution is destroying them (see also: Chat and the Consumerization of IT).
- Cars and the Future — A massive revolution in cars seems right around the corner. However, I think it will take longer then most technologists assume, but when it comes it will come quickly (see also: Google, Uber, and the Evolution of Transportation-as-a-Service).
Five Posts About Media and Politics
- The Voters Decide — An apolitical analysis of what is happening in U.S. politics through the lens of Aggregation Theory (Editor’s Note: I’m biased but believe more than ever that this is a critical piece to understanding what is happening in western democracies).
- The Brexit Possibility — Brexit’s downsides are clear; might tech help realize upsides in building something new based on a new world order? (Editor’s Note: This could have been written after Donald Trump’s election as well).
- Antitrust and Aggregation — The European Commission’s antitrust case against Google is likely to be the first of many against aggregators, because the end game of Aggregation Theory is monopoly.
- The Reality of Missing Out — Tech is entering a period of inequality where the big winners lift the sector as a whole even as smaller companies suffer. The best example is Facebook, Google, and digital advertising (Editor’s note: Over the last year this has gone from projection to reality).
- Fake News — Facebook is under fire for fake news and filter bubbles; they are a problem, but most of the proposed solutions are far worse (see also: The Real Problem with Facebook and the News and Why Twitter Must Be Saved).
Five Company-Specific Posts
- The Amazon Tax — Amazon is building a lot of businesses that look like AWS: taxes on major industries that work to everyone’s benefit. The reason, though, is that AWS is a lot like Amazon itself.
- Snapchat’s Ladder — Snapchat is on the verge of conquering the toughest messaging market in the world: the United States. The way they did it is by laddering-up (see also: Snapchat Spectacles and the Future of Wearables).
- Beyond the iPhone — Apple’s event may have been lacking on the surface, but it laid the groundwork for innovations that will be revealed in time. And yes, it was courageous.
- Facebook, Phones, and Phonebooks — There are two types of social networks, and Facebook wants to be both. The problem is that the company already chose public sharing over private communication (See also: The Audacity of Copying Well).
- Oracle’s Cloudy Future — Larry Ellison has declared that Oracle is a cloud company, but their customer offering seems more suited to the world that was.
See also: The FANG Playbook
Fifteen Daily Updates
I slightly expanded this list this year, in part because Daily Updates have continued to become even more in-depth; they are still very timely in covering the news of the day but contain their own strategic insights as well (please note that these are subscriber-only links; you can sign-up here).
- January 4 — Augmented vs Virtual Reality
- January 7 — Netflix Goes Global
- February 16 — Kanye West and Tidal, The Problem with Exclusivity
- February 17 — Apple Versus the FBI, Understanding iPhone Encryption, The Risks for Apple and Encryption (See also this Weekly Article: Apple, the FBI, and Security)
- February 25 — Stripe Atlas, An Interview with Stripe CEO Patrick Collison
- March 7 — Amazon Echo Expands, The Nest Failure
- March 21 — The Significance of AlphaGo, Google to Sell Boston Dynamics, Google’s Self-Driving Car Will Take Awhile
- April 28 — Facebook and New Market Disruption
- May 4 — Doubting the iPhone Revisited, What Has Changed, On Being Bearish
- May 16 — Apple, Didi, and Occam’s Razor; Uber in China (See also: August 1 — Didi Acquires Uber China, Why Uber China Was Doomed, Was Uber China Worth It?)
- June 9 — Apple Makes Major Changes to App Store, The App Store and Apple’s Nature, Additional Notes
- September 20 — Does Uber Have a Strategy Problem?, Netflix and Aggregation Theory
- October 3 — Nutanix and Hyper-Convergence, The Conservation of Attractive Data-Center Profits
- October 10 — Coupa IPOs — and Pops, Why (Most) IPOs are Under-Priced, Why the IPO Process Doesn’t Change
- November 9 — Donald Trump is the President-Elect, Tech Under Trump, The Big Picture
- December 20 — Uber Losses (But China Gains?), Uber and Unit Economics, Reconsidering Uber
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. I’m looking forward to a great 2017!