🔮 The GPT Tidal Wave
How might Google fare?
A little over 10,000 days ago, Bill Gates, then CEO of Microsoft, wrote a memo, The Internet Tidal Wave, which turned the world’s largest software firm towards the opportunity of the Internet. The firm could see the growing success of Netscape, and its browser. That success could be the first swell to swamp Microsoft.
In that May 1995 letter, he wrote:
The Internet is at the forefront … and developments on the Internet over the next several years will set the course of our industry for a long time to come.
Google’s founders were finishing Masters degrees. Brin at Stanford; Page at the University of Maryland. They would meet at Stanford and launch Google on 4th September 1998. (Although confusingly, for the past 18 years, they claim to have launched it on a date that coincides with my birthday.)
Two more technology waves appeared: mobile and social. Microsoft flubbed both. Google flunked social but through its acquisition of Android cemented a powerful position in mobile.
Are we here again?
Today, it might be Google in Microsoft’s shoes. The general technology is one that Google (like Microsoft before it) knows well: artificial intelligence. The challenging field of upstarts is led by OpenAI, cosying up to Microsoft. Microsoft’s CEO, Satya Nadella, said simply: “This technology is going to reshape pretty much every software category.”1 (You can read a transcript of Microsoft and OpenAI’s ChatGPT event blog here. It just started as I sent this letter.)
The question is what the new suite of large-language models represents. Does it represent a new interaction paradigm, a new way of accessing computers? Browsers were just thus. They promised to commoditise the operating system and desktop apps. Many of us today only use a browser and, perhaps, a music or video app on our computers.
Mobile devices presented another interaction paradigm - capturing business and consumer attention and becoming the primary interface to computing.
What are large-language models going to be? Will they be the new interface to computing?