The cyclical high-tech companies

Throughout my career in the tech industry, I've witnessed the rise and fall of giant companies that once ruled their domains, only to be overtaken by agile newcomers.

Remember Wordstar? It dominated the word processing market until it was eclipsed by Word Perfect, which, in turn, yielded ground to Microsoft Word.

The same pattern emerged in the world of spreadsheets: Visicalc was king before Lotus took the throne, and then Microsoft Excel emerged as the new leader. Even in the realm of databases, we saw dbase give way to SQL databases.

Companies themselves have followed this cycle. Banyon was once the top networking company, but it was displaced by Novell, which was eventually superseded by Microsoft.

Today, some may argue that companies like Microsoft and Google are too massive and deeply entrenched to be dethroned. However, a closer look reveals that Microsoft is losing ground in the Office suite arena to Google Apps and in networking to the pervasive influence of the Internet.

Google, while enormous, replaced Yahoo, which had previously displaced Ask Mr. Jeeves, who, in turn, had taken over from Infoseek.

I dare to predict that in the next 5-10 years, both Microsoft and Google will find themselves fiercely battling to maintain their former dominance. Perhaps it will take 15 years, but the cycle of technological innovation and disruption shows no signs of slowing down.