For all the undoubted excitement around tech in 2015, there’s still an awful lot of bland, unchallenged consensus: disruption is a ‘good thing’, the world is going mobile, the app economy is booming etc etc.
So when someone butchers these sacred cows, well, you’re bound to listen. Even during the sleepy last session of a two-day industry conference.
Kramer, founder of research company Arete, prides himself on his independence. Indeed, the former Goldman Sach’s analyst founded Arete after becoming disillusioned with a research world that employs analysts who have affiliation with the companies they analyse.
By contrast, Arete makes a point of never taking money from anyone other than investors.
Over the next 30 minutes the wide-eyed conference audience was bombarded by a volley of contrarian venom as Kramer took aim at Apple, VCs and the myth of app economy.
He was brutal – and extremely entertaining. Afterwards, he sat down with Hot Topics to serve up some more zingers. Here are the highlights:
Venture Capital: it’s mostly pimping
“It’s exploiting relatively vulnerable young companies with promises of a 400 per cent IRR (internal rate of return) for their investors in six months.”
Disruption makes me vomit
“It’s the most overused phrase in the industry and it literally makes me want to retch. There is no such thing as disruption. We’re talking about two things: either a re-distribution of profit pools based on some innovation, or simply deflation. Because that is what tech has done for the last 150 years.”
Openness is a myth
“All these ‘liberal’ companies talk about openness. It’s nonsense. This is about fishing rights. These companies want to divide up the digital ocean and hoover up every scrap of data. If you think of all the and krill that comes off your body during the day, these companies are the vampire squids of the web. None of these companies want their fishing waters to be open. Wearables are just another digital fishing rod: put something on your body that beams back everything you’re doing to one of these giant fishing companies.”
The app economy: also a myth
“Where are all the developers’ yachts? C’mon! This is such a cool area. It’s what every kid wants to do. My 11 year old twins want to be app developers. But the best apps generate $10k a month. That’s not a living. If apps were a scale business you’d see more IPOs. There is one clear way to monetise apps and that’s winning the lottery. A trade sale.”
Apple is in the flash memory business
“If you have an iPad with more than 16GB of memory, you have just paid Apple a 93 per cent gross margin. It costs about $100 for 32GB and it costs Apple about 50c a gig. You work it out. They make more profit on memory than the entire NAND memory business.
Tech empires will die
“None of these ecosystems can generate best of breed apps. If Apple was so great, you wouldn’t have Spotify and Dropbox and WhatsApp. They’re all deeply dysfunctional…so you can hope that like all empires they will collapse.”
Desktop still matters
“It’s nice to talk about ‘mobile first’ but the desktop still really matters. There are things you are just not going to do on a mobile. Try booking a holiday on a mobile and see what a good experience it is.”
Video is the future
“To me apps will be entirely video based. It cuts across culture and language. Look at Lego. It used to make videos in 54 languages, now it does one. It took all the language out. The kids don’t need language to understand it. I’m amazed this is not more talked about.”