The Shape of a Technological Window - Commoncog

About two weeks ago I released an update to the Commoncog case library beta: a new series of cases around a concept called ‘Technological Windows’. This was the name of a thing first articulated by Steve Jobs in a 1992 talk at the MIT Sloan School of Business; I argued that Jobs took the idea very seriously and that he had built much of his career around it. What was interesting to me was that he seemed to have been remarkably deliberate about chasing the concept to its logical ends — many products and strategies that he undertook over the course of NeXT and his second coming at Apple were applications of the concept over the arc of his life.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

Because I’m now doomed to think of various contemporary business events as ‘ooh, that’s a nice case study’, I think Microsoft generating hubbub for integrating ChatGPT into Bing is a nice example of ‘if you hang around long enough, sometimes a technological window allows you to become dangerous again’. :melting_face:


Finally did a straight-through read of all these and watched the full Steve commentary too - it’s a little hard to reconcile his description of the computer-driven NeXT manufacturing facility with the subsequent export by Apple of so much manfacturing capacity to Foxconn, but maybe that’s a separate issue?

The “prying a window open” notion stuck with me, and I wonder what windows folks here might see in their business surroundings. I’ve been describing Nvidia Omniverse as a sort-of-window, in that they found a new product that can join and exploit several of their existing programs (and thus is resistant to direct competition, because while Epic Games or Autodesk or other hardware makers have some pieces of the puzzle, they only have a few) (the most credible competitor, actually, might be Apple again, since they have a planetful of mobile sensors already deployed).

Ai as-deployed is drawing a lot of attention now, but I wonder what the windows for even two years ahead might be (and might not involve AI all that much at all, though it seems doubtful)

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An interesting bit of context: Jobs hired Cook to take care of manufacturing/supply chain issues in 1998, five years after the talk, and I think he charged Cook to make all of Apple’s manufacturing JIT. So I think it was really Cook’s doing that Apple’s manufacturing became this highly integrated, China-based, low inventory, high turnover machine.