Last week, somewhat unexpectedly, Donald Trump became President-elect of the United States. Despite the outrage and protests, he will take office in late January. Ever since the victory, his future administration’s impact on topics such as M&A transactions and food production have been the focal point of many articles published online. While many tech sites have been doing double duty of discussing tech while also telling everyone how the world will end on January 20th when Trump is sworn into office, I actually preferred the opinion of Leo Laporte on this week’s TWIT:
This is the second conversation we can’t have, which is what a Trump administration will look like to tech. My reluctance to get into that is, it’s an unknown. And we can say what he said in the campaign. I think he is already backpedaling on some things. In many cases he said inconsistent things about a lot of things…
While I think this opinion can be applied broadly to a number of articles being published online, you came here to read about tech (or just found us by accident, to which I thank you). So, I will endeavor to keep this post focused on tech and not, oh say, immigration and wall policy. The fact of the matter is that Trump has yet to take office. As Leo said, Trump has been speaking pretty much non-stop since he won the election and has already gone back on many items that were core ideas of his campaign. I think it’s too early to understand the impact he will have on the tech sector, business and the direction the industry will take in the next four years. One thing I do believe is that whatever the impact, unlike economic policy, we will see the change in tech sector rather quickly.
As if this needs to be said, technology moves fast. I work for a SaaS company who specializes specifically in fintech applications. We have a roadmap that stretches out about 1-2 years into the future and can be changed at any time. Companies release smartphone updates before their current generation flagship killer is even a year old (I’m looking at you OnePlus). The Amazon Echo was released in late 2014 to much fanfare. It took Google a little less than two years to release a similar product. As you read this similar products are heavily rumored from other tech heavyweights. Economic and foreign policy set by a president can take years to begin having an effect on the country. The Reagan tax cuts are an excellent example. While providing some immediate relief to the average America and some results during the 80s, many agree that the economic boom of the Clinton years, more than 10 years later, was a main result of Reagan’s economic policy. This is not the case with technology; it will not wait. I expect we can see the effects on the tech sector within 6-12 months based on which policies Trump chooses to pursue. Whether due to Trump’s rumored changes to the corporate tax code, H1B visa system reform, asking Apple to move iPhone manufacturing to the US (this is already starting to happen, btw) or his insistence to force companies to do what the government wants, the tech sector will respond swiftly and most likely in a very public fashion.
However, I do not think that Trump’s time in office will fix any of the items I see coming over the horizon for the tech sector. Snapchat will continue on it’s way to becoming Twitter 2: the Revenge. I doubt very much Apple is going to come up with another iPhone level event any time soon. Microsoft will continue to be the amazing enterprise company it is, though, its clearly done with mobile devices, and poor Blackberry will probably never appear in my newsfeed again. And as cool as it is, I don’t think VR will become the amazing killer app that many tech companies are hoping for. If Palmer Luckey is smart, he won’t let Trump do a photo shoot wearing an Oculus Rift as it will probably make the device more uncool than the time your grandmother mentioned you in her Facebook post about a dog dressed as a walrus.
There is one point I think we can all agree on: Trump, like most of Washington DC, and politicians in general, don’t understand tech. I think his statements during the Apple vs FBI drama from early this year (you remember this one, where the federal government almost forced Apple to break their encryption technology to help the FBI in a terrorist investigation) proves this point. His comments showed not only a lack of understanding of how technology works, but also his opinion that the government is always right in their hunt for “the bad guys.” Does this opinion mean that Trump will be anti-tech going forward? Doubtful, but I think we need to wait and see. Whether or not President-elect Trump is not totally inept at business is debatable. However, I am sure he knows that the tech sector is the engine driving the US economic machine these days. Hopefully, he will be smart about messing with it too much. Obama did an excellent job of helping tech grow under his administration, hopefully Trump will do the same.
And now, I leave with an obligatory Joe Biden meme:
image credit: Imgur
title image credit: Gizmodo
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