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Sunday, Sep 15, 2019

The biggest ‘what ifs’ in the world of tech

Certain things or situations that could have easily made a lot of difference to technology

brunch Updated: Apr 28, 2018 23:47 IST
Rajiv Makhni
Rajiv Makhni
Hindustan Times
Every device, every app is worked upon to be addictive to the human mind
Every device, every app is worked upon to be addictive to the human mind

There’s a game that has been played for centuries. The Game of What If. It’s usually played out by taking a chapter from history, something that had global impact and then imagining a ‘what if’ scenario in complete contrast to what had happened. The best ‘What Ifs’ are those that are plausible, could have happened easily and would have changed the entire course of history. Situations like ‘What if the Soviet Union had teamed up with Hitler’ or ‘What if 9/11 was foiled’ or ‘What if Donald Trump had never been born’. Now, what if we were to play a What If in the world of tech.

What if Mark Zuckerberg had delivered on his promise to the Winklevoss twins?

The Winklevoss twins claim to have come up with the original idea behind Facebook. They hired Zuckerberg to

Had BlackBerry released BBM for all OSes way before, it would be the number one messaging system today

improve the coding and systems. Apparently ‘Zuck’, zuckered them, stole the idea and made it his own. If Zuckerberg had actually delivered on his promise, coded Facebook, given it to them and walked away, the following would have happened. The twins would have screwed it all up, Facebook would have just been a networking place for a few people at college, you’d never have heard of it and all of it would have wound up within six months. Mark wouldn’t be one of the richest people on the planet, 2.3 billion people wouldn’t be using and cribbing about Facebook every day, the FB data breach would never happen and no one would know that Mark is very short and uses a booster cushion when he sits on a chair.

In short, FB wouldn’t exist.

If the Winklevoss twins ran Facebook, how would things have been?
If the Winklevoss twins ran Facebook, how would things have been?

What if every tech company created tech as something positive, and not made to be addictive from the ground up?

That’s a funny ‘What If’. Like I said, a What If has to be plausible, something imaginable, something that could or can happen. In this world, where every device, ever app and every new innovation is scientifically worked upon to first be psychologically addictive to the human mind – there’s a fat chance that positive healing tech will ever be a feature.

What if BlackBerry had released BBM (its instant messaging system) to iOS and Android and all other mobile operating systems, one day before WhatsApp?

Well, WhatsApp and all the other messaging apps wouldn’t exist today. BBM was easily the most secure, clean and sophisticated messaging system on the planet. People bought BlackBerry phones mainly for BBM and BlackBerry was the number one smartphone in the world. The problem came when other mobile operating systems came in. BlackBerry stuck to keeping BBM only for BB phones, WhatsApp came out on Android, iOS and BB, forcibly converted every person on your contact list to a WhatsApp contact.

If Nokia had focused on add-on apps, it would still be number one
If Nokia had focused on add-on apps, it would still be number one

What if Nokia understood that touchscreen and add-on apps were most important on smartphones?

In 2007, Nokia was on top of the world. And it was the number one in the mobile phone business. In 2012, just five years later, Nokia was worth just $8.2 billion. Apple was then valued at $635 Billion, mainly because of the iPhone! What if Nokia had released a smartphone with a great touchscreen and add on apps in 2007, before Apple did? Nokia would be number one today, Apple and Samsung as distant number twos. Nokia’s OS would be wholly dominant, Android wouldn’t be a big deal and the number of phone brands in the world would be less than half.

There it is then. Some ‘What Ifs’ that would have changed the world. I’m sure you can think of many others in the world of tech. Let’s continue this game... when you post those ‘What Ifs’ to me on Twitter and Facebook.

Rajiv Makhni is managing editor, Technology, NDTV, and the anchor of Gadget Guru, Cell Guru and Newsnet 3

From HT Brunch, April 29, 2018

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First Published: Apr 28, 2018 21:44 IST