25 Years of Tech: Then, Now, and the Future

The technology industry has seen a huge amount of change in the last 25 years, and the ramifications have been radical. In this episode of Industry Focus: Tech, host Dylan Lewis and Motley Fool contributor Dan Kline go through some of the most influential technologies of the last 25 years — from the internet to e-commerce to cellphones and more. Then, they take a look into what the future could hold for technology.

No hover cars or food pills just yet, but the next few decades will see some interesting changes in the smart home, Internet of Things, and more. Tune in to hear where technology is headed, what we can learn from our tech past and present, and some critical investing pointers for anyone who feels like they missed the boat on these world-changing trends.

A full transcript follows the video.

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This video was recorded on June 29, 2018.

Dylan Lewis: Welcome to Industry Focus, the podcast that dives into a different sector of the stock market every day. It’s Friday, June 29th, and we’re talking about the last 25 years of tech. I’m your host, Dylan Lewis, and I’m joined on Skype by fool.com‘s Dan Kline. Dan, what’s going on?

Dan Kline: Hey, Dylan! How are you? I’m upset we’re not doing video today, because I’ve dressed exactly as Pac-Man circa 25 years ago.

Lewis: [laughs] I would love for that to be true, but you are in your standard … you have your own uniform, much like a Steve Jobs type character. I know what you’re going to be wearing pretty much every time we get on the horn together, it’s always a black shirt. Sometimes it’s short sleeves, sometimes it’s long sleeves.

Kline: I literally have a closet like Fred Flintstone, where it’s basically those two shirts, just rows of them.

Lewis: Hey, it eliminates one of your choices. One of my favorite April Fool’s Day pranks I’ve ever seen, a couple of years ago, H&M launched a Mark Zuckerberg line, and it was grey t-shirts and jeans, and that was the entirety of the line. I thought that was really funny.

Kline: I actually researched what Jobs and Zuckerberg had to say about that. I work from home alone, so why would I spend any time? Who’s going to judge me? The guy at Starbucks (NASDAQ: SBUX)? It’s just not that important.

Lewis: Yeah, you don’t see enough people every day, they’re not going to judge you for wearing the same thing every day, right?

Kline: Right. And when I come into the office, you guys are slobs.

Lewis: [laughs] Yes, we are. We enjoy our casual nature here. Dan, we’re talking 25 years of tech, and the reason we’re doing that is because The Fool is celebrating its 25th anniversary this weekend. We have a lot going on for that. If you go to our social channels — Facebook (NASDAQ: FB), Twitter (NYSE: TWTR), all of that — there are a lot of pictures, magazine covers, audio clips, from the past 25 years. If you’re a longtime Fool fan, go check those out. It will definitely be something you’ll enjoy.

We have a lot of ground to cover in talking 25 years of tech. Every host has talked about this topic a little bit differently with their sector. For us, we’re talking not only about the time where tech dominated, we’re talking about when tech became something that everyone interacted with.

Kline: It was really a major transition. Obviously, we’re very different ages, which we’ll talk about in a minute. But, there was a point where there was no technology in your house. Ten years later, your life revolved around technology.

Lewis: Yeah. I think that the two of us are actually in very good positions to talk about tech from different perspectives. In 1993, I was probably eating bugs and chasing a ball around in my backyard, because I was three years old. What were you doing in 1993, Dan?

Kline: I was a junior in college. I think I’ve told you this story on the air before, but at the time, I had access to email, but my school newspaper had one email account. And all you could use it to do was email other giant school institutions. You could literally, “Hey, email at another school, do you know so-and-so?” It was a lot of like, “Hey, I’m calling from a plane,” where there was no point to it. That was when dial-up internet and AOL were starting to take hold. In 1993, I was laying out newspaper pages manually on a Mac computer that had an external 20-megabyte hard drive.

Lewis: As someone that works in editorial now, I’m so thrilled that that is not our process. [laughs]

Kline: Just rendering a page could take 20 minutes, and you couldn’t use photos, you had to use physical photos — it was a very involved process, compared to what it would be now.

Lewis: That’s all to say that you and I have very different perspectives on the last 25 years of tech. I basically grew up with tech in the household, and this is something that you adopted. I think that makes us pretty well-suited to have this conversation. You mentioned AOL being in people’s homes. I think the first thing that you have to talk about when you’re talking about tech over the past 25 years is the rise of internet and the access to the internet that people finally had.

Kline: In 1995, when I was finishing college, my actual office had a CompuServe account. CompuServe was an early predecessor, it was dial up internet, and your username was a phone number — 5634200, etc. So, AOL was sort of the first mainstream version of that. That was really the change. That was when it became common — 30 million, whatever the number grew to at its height — for people to have email addresses. Then it moved to work and other providers. But that was the dividing point.

Lewis: You think about adoption here, I saw a stat that just blew my mind. In 1993, 23% of U.S. households had a computer, basically zero of them had internet access. Fast forward to 2000, 50% had computers in the home, 40% had internet access. So, that adoption happened really quick.

Kline: Part of it was because AOL was so easy to use. I think it was maybe 2011 before my mother realized that AOL wasn’t the internet, it was just a service that had some news, it had some stock prices, it had, at one time, Motley Fool. But, to show you how far I go back, my AOL address was dankline@aol.com.

Lewis: You were the original! You got in early! That’s the benefit of being an early adopter, you get to choose your username. Not only do we see a lot of change with how people were coming online — you have dial-up, you have that eventually going over to broadband in the early 2000s — but, you have a lot of change in what people are doing online. We have these web portals that really dominated the early internet era, specifically AOL and Yahoo. Then, Google passes Yahoo in visitor count in 2006. That was kind of a big moment, I think, for what got us to the current state of tech.

Kline: Google took us to the point where the internet stopped being a directory of content sites. If you look back at how Yahoo was organized, it was the Yellow Pages. It was really just, where do I find baseball scores? Google started answering your questions, and people started using that data to create new products. Once Google became dominant, there was this absolute explosion of website demand, bringing you to the current world, where if you want to see video footage of a penguin hugging a nun, it would probably take you eight seconds to find that.

Lewis: Not even, Dan! I guarantee you, 1.5 seconds, as long as you’re connected to good internet. But, yeah, that’s a good point. You go back to the 90s and early 2000s, people were publishing books saying what websites were good. It was that type of navigation.

Kline: I remember, in the early days, if I sent someone a photo that was taken on a digital camera or scanned or some archaic technology, it would take them ten minutes to download it. Now, if you and I want to watch The Godfather simultaneously on our laptops in different places, it doesn’t take any time.

Lewis: Yeah. It’s amazing how quickly we’ve been able to deliver content, and how much richer that content has gotten. I think one of the other big changes that comes with this is how people are accessing the internet. I mentioned that computer stat before. In ’93 — this actually was surprisingly high for me — 10% of Americans had a cellphone. That was higher than I would have expected. I guess you have to remember, though, those phones had pretty limited functionality, and they were basically the size of a brick.

Kline: When they say 10% had a cellphone, a lot of those cellphones were built into cars. You used them to tell your family you had an accident. I got a cellphone maybe in ’95, ’96, and it was $60 a month, and that got me 20 minutes. It was a crazy amount of money to be able to do anything on your phone.

Lewis: That makes your current wireless plan look pretty good, Dan.

Kline: I think that’s been the seismic change about how people access information. Really in the last two years, we’ve moved into a world where pretty much every wireless plan is unlimited. You no longer have to count — do you remember when you had to count text messages? Was that ever a thing for you?

Lewis: [laughs] Yeah, I do. I remember being charged per text message, and my mom being furious with me.

Kline: For a very long time, my wife and son and I had different data plans. I would have ten gigs, and they would each have one, and we’d have to track it. Now, they still don’t use that much data, but there’s no reason to not have unlimited.

Lewis: Yeah, it just makes too much sense. Really, you see a lot of people using mobile devices instead of using laptops or desktops for a lot of the traffic that they would be doing. The major internet companies now see most of their traffic and most of their revenue coming from mobile. You look at Facebook, you look at Alphabet (NASDAQ: GOOGL) (NASDAQ: GOOG), that’s certainly the case.

Kline: I believe the number was 87%, maybe it’s even higher now, have a smartphone. The sheer amount of people that aren’t turning to a computer — I even look at older generations. My mother has a computer, but I’d say 98% of her internet access is on an iPad. It’s really shifted from the days of being rooted to a computer. I’m still primarily a computer guy. We work on computers all day, so we have them in our hands, maybe, more than other people do.

Lewis: Yeah, I have friends that have totally ditched computers, aside from their work computer. They just have a smartphone or a phablet-style device that they use for everything in their personal life, which blows my mind. I can’t believe that people do that, but they do. You go from this period where less than half of households had a computer to, most people in the United States have a computer in their pocket. That’s a really big shift in consumer trends and access to information.

Kline: And it really took a while to take hold. You had the early generation smartphones, which were the BlackBerry (NYSE: BB) style, they had a keyboard, they didn’t really have apps. They couldn’t do that much other than, it was really easy to type email and text messages. Then, you had the failed experiment — I had an Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) Newton, which was the precursor to the iPad and the iPhone in a lot of ways. In 2007, the iPhone is what created what we have now, with this explosion of apps and the ability to do computer-like things on your phone. It was sort of inconceivable that you would create Excel documents on an old BlackBerry. That’s maybe not pleasant to do on an iPhone, but certainly possible.

Lewis: Yeah. It has transformed the way that people can interact with software, and that larger installed base of smartphone users has led to these really rich app communities, and developers deciding to create all these things for mobile.

Kline: It’s also changed how we live. Obviously, you weren’t working back in the mid to late-90s. In 1999, I worked at […], a top 25 website. We will probably refer to them more than once today. We had to have people that were on call, and we assigned them a phone, because they might have their own smartphone, they probably all had their own cellphone of some sort, but it didn’t necessarily have reliable service. Now, because we all have smartphones in our pocket, do you ever feel like you’re off?

Lewis: No, I’m always working. [laughs] Some of that’s the nature of the work we do. It’s media, there’s stuff going on on Twitter. We like to stay tuned in. But, some of that, it’s hard to put it down.

Kline: It is. The reality is, if you have a question about a story of mine, and I’m standing in line at Disney (NYSE: DIS) World — I live in South Florida — and I don’t answer you until after the ride, no one is going to get hurt. We’re not covering politics, we’re not covering breaking news, for the most part. But the fundamental change is, because you can, you feel like you have to. That’s a big change. I guess it works sometimes. Sometimes it’s a real benefit, because you can clear up, with ten seconds of interaction, something that might take 20 minutes if you had to research it on your own. On the other hand, it does mean it’s very hard to disconnect.

Lewis: Yeah. One of the things that we also noticed with the last 25 years in tech is that it’s become much easier to connect with people online. We’ve moved from this AOL and Yahoo, directory-style, discussion forum interaction to not even anonymous. I am who I am on Facebook, let’s be friends, let’s communicate and let’s join groups together. There’s a major shift in the type of content that people are consuming online and what the media landscape looks like.

Kline: It’s broadened the world. At my 10th high school reunion, I was legitimately interested in catching up with people. I had a pretty small high school class, 130-some people, and maybe ten of them were people I had some interaction with on a regular basis. Now, I have no interest in a high school reunion. Is there anyone from your high school class who you don’t know what they’re doing because of Facebook? I not only know their job, I know what they had for lunch yesterday!

Lewis: You know what, Dan? I’ll tell you, I got wind of my upcoming 10-year high school reunion because someone posted something on Facebook and was like, “Please add people to this group! We’re trying to coordinate!” So, I am, surprisingly, up to speed with what’s going on with people in high school, but I think I’m still going to go to that 10-year reunion.

Kline: Obviously, it changes a lot as you get older and people move farther away from home. For me, my high school reunions tend to be Thanksgiving time back in Boston. That’s an expensive flight, it’s not that many people anymore. It’s not that I don’t want to, but it’s very easy. I’ve had more personal conversations with people I didn’t really know in high school now. Even earlier today, I threw out, “Hey, I’m going to Stanton Optical to buy new glasses, has anyone had any experiences?” And a whole bunch of people from my high school — some of whom I knew, some of whom I don’t know that well — jumped in with answers. It’s very much changed our ability to do anything. You can crowdsource information on anything, from where to buy glasses to, should I take a trip here?

Lewis: We spent a lot of time talking about Facebook, I think it’s worth at least giving a name-check to Myspace. Before Facebook, we had Myspace, and that really got us to the social media world that we live in now.

Kline: I had a Myspace page, but I had a Myspace page because I was trying to be a media personality. The difference between Myspace and Facebook is the democracy of it. On Facebook, famous or not famous, you all have the same platform. On Myspace, you signed up for Myspace mostly to follow bands and sports figures and comics and other entertainers that you liked. It was really more about that type of social interaction, whereas Facebook is a much broader — I have my mom commenting on posts, and my high school teachers, and my son’s friends. It’s a very different universe.

Lewis: As people’s connections have gotten stronger, we look at their ability to access high-speed internet and things like that, what these services have delivered has really expanded. You see Facebook getting into live content, for example. And you see other platforms coming in and delivering content in a way they just couldn’t have in the early 90s, mid-90s, even mid-2000s. I’m thinking specifically about streaming here.

Kline: I think, in some ways, Facebook is pioneering becoming platform-agnostic. Right now, if you watch video on Facebook, you already have the tools right there to talk about, to do what Talking Dead does, but while something airs, and in an uncurated way. Why is Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX) not offering that? While I’m watching a show, why can’t I be interacting with all the other people watching it at that same time, or who have already seen it, to have this community? I think you’re starting to see more platforms bleed into each other. Is Facebook a video platform? I think it’s fair to say that it is.

Lewis: In the grand scheme of grievances against Netflix, I’d say that’s a pretty small one for what they deliver. This is a company that has really transformed the media industry and sidestepped traditional cable in a way that just wasn’t possible 15 years ago.

Kline: They’ve also created this current environment where content is king. You see with the Disney-Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA) battle for Fox (NASDAQ: FOXA) (NASDAQ: FOX) that named properties are worth so much. Give Netflix a ton of credit for really starting a lot of franchises that were not named properties. It is very difficult to put a television show, whether it’s on air or streaming or in any format and get anyone to watch it. What does your Netflix feed look like? I have about 60 shows I’m never going to get to.

Lewis: Oh, it’s crazy! I have so much to catch up on. I’m working my way through the recently launched season of Arrested Development right now, and I’m about midway through. I have to say, it’s a little disappointing, as someone that’s a long-term fan.

Kline: That’s on my list. We just finished season two of Jessica Jones, and I’m about to tackle Luke Cage. But, I have all the things that my friends and family have said, “Oh, you’d love it,” and I bet I’d love it. If I ever get the flu and I’m stuck at home for two weeks watching TV, maybe I’ll catch up. But it’s an embarrassment of riches, which has made named properties. There’s a reason Star Wars sold for $4 billion, there’s a reason this collection of Fox assets, which includes The Simpsons and rights to a bunch of Marvel characters which could go back to Disney, they’re worth so much, because it’s so much easier if you’re launching a television show based on Jurassic Park than if you’re just launching a television show based on scary dinosaurs.

Lewis: It’s a wonderful time to be a TV consumer. Dan, we would be remiss if, in the grand scheme of tech and disruption over the past 25 years, we did not talk a little bit about e-commerce and Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN).

Kline: Do you remember the first time you made an online purchase?

Lewis: It must have been in the late 90s. My mom was super into eBay (NASDAQ: EBAY) back then, and I was a pretty avid baseball card collector. There were a lot of times where I was trying to get this one specific card, and some guy in Oklahoma was selling it on eBay, so I was involved in the auction. I think that was my early online purchase experience.

Kline: It’s funny, I would say eBay was probably my first online purchase. Online purchasing for me went from dabbling in eBay, to occasionally buying on Amazon or some other random website, to now, I order from Amazon maybe four times a week, and I probably use Instacart at least three or four times a month to get groceries and whatnot.

Lewis: For all of the activity that we experience and see with e-commerce, what’s incredible to me is, it’s still such a small portion of overall retail activity. For as much as people lean on Prime and create all these purchases for things that they would never normally buy online, it’s a fraction of the overall marketplace.

Kline: It’s about 13%, if I remember correctly. What’s funny about it is, it’s amazing how often, at Christmas time, it was reported that digital sales are bigger than physical sales, which is just not true under any circumstances.

But, what we are starting to see change now — and I think it’s going to tilt those numbers greatly — is Amazon and everybody else — Walmart (NYSE: WMT), Costco (NASDAQ: COST), whoever it is — are figuring out last-mile delivery. I’m sure you saw the Amazon announcement where they’re building a fleet of vans, privately operated vans that are going to go from their warehouses to do individual orders. You see the rise of Instacart, which is people in their cars doing individual orders. McDonald’s (NYSE: MCD) uses Uber Eats in a lot of markets to deliver your soggy, horrible Big Mac — I don’t understand who’s getting McDonald’s delivered.

That’s going to be the next transformation, and that will really change retail. You might actually go to the supermarket, pick out all your stuff, and then have it delivered. This whole omnichannel world, where convenience is key, is going to mean a lot of things to a lot of people. I live in a high-rise building. Maybe you do, too. It’s hard to buy some things — water. I don’t want to carry water from my parking garage to my house — so, I have it delivered, and it comes right to my door. There are so many things like that that you’re going to see in this next group of transformation.

Lewis: I’m glad you mentioned looking forward in the future. We’ve spent a lot of time looking in the past, so far, in the show. I want to spend some time looking into our crystal ball a little bit, what do we expect to continue to happen? I think it might be a little irresponsible to forecast out 25 years. But, to your point about transportation, I think that’s a major trend to watch.

I think we’ve seen, over the past maybe ten to 15 years in particular, this tech creep. You have these companies that are not traditional financial companies merging together. PayPal (NASDAQ: PYPL) is a hybrid company. They’re in payments, but they’re really a tech company. Uber is a transportation company, but they’re really a tech company. I think that’s only going to continue.

Kline: Earlier this year, I moderated a panel at the Electronic Transactions Association. One of the people on my panel was the tech guy at Shake Shack (NYSE: SHAK). I would argue that Shake Shack is a tech company. They’re not a pioneer, they’re really more looking at what other people are doing and how they can adopt it. But the days where any company that interacts with people, unless your model is that you’re folksy and you don’t have technology, you have to have a technology component. The question is going to be how far it goes.

The gentleman from Shake Shack, one of the things he brought up was, we could absolutely have the technology so that when you walk in, we know what your past order was, we know what you’re allergic to, we know what you like and you don’t. But, we don’t think our customers are going to want that. That’s going to be creepy to them, as opposed to, you can go into the app and pull up your past order. That feels a little bit less Big Brother-y.

There’s going to be a whole array of, “Here’s all the things we can do. Should we do them?” In healthcare, your phone might be able to order an ambulance. That’s really good. But, do you want everything you do broadcast in that same fashion? You probably don’t.

Lewis: I know on Wednesday show, Kristine spent some time talking about Teladoc‘s (NYSE: TDOC) services, and the idea of e-health, not having to go to a doctor to actually meet your doctor. If you’re really sick, being at home. I think that that’s something that’s really appealing to a lot of people. That’s going to be pretty disruptive in the healthcare space.

Kline: I use Teladoc now. Teladoc is very limited. The couple of times I’ve used it has basically been, my wife and son both got, let’s say, strep throat, and I have all the symptoms, and it’s dumb to go in and pay for an office visit. So, for $25, you can do Teladoc. But, when you start to marry Teladoc with something like an Echo Look, and some of these two-way devices, or the Apple Watch, which can transmit health information, you’re going to start having office-like appointments from your living room. Besides that being transformative, it’s also convenient. It frees up time to do other things.

In the next couple of years, the changes are going to be incremental. It’s going to be more automated delivery, it’s going to be easier access to stuff, things like Teladoc getting better, Netflix maybe being a little bit more intuitive about what you should be watching. I don’t think it’s going to be, two years from now, robot overlords or food pills.

Lewis: What’s tempting, I think, is to look at a lot of these spaces and a lot of these themes that we’ve talked about already — connectivity, mobile, e-commerce — and say, “OK, those have happened already,” or, maybe, “They’re in the process of happening.” For investing purposes, it might not feel like you’re hopping on some really hot trend. To the point about e-commerce still being such a tiny portion of overall retail activity, you need to remember that these are still pretty early on in their growth ramps as major trends.

Kline: There’s a huge interplay. We haven’t really talked about the Internet of Things, which is the whole universe of connected devices. Take something simple now — like, Amazon has its little buttons that you could put next to your washing machine, a wi-fi button, where when you run out of detergent, you hit it and it puts it on your order list, and you get more in two days. That type of functionality is going to improve. I’ve been to CES two out of the last three years, and they’re showing the same refrigerators that can tell you when your eggs have spoiled and order new ones.

What we don’t know is how much consumers are going to want. There’s a certain level of home automation that’s going to catch on. A lot of people have doorbells and security cameras. But, we may not want the full automation that’s possible, and it may never hit a saturation point. We might be happy with what we can control from our Amazon Alexa device. That’s really were some of the investing plays are — how far is this going to go? And, as the average person, is your generation going to want total automation? Are you going to want to never have to think about, I don’t know, buying toilet paper because it’s automatic? Or, is it really not that big of a deal to pick up some toilet paper when you’re at the store?

Lewis: I think smart home and connected home is one of the easiest trends to forecast out for the next ten years, and say that we’re going to see more and more of these devices coming in, especially as you see Amazon get really good at getting the price down for those Echo Dot devices. It’s easy to have several of them in your home.

Kline: How many do you own?

Lewis: I don’t own any, but I know that you have a ton. I know so many Fools that say, “I have five in the house.”

Kline: I have four Echos in basically a three-bedroom house. We have Google Home at our little summer home, our vacation home. And I probably own, I don’t know, something else along those lines. Basically, I have to be honest, I use Alexa as a weather device, as, primarily, a music player or a podcast device. I haven’t hooked it up to my lights. I haven’t hooked it up because, frankly, my light switches are right when I walk in the door. It’s just as easy to hit the light switch as it is to say, “Alexa, turn my lights on.”

Lewis: Yeah. So, that’s the struggle. I think, if you’re looking at gadget-y type stuff for the future, a great thing to keep in mind is, if this stuff is very expensive for people to adopt, adoption’s going to be slow. I think that’s one of the struggles that we see with VR right now. That’s a space that a lot of people are super interested in, they think it’s a really compelling growth story. Well, really full VR rigs are expensive to have in your house. If that cost is being passed along to the end consumer, adoption’s going to be pretty slow. If you see devices that are connected home devices and they’re on the cheaper side, know that it’s probably more likely that that’s going to get adopted quicker.

Kline: To speak to VR, there’s a form factor problem. I’m a huge Star Wars fan, so I bought the, $200, you get a lightsaber and you can battle. The problem is, you slip your iPhone into a headset. It’s very heavy. After playing for like ten minutes, you have a headache and your neck hurts. It’s not as fun as — I’ve done some incredible, immersive VR experiences. Disney has an amazing one at Disney Springs, where you’re literally in Star Wars. But that’s probably a $20,000 rig you’re wearing while you’re doing that. It’s just not quite there yet. I’d argue with home automation that it is. An Echo Dot’s, what, $30 if you buy a few of them?

Lewis: Yeah, it’s cheap. I think that the interaction makes sense to a lot of people. It’s fairly intuitive. If you’re looking for investment advice for the next five to ten years, we talked about how it will look a lot similar to what it has looked like it like, it would be kind of incremental. I agree with you, but I think that, one, penetration rates are very low for a lot of these trends we’re talking about in the U.S. But, if you take a look out at the entire world, they’re even lower, particularly in developing economies. Keep that in mind.

There’s this great quote from William Gibson. “The future is here, but it’s not evenly distributed,” or something like that. That’s something to keep in mind. If you’re an American consumer, you’re probably getting a look at a lot of types of technology that haven’t quite made it out to other parts of the world yet. So, if you see businesses like an iQiyi (NASDAQ: IQ), that’s taking a model that has been proven to work here in the United States with Netflix, and taking it to a developing market. I think mobile payments is another space that’s super interesting if you take a global perspective.

Kline: One thing we haven’t touched on is wireless and internet delivery. We’re at the dawn of 5G. When we have 5G networks — which, if the Sprint (NYSE: S)T-Mobile (NASDAQ: TMUS) merger goes through, they might be the first — you’re going to have the ability to deliver more of a broadband internet experience through phone connectivity. As that spreads around the world, it’s going to be very disruptive, pricing is going to come down, and the ability for everyone to take advantage of all of this content, all of these services, it just changes. That’s really the investment opportunity, how is internet going to be delivered going forward.

Lewis: To give a sense of where we were and where we are now, Dan, I’m going to run through the largest market-cap companies in 1993, and the largest market-cap companies now. I think you’re going to notice a little bit of a trend here. In 1993, you have GM (NYSE: GM), ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM), Ford Motor (NYSE: F), IBM (NYSE: IBM), General Electric (NYSE: GE). Fast-forward to 2018, you have Apple, Amazon, Alphabet, Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT), Facebook. Tech goes from being one of the five to being the entire list, which really speaks to how much this space has taken over the economy and the broad market in general.

Looking at that list, we see that there was pretty much 100% turnover over the past 25 years. Of those five companies that you see on there now, which one is the one you’re most convinced will be on there in 25 years?

Kline: So I don’t get to bet on a BlackBerry comeback, and being there at the top in 25 years? [laughs]

Lewis: [laughs] You can, but I think the odds are stacked against you.

Kline: No, I’m kidding. And, credit to BlackBerry for revamping its business as it has. I could see any of them, but I tend to be an Apple loyalist. It is a concern that, I think 62% of Apple’s revenue is the iPhone. But, I do believe that as phone technology changes to whatever it becomes — implants or who-knows-what — I think there’s going to be a brand loyalty to Apple. Their ability to build secondary billion-dollar businesses has been very strong. Again, I could take any of them on this list, but I would lean toward Apple, just because it really does have the shiniest brand.

Lewis: For my money, I think I’m going with Amazon. I see them, and I see a business that has taken advantage of the cloud with AWS — which is another trend that we didn’t really touch on too much. They have this cash cow business, and they have this really scalable, amazing e-commerce platform — and oh, by the way, they’re trying to get into people’s homes with connected devices, they’re building out their streaming options. They seem to have a lead in a market that is going to be very tough for other people to catch up to.

Kline: They do. I just think that, if you look at the costs of what Amazon is doing, there are global forces bringing them down. Automated delivery … In 2000, putting up a simple e-commerce site at my family’s ladder and scaffolding business cost hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars. You paid a significant amount every month. That’s just a commodity now through Shopify (NYSE: SHOP), or you could do it 100 different ways for almost no money.

I do think, some things that are right now unique to Amazon and its supply chain are going to be readily available to almost everyone, and that there will be players out there that can rub some of Amazon’s niches. Not that I don’t think Amazon will be a major player in 25 years. But I do think they actually face some competition that they don’t have now.

Lewis: Dan, I guess we’ll just have to get back on the horn and check in in 2043. [laughs]

Kline: 25 years from now? I’ll put it on my calendar.

Lewis: Alright. Thanks for hopping on, Dan.

Kline: Thank you.

Lewis: Listeners, that does it for this episode of Industry Focus. If you have any questions, or if you want to reach out and say hey, you can shoot us an email at industryfocus@fool.com, or you can tweet us at @MFIndustryFocus. If you want more of our stuff, subscribe on iTunes or check out The Fool’s family of shows over at fool.com/podcasts. As always, people on the program may own companies discussed on the show, and The Motley Fool may have formal recommendations for or against stocks mentioned, so don’t buy or sell anything based solely on what you hear. Thanks to Austin Morgan for all his work behind the glass. For Dan Kline, I’m Dylan Lewis. Thanks for listening and Fool on!

John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market, an Amazon subsidiary, is a member of The Motley Fool’s board of directors. Suzanne Frey, an executive at Alphabet, is a member of The Motley Fool’s board of directors. Teresa Kersten is an employee of LinkedIn and is a member of The Motley Fool’s board of directors. LinkedIn is owned by Microsoft. Daniel B. Kline owns shares of AAPL, Facebook, and MSFT. Dylan Lewis owns shares of GOOGL, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, IQ, PYPL, SHOP, and DIS. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends GOOGL, GOOG, Amazon, AAPL, Facebook, NFLX, PYPL, SHOP, SBUX, TWTR, and DIS. The Motley Fool has the following options: long January 2020 $150 calls on AAPL and short January 2020 $155 calls on AAPL. The Motley Fool recommends COST, eBay, F, IQ, Teladoc, and TMUS. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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