This afternoon, I saw what was, at one point, probably the most exciting and terrifying place in the world. Sagres is the southwest corner of Portugal. From this point, sailing west, you leave the Mediterranean and enter the vast expanse of the Atlantic. Beyond Sagres was no man’s land. Everything safe and familiar was behind you. New worlds of discovery and vast expanses of the unknown lay beyond. It was a powerful personal experience. Sitting on a rock overlooking the cliffs, looking at nothing but water, you discover something primal in yourself.
It was also metaphorical. We’re on the cusp of our own voyage. In our world, there’s a lot of unknown that lies ahead. For anyone that has pondered where we’re at, and what it might mean for us in the future, the possibilities are as exciting and frightening as they must have once appeared from the vantage point of Sagres.
It was somewhat fitting that the day I visited Sagres was the same day that Sergey Brin announced Google’s support of Android developers, to the tune of $10 million. No one doubts the potential of mobile. We all know that ubiquitous computing and access to the Internet will change everything. It will put the world in our hands.
And Google’s move into the space is interesting to think about as well. They’re betting on the power of community and open source to be the best way to reduce the friction so prevalent in the mobile space. Lack of standards, in fighting between telcos, convoluted politics between hardware manufacturers and service providers: Google is saying to hell with it, opening the door and letting things fall where they may. It’s a greenfield ripe for exploring, so the more the merrier! If our bets pay off (and in the grand scheme of things, $10 million is less than a pittance) there’s more than enough potential here for everyone. Forget control, let’s just get the ball rolling.
So, not to get all metaphorical on you, but if you compare it to the exploration of the new world, with many of those voyages rounding the point of Sagres, you’ll find a lot of similarity. Unlimited potential, a lot of unknowns, great odds that somebody’s going to get rich and, if you really think about it, scary as hell. But then, that could just be the Madeira talking.