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Kleiner Perkins' Doerr: Google, Facebook, Amazon, Apple the 'four great horsemen of the Internet'

Google, Facebook, Amazon and Apple are setting the pace for innovation online, said Kleiner Perkins partner John Doerr at the TechCrunch: Disrupt conference.
Written by Andrew Nusca, Contributor

Google, Facebook, Amazon and Apple are the "four great horsemen of the Internet," and they're setting the pace for innovation online, John Doerr said.

Speaking to Charlie Rose this morning at the TechCrunch: Disruptconference in New York City, the Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers partner said we're on the cusp of a "third great wave" of innovation, following the first -- the microchip and the personal computer -- and the second: the Internet, the browser and the search engine.

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"It's a combination of social and mobile and new kinds of commerce," Doerr said. "We could be on the verge of reinventing the web. The web is people and places and relationships. That's a very exciting thing."

Doerr brought his Apple iPad on stage, and lauded the device as a portal to a "whole new app economy" filled with services that are "enabled by relationships between people."

"This tablet, this iPad, is not some kind of big iPod," Doerr said. "This is a new paradigm. And we're just at the beginning."

"It's not a computer. You don't need files. You don't need mice. It's magic, you know? What you see is what you touch. I think Steve re-imagined a whole new experience. This are immersive magical new kinds of surfaces."

Responding to Rose's question about the Apple-Adobe scuffle, Doerr admitted batteries remain a Stone Age-esque problem in the consumer electronics industry.

"Battery is key. Battery improvement is coming very slowly," he said. "There are some disruptive things over the edge of the horizon, but it's been painfully slow.

"Work needs to be done by entrepreneurs. We've just begun. These things are going to have 10 times the memory and be five times as fast. These things will be here in three to five years."

Mentioning Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Mark Pincus and other prominent technology entrepreneurs -- "They were caught in a desperate, deep love affair with their companies," he said -- Doerr said disruption comes down to culture, outlining two groups of entrepreneurs: mercenaries and missionaries.

"This is about culture. In tech companies whether it's silicon alley or silicon valley, you can see these types of cultures. The mercenaries...are driven by fear. the missionaries are driven by passion.

"Mercenaries, they're motivated by financial statements. There's sometimes a sense of entitlement. The missionary cultures are all about value statements. Mercenaries have an incredible lust for making money. Missionaries are into making meaning and money.

"When you look at Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg or Jeff Bezos, these people have turned down offers....it's because they're on a mission. Product is our most important progress."

Mentioning social mobile gaming network Zynga -- the parent company of FarmVille and Kleiner Perkins' fastest growing venture ever -- Doerr said the convergence of social networks and mobile was core to the "third wave's" success.

"I think we're seeing changes in consumer behavior, and it's also happening in new commerce," Doerr said, mentioning online fashion retailer One King's Lane. "History tells us that one of the keys to all these businesses is that they have strong network connects."

Doerr also discussed the recently-announced Google TV, which he said is the next step in the convergence of home theater and the Internet.

"I think for the last time, we've watched the Super Bowl without the Internet on your lap and on your screen," Doerr said. "The Internet and the TV are finally coming together in the living room, and I think the tablets and Google TV are going to do it."

Changing gears, Doerr discussed the Google-China snafu, in which the search giant pulled out of the country after facing blowback on its unadulterated search results.

"China now has more Internet users than the U.S. does," Doerr said. "It's a big market, it's very rapidly growing. It's going to be a very tough market for Western companies to participate in.

"Google takes a very principled point of view and it is a medium and it has to be very objective. You can't buy position in their network.

"For a state to say we're going to censor it, didn't work for the founders of Google. So they they stepped away in a meaningful way."

Still, Doerr said Google was one of four American Internet companies that are changing its landscape forever.

"Google, Facebook, Amazon, Apple -- I think those are the four great horsemen of the Internet," Doerr said. "They're really setting the pace. They're not limited by market. They're limited by their ability to execute -- to get great, smart people."

Discussing disruption, Doerr said the next phase of the Internet drops the "computing" aspect of it entirely for a more natural way to interact.

"There's another technology that's key -- a new kind of immersive relationship between you and the medium," he said. "Point and it happens, not point and click and mouse around. Instead of taking the web and have websites be framed, it's a cool, new immersive experience. Things like cover flow from Apple or CoolIris. These interfaces are going to get radically improved."

Doerr said he was excited for the iPad's implications for the healthcare industry.

"Our doctor's offices are still driven by paper," Doerr said. "I don't see any reason why every doctor or nurse...won't have one."

He also said it would "transform" education.

"We'll get beyond the heavy, lobbying, state-provided textbooks," he said. "Its marginal cost will be zero."

Finally, speaking of Russia and China's efforts to create their own Silicon Valleys, Doerr lamented the lack of American participation in what he sees as the new infotech -- the cleantech industry.

"The one I worry about is energy," he said. "We continue to shift a billion dollars a day out of this country. The U.S. was the worldwide leader in the creation of the Internet andthe biotechnology industries.

Doerr said of all the advanced wind, batteries and solar companies, only four were American: one wind, one battery and two solar firms.

"We have got to get in this race and get in this game," Doerr said. "Otherwise we're going to be buying our energy future from other parts of the world."

Photos: Andrew Mager/Flickr

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