Are Incumbents Accruing All The AI Value?

Mar 23, 2023

GitHub announced GitHub Copilot X, a suite of proposed features that integrates AI across the entire GitHub product. ChatGPT-like experiences in your IDE, Copilot for Pull Requests, AI-generated answers about documentation.

Any startups that were thinking about building these features might be second-guessing themselves now. GitHub and VSCode power a large surface of the developer workflow – will startups be able to add value here, or will GitHub and Microsoft accrue all the value?

A devil's advocate argument on why GitHub won't execute.

  • "GitHub Copilot X is currently a representation of GitHub’s vision for the future rather than an available product offering of GitHub Copilot." The announcement is simply that, an announcement. It's hard to ship. Especially for an acquired, decades-old company. It's hard to change the culture (even with paradigm shifts).
  • Changes are bolted on ideas to existing features. Not net new workflows. Why even have a pull request description? Commit message? If autogenerated, why not just on demand? The pull request workflow is not the end state of developer workflows. I've written about What Comes After Git and many other improvements that could be done at the version control or SaaS level.
  • What if these features are net negative experiences? Bad suggestions. GH becomes a verbose bag of text. Hard to roll back.
  • Misses at such a large scale can prevent a company from competing later on. Remember Google Code? Easy to integrate but easy to screw up.

Of course, you’re up against the best developer (and enterprise) distribution pipeline in the world — VSCode + GitHub + MSFT. So maybe nothing else matters.