Thursday, May 6, 2010

Prepare for the flip.

We're going to see some big changes in the way we use computers in the next few years. Most consumers, when not at work, just aren't going to need full desktop workstations like we do now. I'm including Mac, Windows, and Linux here, desktop, mouse driven workstations. The vast majority of stuff we do while not working, at home, is consuming content with occasional writing, tweeting, email etc. Yes, there are always going to be people at home who want to produce more, either writing, programming, video, whatever, but not most.
Replacing the desktop for consumption will be touch based mobile devices. Phones and tablets. Mouse based operating systems just don't work well in this environment. Operating systems designed from the ground up for this purpose are going to drive this. We've seen the iPhone prove this, and iPad is pushing it further. Android can compete, and in the next couple of years we'll see others try, including Microsoft's Phone 7 OS, and the competition will really make mobile computing explode. I suspect the heyday of laptops and netbooks is gone too.
Content producers, workers, are going to be using desktop workstations for a while yet. You just need a bigger surface, better multitasking and more input richness than a mobile device can provide. Personally, I think Windows 7 is really good in this space, but that's a religious war for another day.
Still, this is bad news for Microsoft and Intel, unless they can move in this direction faster. Microsoft may be able to follow Apple with Phone 7, but they are three years behind at least, with another six months until anything happens. Intel just don't have anything decent for mobiles, ARM has it all over them.
It's going to be all Apple and Google in a few short years. Let's see what HP can do with Palm and WebOS.

[Update - some iPad experience showing exactly this]
[Update - TechCrunch calling it the Third Wave, this site agrees with the threat to Windows]


Ben said...

Yep agree, but i am not sure this a good thing in 'every' aspect. Technology advancement feels like the cold war. Back then the USSR and USA kept bolstering weapons capabilities despite having well surpassed the capability to annihilate the planet many times over. The expectation and competition and fear of losing took over (replaced) the decision making process. With computer technology I am watching enormous advances come to market faster and faster. The best example is ipad. They brought this to market before any wide breadth of capability had been provided for it in applications/ content. (build it, they will come, Steve).

As HP has bought PALM ostensibly to join this race, we see a company buying a failing business in the 'hope' they can do something with the OS ? Never before have we have a tech race that drove companies to such high risk decisions so often.

What about the end user? well they are in part driving this. Expectation seems to be that there are no tech limits at all. I was at a cafe and overheard two young mothers with prams talking about their iphones. One said that they were sick of all the remotes in the house and that soon her iphone would be universal remote for all electronice devices in her house. She's probably not far off but since when did conversations like that come from two stay at home mums looking after bubs and cruising the cafes of crows nest?

back to the point, The more mobile we become the less focused we are.
I mean we don't necessarily get to 'sit down and work' anymore. It becomes a 24/7 distraction or obsession. I believe in most cases, certainly not all - the average user would like to feel connected and have some simple tools at their disposal. We are already there with smartphones! If we really beef up the mobile computing power i can see we will all once again have to drop our quality expectations in exchange for convenience - as we did with mp3 versus CDs. With each jump in convenience we seem to drop a level of quality in our experience, slowly making such experiences as movies and music a fast cusumable to be discarded in comparison to coveting our favourite album or movie.

we are selling off the richness of some experiences in a crazy technological race to make toys that often are made before and real use has been prepared for them.

Time to start asking what is it we really want from our computers in our life, not what new thing can i cram into my already busy life.


Owen Roberts said...

Thanks Ben. Yup, change seems to be happening faster and faster. Have you read much about the postulated "singularity"? Another topic.
I'm not sure about companies taking on more risk now than they have previously. Palm actually owns a lot of patents of value since they have been in the mobile device space since the mid 90's. I hada Palm II and it was awesome for the time.
As to your main point about the quality decreasing, not sure. Yes, in some cases, quality has suffered, but usually at the expense of convenience and choice. You can't take a CD jogging. At least not conveniently. And hell, at high bitrates, I can't even tell the difference. Take video as well. I often watch video at below DVD quality simply because it is more convenient to watch a DivX on my media player. Physical media can all go and burn. I want to click click click - play, not rummage in shitty plastic covers for something that is scratched.