The computing industry has seen its share of value shifts over the last 3 decades – perhaps more rapidly than any other industry. That’s what makes it so exciting! I believe that we are poised for another such shift. It’s not about the Internet, Web 2.0, SaaS or Cloud Computing – these are merely ripples at the end of the day. The emerging Value Shift is about Device Independence.
The computing industry to date has largely been dependent upon PCs. In other words, the industry’s fortunes were tied to the adoption of that one single class of device. Everything else flows from that. Microsoft made the most of it earning billions as did others – including Google. But that dependence appears to be breaking down. I am constantly intrigued by two things these days – the phenomenal success of the iPhone and the current rage in PCs – Netbooks. After all, having spent the last 20 years tracking an industry where speeds, feeds and computing power have ruled, how does one explain people (in droves) buying a lower power platform with shrunken keyboards and screens? iPhones let you view the same websites and web applications that you access from Netbooks, notebooks and desktops. The experience from a usability standpoint is different for any individual device, but you can access the same information. And it’s not limited to websites and web apps. You can use any number of free products to access your PC using an iphone (read about it here ). In other words device independence.
The “Information Fabric”
Padmasree Warrior, the CTO of Cisco puts forth a compelling prediction – the emergence of an “information fabric”. I believe it. The fabric can be defined in many ways and a many levels – from the lowest level network protocols to the highest level where information is consumed by individuals and corporations. Most importantly, the information fabric, I believe, will not limit itself to allow consumption and utilization of information by a single device or even a class of devices. Instead it will enable consumption by a whole range of devices leveraging the unique user experiences of each device.
The Ripples that Matter
It’s not difficult to see the key technologies that are driving this Shift. Of note are continued advances in virtualization and remoting where performance and user experience is improving rapidly. But also worth noting are storage technologies that are becoming common to different kinds of devices – specifically flash storage, whereas in the past application performance was somewhat dependent on type of storage used. The commonly understood technologies impacting bandwidth, throughput improvement, network capacity, data center optimization also continually push us towards device independence.
It’s All About Productivity
Ultimately the move towards device independence is about productivity resulting from the freedom to use the device that best suits the work environment at any given point is time (a smartphone, a PC, a Netbook or even a Kindle). A lot of pieces need to fall into place and getting to true device independence will take a long time but there is no doubt that the ripples that started this value shift are transforming into a Tsunami.