There’s been some truly fascinating shifts in the world of computing, mobile and the technology ecosystem over the last few weeks. Here’s just a few links that sum up where things are going.
Firstly, the much-circulated, oft-quoted “The real reason why Steve Jobs hates Flash” by Charlie Stross, which has some excellent near-future imaginings:
Software will be delivered as a service to users wherever they are, via whatever device they’re looking at — their phone, laptop, tablet, the TV, a direct brain implant, whatever.
Apple are trying desperately to force the growth of a new ecosystem — one that rivals the 26-year-old Macintosh environment — to maturity in five years flat. That’s the time scale in which they expect the cloud computing revolution to flatten the existing PC industry.
There are persistent rumours that “iTunes 10″ will be some kind of cloud service, slurping up your music and video library and streaming it out to whatever device you’ve registered with Apple. There’s MobileMe for email, and iWork.com for office documents. There will be more — much more.
Some of the analysis I think is wrong – for example, hi-def content is almost guaranteed to force us back to bandwidth oases, where we can slurp gigabytes from the fibre at high speed. But that’s typically going to become an occasional syncing problem, while we live the rest of our lives in the likes of Dropbox (disclaimer: referral link gets me more living space). But the general vision of pervasive always-on cloud lifestyles lived across a variety of devices? It hits the nail on the head.
Oh, and we’re already there to a fair degree. Example: when I got back to Norwich last night and fired up the laptop, I looked quizzically at my wifi router and thought “how quaint”. Later, I was messing with the Pre, reading websites and downloading apps, and I didn’t even realise (a) Norwich now has good 3G coverage (b) I hadn’t hooked the Pre up to wifi.
Next up, the RedMonk guys have been hitting it out of the ballpark as usual with all the HP-Palm analysis. In “Mobile is the new desktop: The HP/Palm Q&A“, @sogrady nails it. One of the best bits is his analysis of the state of mobile device OSes, which is so good I’m going to quote entirely here, but you really need to read the whole article:
Q: And what about webOS?
A: webOS is a really nice piece of work, but it may be even more valuable in context.
Q: How so?
A: Consider the mobile device OS – meaning phones and tablets, etc – landscape at the present time. The players, apart from webOS, are: Android, Apple’s iPhone/iPad OS, MeeGo, RIM, Symbian, Windows Phone 7, and roll-your-own. Chrome OS will eventually be relevant as a subset, but is probably not versatile enough to play all the way down market to the phone. Ticking through issues with the choices:
• Android: little opportunity for differentiation, means that you’re putting your faith in Google whose OS story is conflicted by Chrome.
• Apple: Apple doesn’t license their OS out, and even if they did, HP’s not likely to go that route again after what happened with their aborted iPod partnership.
• MeeGo: the Linux based offering has some very interesting technologies, but a fragmented developer story and questions about who’s running the show raise red flags (coverage).
• RIM: great platform for email and for business. Substantially less great for consumer devices.
• Symbian: the pro is that there are lots and lots of Symbian devices; the con is that few like to use them; more, the developer community has little interest in this route.
• Windows Phone 7: Microsoft’s reboot of their mobile story is interesting, but like Android, offers little opportunity for differentiation and requires trust in Microsoft’s development path, which in mobile is a questionable proposition.
• Roll your own: the question every vendor has to ask themselves here is: are we competent enough to design an OS from scratch that will compete with Apple? Judging by market traction for Android, most vendors’ answer to this question is: no.
It’s nice to see big companies like HP finally decide to take control of their own destiny, rather than being shackled to the likes of Microsoft. HP are just one of many. We’re seeing, and will continue to see, a real explosion in form factors, user interfaces, and best of all, innovation. The best thing about iPhone OS, WebOS, Android and MeeGo is that they are challenging the status quo, teaching users that Windows and Office are not the be-all and end-all of computing. As a result of this, consumers are finally going to be learning transferable computing skills, rather than single platform skills. The light at the end of the tunnel just went supernova.
And finally, in case you missed it, In Case You Had Any Doubts About Where Apple’s Revenue Comes From. This one chart explains the significance of the mobile marketplace in relation to desktop computing. I was REALLY surprised by this. It’s ridiculously scary if you add iPhone and iPod together – almost three quarters of Apple’s revenue coming from the iPhone. It goes a long way to explaining why WWDC 2010 relegates Mac and OS X to “not invited” status. Pay close attention. There’s seismic shifts going on here.