Platformless Future

I was intending to blog about this last week, but the connection to my WordPress server didn’t seem to like me being on the other side of the world. Ecto which I’ve just started using might have helped that, although I’m now back in New Zealand. Of course that means now I don’t have the time to polish this entry as I’ve got a few important meetings. So I’ll just publish what I’ve got and build on it later.

While reading Cringley’s article last week about the Critical Mass a cluster of other pages I happened to be reading at the same time stuck me as vaguely related.

But there’s a problem with this approach. First, Microsoft tends to assume that if the PC goes away it will be replaced by something — ONE thing — when in fact it looks like the platform will be at least bifurcated between televisions and mobile phones, neither of which Microsoft dominates and neither of which it is likely to dominate.

My realisation to the extent of a platformless future was first driven was by see a product announcement from Netgear about their new Skype WiFi Phone:

You will also be more available for your friends to call, because you no longer have to be on your PC to be connected. You can even make calls to ordinary phones using Skype-Out for just pennies a minute and NO MONTHLY FEES. With the Skype WiFi Phone.

Skype is being an indispensable product for both private and business use. It is still tried quite strongly to the PC platform, so for example if you only have a cell phone then you are unable to participate. The value of this becomes more obvious when you travel a lot and carry several SIM cards. Running out of cash on one pre-pay number, switching to another card and suddenly your respondents for another number for processing messages.

O’Reilly Radar shows as a different example with a the Traffic Gauge, simple location specific device:

Now I know I could get this information on my phone, or even get real time traffic fed to my Garmin Streetpilot GPS. But having a dedicated device is surprisingly useful.

However, the final comment was particularly telling:

I remember a nice presentation years ago by someone from IBM in which he compared pervasive computing to the spread of clocks: the clock tower was equivalent to the mainframe, the grandfather clock to the minicomputer, the clock-radio to the PC, and the embedded clocks you see everywhere to the future of computing.

Add to this comments by James Kendrick on his use of a UMPC platform:

Last week I was having lunch in a local restaurant and an idea for an article struck me while sitting there. I pulled out the Sony and pen and started fleshing out the structure for the article with ink when it became clear to me I needed to do some heavy writing while the ideas were floating fresh in my mind. I pulled out a portable wireless keyboard, and in 5 seconds was writing the actual article.

This is what the current rash of reviewers are missing about the UMPC. It is about the mobility that provides opportunity to exercise the freedom of expression in places that would otherwise not occur.

Finally an article from CNN on Microsoft’s cash versus Google:

But in order to deliver your software as a service, and thus be able to display ads, as Google does, you have to spend unprecedented amounts of money. Software is becoming a capital-intensive business.

Some simple thoughts about this now. Any geek will at times have visions of one of the cyberpunk futures. Its my feeling that these types of networks can only be built on platform-less open standards. Without this the economic entry costs of supplying information from one edge to another edge by a user is high, creating friction. The capital cost of developing the ideas and building these platforms are very high. In order to profit from their work the software builders will want to have a strong gatekeeper role. This makes the development of open networks difficult. We’ll see what the future holds.

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