Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Other Road Ahead

This older article by Paul Graham talks about some interesting things happening right now.
Hardware becoming virtually exchangeable and disposable, data becoming device-independent, etc. Google with the cloud service machine and the whole tablet movement is steering right into this. And most important: ordinary users not having to know how and when to install or upgrade anything, or what "DSS" or "ZIP" means. They just need to tap a button to make it happen.

With Web-based software, most users won't have to think about anything except the applications they use. All the messy, changing stuff will be sitting on a server somewhere, maintained by the kind of people who are good at that kind of thing. And so you won't ordinarily need a computer, per se, to use software. All you'll need will be something with a keyboard, a screen, and a Web browser. Maybe it will have wireless Internet access. Maybe it will also be your cell phone. Whatever it is, it will be consumer electronics: something that costs about $200, and that people choose mostly based on how the case looks. You'll pay more for Internet services than you do for the hardware, just as you do now with telephones.

See, that's a tablet, in two or three years.


Bruce said...

The big problem is that those who own the cloud will be able to cut you off from your digital possessions whenever they want to.

Dropbox is a cloud based service that automatically syncs with a computer at home. That's a step in the right direction. CrashPlan is a software/service combination that allows you to build your own cloud for backup. You can back up to a friend's computer, and they can back up to yours. Both of these services are fairly easy to set up and use.

Taking a step up in complexity, there are a few server products on the market like Zimbra and Kerio that allow someone to set up their own email and documents server. I swear Google had a hardware product out for a while that a business could keep in their office that kept sync with Google Apps. I can't find a link to it now.

Combine a few of these apps and simplify them, and perhaps in the future it will be attractive for some people and some businesses to make their own little clouds.

Eolake Stobblehouse said...

It needs a good connection though. I bought a "Jobo" I think it's called, a hard disk you connect to your modem, and it serves files on the net. But on my broadband service (like most, much slower on uploads) it was just way too slow to even serve low rez video. Useless.

Bruce W. said...

I recall working on my “dumb” terminal with a hard wire connection to the mainframe. When, (not if) the mainframe went down, I, along with my co-workers, could no longer work. Usually, but not always, our data was safe.

Then came PC's, and we were no longer dependent on the mainframe being up. We could continue to work if the mainframe was down. But watch out: back-up or data or it could be lost!

We now come to “Cloud-computing,” which substitutes remote servers and internet connections for the mainframe and wire, allowing the use of a “dumb” (browser only) laptop to work. But if you lose the internet connection (happens a lot where I live) or the servers go down, your out of luck and can't work. Just like in the old days. The dumb terminal is still dumb.

I think the best solution is to combine a modern fully capable laptop and the “Cloud” to allow you to keep your data/work safe (in the cloud and on the PC), allowing you to work when the net is down, and let you keep your work safe by having more or less continual back-up by working in the “cloud” when the net is up.

For me, the idea of the new generation of “dumb” (but wireless) terminals is a step backward.

Eolake Stobblehouse said...

I agree. Totally fast and dependable Inet will happen, but not in the next few years.