Every now and then its fun and interesting to try to theorize where personal computing is, and where its going. Its also important strategically for anyone in the digital content business as I am.
I thought I would put some things out there and see what people think.
The first step is to look to see how most people use their PCs. Email. The Web. Basic business applications. Personal Finance. Few of which even begin to use much of the processing power, whether CPU or ASIC of todays cheapest PCs.
Thats not to say that there aren’t applications that can be processor hogs. Anything rich media related, particularly as it relates to personal modification can be heavy resources users. Whether its capture, storage and editing of pictures, graphics or video, they all can and will use all the resources available on a PC.
Then there is gaming, which also consumes all it can.
I believe that this bifurcation of personal/home computing into light and heavy resource consuming applications, will lead to a dramatic change in the technology industry.
We are starting to see the manifestations of this split today. The release of new gaming consoles has easily eclipsed the release of the new generations of new CPUs or PCs as a major consumer event.
Remember the days of Pentium releases being a big event ? The excitement of a new line of Dell or Compaq or IBM computers ? It seems to ancient to think that the release of a new PC even mattered. Today its the release of a new XBox or PS3 that gets the attention and people waiting in line for stores to open. Even the release of Vista didnt generate much consumer excitement.
Gaming consoles are already serving as hosts for DVD , HD DVD and Blu Ray players, along with hard drive and USB support for video and pictures. Which leads to the question. Will gaming consoles replace PCs in the home, not just for gaming as they have done already, but also as the primary home device for all things graphical ?
Will people stop putting their pictures on their PCs and buy gaming consoles for this purpose instead ?
If the gaming consoles get real keyboards and better web browsers they will.
Which is exactly what could make the future of home computing very, very interesting and upset the MicroSoft and Applecart :), and give a huge edge to Google and maybe Yahoo and even Sony.
Think of it this way. If for whatever reason the majority of consumers moved any and all applications that involved heavy graphics and CPU use to gaming consoles, what would be left to do on a PC that couldn’t be done online ? Are there any ?
Spreadsheets, Word Processors, Powerpoint, Email, Personal Database, Personal Finance ? They are all so limited in their resource utilization, a very strong case could be made that its smarter to do these things online from a gaming console or any inexpensive PC. The inherit benefits of distributed computing could outway some of the limits of not having the biggest box on the block. Things like less power consumption, lower software costs, full backups and much more.
It all comes down to platforms. Why can’t a small console, much like today’s gaming consoles handle local multimedia and gaming and have a browser , keyboard and broadband connection to do everything else online ?
If this happens, what happens to windows ? MicroSoft ? Apple ?
Its hard to say, but the big winner could be Google.
In looking at Google’s public technology discussions, it appears that a thin client, distributed computing future is exactly what they are expecting.
Google has created and continues to expand huge datacenters around the world. From whats been written, they contain tens, if not hundreds of thousands of processors all clustered and networked together. They are connected to each other via fiber, and are in turn connected by dark and lit fiber to every and any internet peering point they possibly can.
Its a critical distinction that they only have fiber to peering points rather than having direct access to homes. First, in a world with net neutrality, it means Google has the fastest access to common points connecting to the last mile than anyone else. More importantly, it throttles how much bandwidth they can deliver to the home. You can lead a 10mbs stream to a peering point, but you can’t make the ISP drink it. Sure it will pass through, but there are no quality of service requirements at that peering point. Google can put some beautiful HD content out on their servers, and it will be perfect.. until it gets to the peering points, at which point it loses all its priority and becomes just another packet. Which is the downside of net neutrality. Google can’t buy their way to having their packets given priority, so those who expect big bandwidth video to the home from Google Video… as both Google and I mentioned in this post, it aint gonna happen the way things stand today.
That said, Google is in a unique position with their datacenters and infrastructure to dominate thin client computing and everything they are doing seems to point in that direction.
If you arent famliar with Virtual Machines, you need to be.
Virtual Machines are exactly what they seem to be. The ability to create a virtual computer on which any and all personal computer applications (as well as higher end apps) can reside. VMs are more ideally suited for applications that dont chew up alot of bandwidth, which is why the seperation of multimedia applications to consoles is critical to VMs becoming popular.
If the heavy bandwidth apps are on gaming consoles, then why wouldnt consumers just connect to the net and use Google Office apps, or MicroSoft Live Office Apps, or any other provider of online apps ?
Which is exactly what I think Google is trying to accomplish in the future. Huge datacenters of clustered computers running an unlimited number of Virtual Machines for an unlimited number of users with unlimited bandwidth out, all free to consumers in exchange for seeing ads in limited areas could turn the consumer world upside down.
Which is a better development platform for app developers of the future, Vista or a Google Virtual Machine ?
Which is a better consumer platform , using any low end PC to run all your non multimedia apps, or worrying about upgrading to VIsta ? Buying the latest Office apps or running them for free online ?
Which puts Sony and MicroSoft in a strange position. The more successful and powerful their Xbox and PS/X consoles are, and the more diverse their applications applications are, the more successful Google or another online provider of Virtual Machines and applications can and should be.
And I havent even begun to discuss the role of HDTVs to replace personal computers.
Its going to be an interesting next 5 to 7 years
TV as the PC ?
110 thoughts on “The Future of Personal Computing ?”
I dont think that it will be Google or Sony… Personal Computing is much more than word processing, spreadsheets or presentations… People use a computer for many more tasks that require much from an Operating System… But I agree that most of the stuff can be done online and something like a Web OS can changed the arena of operating system battle…
Microsoft’s move to present on-demand computing for home users in India has started a new battle…
I have posted my thoughts on my blog…
Comment by Nishant Saini -
I am a french student working part-time for an international Computing Firm. I have chosen to do my internship report on the folowwing theme : “What is the future of Personal Computing”.
Therefore, I have created a new blog that you can find at this address : http://futureofpc.wordpress.com/
I would be happy that you feel free to have a look and leave comments there. I will put some information as soon as I will get some doing my researches.
Comment by littlecrickett -
I can see where you are coming from on this one, but I have a hard time imagining a lot of people going the way of a gaming console (or anything similar.) I know I for one won\’t ever be going that way…
Comment by Big Show Baseball -
>>Will people stop putting their pictures on their PCs and buy gaming consoles for this purpose instead ?
>Yes, why not?
Did you already have a look at the sales reports of the new Playstation 3 and Microsoft Xbox 360? At the moment these units are selling really bad. The sales of notebooks raised dramatically within the last year and not to forget about the media PCs… VCR, DVD, Musik, Internet… all in one, thats the future of personal computing…
Comment by Dorat -
Let\’s not forget Nintendo. They have a box in the living room that surfs the web just fine. They have sold 3 or 4 of them too… Nintendo is shooting for 36 million Wii consoles by 2011.
Nintendo\’s console isn\’t as strong as MS or Sony\’s – true, but how powerful does it have to be to download a web page?
Comment by Mike -
Wow. Great article. You\’re the man.
Comment by greenskin -
I wonder what how this trend will be impacyed by the weak IP protection in homes.
In india the scene is very bleak also in corporates..
Comment by Poornima Sinha -
You forgot one very important factor Mark. Why would Microsoft or Sony want non-gamers to buy their current gaming consoles? They sell these consoles at a loss and expect to make up for it with game software sales. The last thing they want is the \”dead weight\” of people buying their console as a utility device. Perhaps some future machine will be designed for this market but the Xbox 360 and the Playstation 3 are not sold at a price which allows Microsoft or Sony to make a profit on the hardware.
Now, they might, in the future, make a console aimed at getting people to browse the web, do simple computing tasks etc. But I bet you they will make those future consoles a nice walled garden where only their online offerings are available. Why would they go through the trouble of making these amazing compelling clients and then allow Google or Yahoo (or Amazon) to run off with all the customers?
The Xbox Live service is probably the best indication of things to come. It is an \”online\” service, but it isn\’t the internet. You can buy content and get information, but there is only one vendor — that is Microsoft.
I see consoles developing more like the wireless world. Buy a Verizon handset and you don\’t have access to any content or application you want — you have access only to the specific offerings that Verizon wants to give you access to. And these offerings all cut Verizon in on the revenue.
LONG LIVE THE PC! LONG LIVE THE PC! Its the only place where we actually have a choice of vendors.
Comment by Horsey -
Isn\’t Google already heavily utilizing this technology. Why not just a Java Virtual Machine? Also, why have a PC at all if you are already using your xBox as your gaming console and web browser?
Anyway, we here at VX30, a \”player-less\” or universal, Java-based streaming video company feel well positioned for the future. With no media player required to stream video live or on-demand, VX30 is a perfect fit for ubiquitous computing (future of personal computing). It would be great to get your thoughts on our unique Software Company out here in Maui, Hawaii. If you have time, visit our website at http://www.vx30.com. – Aloha
PS – Harris or Nash – working out very well!!
Comment by jn -
The only question isn\’t what does Google want, but what do people want? I like having my own PC with the latest of everything. Granted I don\’t like worrrying about the latest upgrade – and will these \”upgrades\” never end? Cease and desist with the upgrades!
Comment by Somersby -
Obviously \”this bifurcation of personal/home computing into light and heavy resource consuming applications, will lead to a dramatic change in the technology industry.\” It\’s already evident as sort of a class division into home dwelling types who want big screens and Dolby 5.1 and dim the lights by remote, and everything in reach, and roaming types who want to wear everything and have both hands and both feet (and, as often as possible, both eyes or both ears) free. Obviously there\’ll be different \”platforms\” to support these different types of use, even by the same user. You might use your phone as a home theatre and home automation remote control, and it might be relaying VOIP or cordless signals to your headphones. But when you walk out the door, it still works, and it will be required to do a lot of things on its own.
There\’s any number of \”war rooms\”, \”home theatres\”, \”power users\”, and so on to show us the requirements of people who sit in chairs or walk around in a limited number of rooms. And there\’s a vast array of devices already to serve them, because they need the same home decorating, energy saving, comfort-creating, office-productivity enhancing, tools as they always have. An office is an office, even if it\’s in your home. So there\’s not much edge in figuring out this track, \”the computer\” will become a slot in the wall with a bunch of USB and FireWire jacks in it, a fixed number of each, and you will just buy new processors at Wal-Mart that plug right in. If the slot goes haywire, it comes off with a panel on the wall. The only competition is to set that one slot standard. Yeah, we might never get it, and keep having to use all those silly wires. Home stereo still doesn\’t have a standard better than the RCA jack. All those legacy devices slow things down.
So switch tracks and look at the interesting problem, the low connectivity, small screen, hands-free (mostly), feet-free (by definition), eyes-free (sometimes, though OnStar and Sync show that you can do a lot with voice, and probably we\’ll do more), \”phone\” you wear on your body wherever you go. And which will hold an increasing variety of data and support lots of services – in Japan they call this \”keitai\”, a culture of its own. But the final form of this is as predictable as the body of the user, and that\’s pretty predictable. We\’re heading to heads-up sunglasses with earpieces, and that\’s where we\’ll stay until such time as someone invents LCD contact lenses. Even then, we\’ll want some signal to others that we\’re being distracted, to avoid them thinking we\’ve simply gone zombie.
Along the way we\’ll get exactly two plateaus. One of them, the wrist-controlled headset phone, is already out there if you want to use Bluetooth. This keeps your hands free when you are talking and only requires you to look at your wrist once in a while, e.g. if you want to see who you\’re talking to, and they want to be seen, which is usually not wanted, or if you need to look something up on the Internet while you\’re talking. Or just Wikipedia which will be jammed in your watch. Obviously the sound is good enough for MP3s and the video will be, well, good enough to get you to your hotel or get you off (porn). Until this works for porn, it doesn\’t work, since porn drives every communication technology into widespread (pardon the pun) use. And always has, since the first bit of rock was carved into a Venus figurine 30,000 years ago.
The other plateau is the tablet/clipboard, which Microsoft has already figured out by targetting Vista as the tablet-specific OS. I suspect those will be the only people happy to be using Vista. The tablet doesn\’t make you sit down unlike a laptop and it doesn\’t give you a sore neck with inherently bad design like a laptop and it doesn\’t make you type (which most people still can\’t). If you need paper, you lay it on top of the tablet like a clipboard, which also nicely protects a screen. How much do you want to bet these end up exactly 12\” x 9\”, or even 11\” x 8.5\”? The entire profession of graphic design for pages this size can be easily leveraged, the same reason PDF (an incredibly poor choice for data management but good for display) won\’t die. Adobe and Microsoft are all over this so don\’t expect to gain much by figuring it out at this late date.
But you still have an edge if you figure out the very personal computer that I first described in 1990, and has become more inevitable and more extant every day since then – for instance, with the embedding of biometric devices in gym clothes, and the storing of all your contact data on the phone, and its gradual supplantation of the good old wallet. Count on the MedicID bracelet to survive, or military dog tags, but everything else will be sucked up into that phone. And the phone will spend an increasing percentage of time on your belt, and then ultimately disappear into a belt buckle or wristwatch. Which will tell you your heart rate anytime you want.
So what\’s the software side of this? Probably Java. Inferno, Python and even Self and Squeak had a legitimate shot once but it\’s hard to imagine anything supplanting Java at this date, especially since it\’s been hardened for serious transactions by IBM and Oracle and others, and supported by all of those people who cut their teeth on mainframes and dumb terminals – which is still the public web. Java deals with the various display differences, terminal capability problems, just fine. Google and Yahoo can write their own VMs but they can\’t get a consortium together like Java did, and no one will believe that the big search engines won\’t subvert everything inside.
So while Java has a loathsome object model and very bad API naming, and even propagates the awful WikiWord conventions, if you want to run something good on top of it, it\’s still going to be accessing the hardware via the Java VM. There\’s just no other way.
As for the software platform for all those home theatres and work bays, well, game engins are still programmed in C++. It isn\’t impossible they could move to C# or D (both proprietary) but it is more likely that something new will supplant Java and all other C- like languages. I\’m not laying any bets yet.
But the problem is becoming very very constrained.
Comment by Craig Hubley -
I like your forward thinking here, i really respect your vision. I work in sofware and our software is run over citrix (a thin-client environment). I couldn\’t agree more that it is the future for publicly accessible software. it will even be good for privately licensed software such that users won\’t have to buy a program knowing it will only be used for an hour and half one time. Consumers will be able to pay and vendors able to license based on useage. I tend to disagree with your point that more and more will be done through gaming consoles considering the initial cost of a PS3 is 500+ dollars. More likely, cell phones will become all-in-one\’s. The basis for my thinking is that everyone needs a cell phone and most people already have one. The processors are becoming smaller and more powerful, less susceptible to failure, and in the thin-client environment, cell phones can be extremely productive. All of the processor-intensive taks can be done on the server while cell phone connectivity can put the front-end of the app almost anywhere in the world (unlike the gaming console which requires a minimum of a TV and a wireless network). Phones are almost ready to take the place of PC\’s, gaming consoles, and already have taken the place of home phones for many people. I believe that if you really feel strongly about this you could make a lot of money in thin-client software licensing. Web-services make this easier and faster rather than direct connections between the client and server.
Comment by Tim Simmons -
Some interesting points here Mark…. hmmm…
The \”Not So Sure\” Thing
Google has no experience yet on the gaming industry. If they would start right now in building it and rushing it like what Microsoft did on the first xbox, it will still not be that perfect on the first try like what Microsoft has said when they first tried to build it. Microsoft is already on their second gaming console and has greatly improved its features, removed some bugs and errors, fixed their mistakes and added more multimedia features. This alone crushed Sony, which has had bad user feedback also from yahoo writers. Sony PS3 has had no great games, and its a waste in buying it, ask real gamers and you\’ll know what I mean (yuck). It\’s all hype, but no real depth. And worse, Sony has not proved their creativity whatsoever from the years of PS2 to PS3 – NONE! Nintendo Wii\’s creativity and Microsoft Xbox 360\’s capabilities pounded Sony to the ground. Stories in the internet were all over on \”Sony hoping for last breath on PS3\”.
Now what could Google do? Let\’s see the day they start to launch their first gaming, multimedia, all-around console… is the day Microsoft is probably releasing their much more improved 3rd/4th/ probably 5th all-around gaming console. Ever since Google emerged on the scene Microsoft is already watching its every move. I think Microsoft will literally crush them to the ground. You see Microsoft Xbox has already have over a million Xbox Live subscribers… why? because of the quality of their games available for online. PS3? crying… none. You see even Gilbert Arenas was playing Xbox live Halo while he was in Asia playing for the US team in world basketball championships.
Microsoft only emerged in the gaming industry a few years ago but look at what it did right now, almost beating Sony and the competition. Google, on the other hand, is wasting all its time and $$$ of money on \”GOOTUBE\” which has done little for them. Microsoft is a household name in here in the Philippines and I have yet to see anyone using google applications/programs whatsoever besides me – very very little.
In my opinion, Microsoft has the bigger edge on this situation unless they put their guard down, which is unlikely. Don\’t get me wrong, I love google, but right now as I have seen Microsoft has done it, and is years ahead of Google, I think Microsoft would win it.
Good points, the wave of trend is already getting there and I\’m waiting for it 😉
Comment by Magus -
You said \”and I havent even begun to discuss the role of HDTVs to replace personal computers.\”Well it has been a month. I\’ve been waiting. Go ahead. Don\’t keep me hanging. How about a post on the subject? I need a quote for my business plan. 🙂
Comment by Richard Adams -
You make a great point about the Virtual Machines… and in fact I would venture to guess that we will see apps like Spreadsheets, Word Processors, Powerpoint, Email, Personal Database, Personal Finance moving towards browser plug-ins and widgets. Cant you just imagine using a TurboTax Firefox plug-in ?
I have to question your point about gaming consoles, however.
Playstation has released 3 models. Dell has released… 1000s of models? I don\’t really know how many. There are 3 main gaming console platforms right now… how many pc companies are there…? not to mention custom built pcs. How many chips does Intel release each year? To compare the \’buzz\’ of a new gaming console to the \’buzz\’ of a new pc or chip is not a fair comparison, there will be way way way less releases of game consoles, and therefore they will be more intense regardless of how innovative/powerful they are.
Furthermore… a gaming console is nothing more than a stripped down version of a pc. Basically you take a gaming console, add all the accessories like a hard drive, the keyboard, maybe even a mouse… and u now have a pc, with a less efficient operating system. So to say that gaming consoles will take over from PCs (for the powerful apps) is sorta like saying that the ipod nano 4gb will take over the market from the ipod nano 8gb due to its lower price.
Comment by slave1ilo -
I was on the Ubuntu forums and I noticed this post about installing the Linux Ubuntu OS on your Play Station 3.
Which I thought was very relevant to this post. From the PSubuntu.com site:
\”Why would you want to run Ubuntu on your PS3? By installing Ubuntu, your PS3 becomes much more than just a game console. You can also use it as a home computer (running desktop applications), a media center or a server.\”
Comment by Russ Martin -
Good analysis, Google indeed has built a very impressive system aimed at squeezing out as much advantage as possible out of the inefficiencies of the current Internet esp last mile. But the fact remains that there is a tremendous amount of resources controlled by users (and being feverishly upgraded for video btw) that are outside of Google\’s reach.
These resources are really an user-controlled delivery network, i.e. BitTorrent, capable of tremendous delivery performance. Of course, these days it is focused exclusively on (pirated) media content but it can be used for other things, that\’s what I am working on now …
The real interesting question IMO is how these resources compare in aggregate to Google. Nowadays it is fashionable that nothing compares to Google but I am not so sure.
Comment by Borislav Agapiev -
Mark – Agree with your concept of using a game console or low end system to access and using online apps. But where would each user\’s data reside and content come from? How can we make it \”personal\”? Saw this console from Sony (I think) that allowed users to connect their TV, music etc. and use it as a server which can be accessed from anywhere on the web. Think this is a great idea – Real \”personal\” content for anytime viewing.
Also another big concern – security, both in data storage and transmission. How would you stop hackers from breaking into user data through application servers that are required to be given open access to end user machines?
Comment by doncorleone -
I am a PhD Chemical Engineer and I very much agree with your comments. I will also add that until the promise of nanotechnology is delivered (which I predict to be 10 years from now or more since we are now focusing on alternative energy), we will and have seen a flat line in hardware technology development. The focus is on applications, which bodes well for Google (I am a Google evangelist by the way). I personally fear doing everything online, even though I am 95% there already, because I don’t want to pay for unlimited connectivity (broadband cards, etc.)
Comment by Jermey (Knicks and Wizards Fan) -
All excellent words. Well thought out and delivered great.
Comment by Rogers Place -
Apple is a trend! Microsoft owns the planet!
Comment by Andrew Hillman, Andrew Hillman -
Those who’ve paid close attention to the ever evolving online business models the past decade know that this is brilliant analysis.
I know you won’t accept this, Mark, (spontaneity and all that but you would benefit tremendously if you hired someone with an English or journalism degree to proofread your posts. Media outlets quote you and those intent on making you look like a rube highlight the little typos. You don’t want the mistakes to get in the way of the message. And someone with a way with words could make sure your critiques of life in the NBA are as sharp as your mind.
Comment by William Owney -
Nice one, I still don’t want to give up my Mac for a PC or Gaming Console, thought the PS3 does have a better processor and could probably run photoshop better than my Mac with a few mods.
Comment by Jello Prank -
I’m amazed you take the time to write up these blog entries. You must not sleep much at night!
Comment by basketball coaching -
I can’t wait till they do away with a keyboard and mouse, ala Minority Report.
Comment by TeesMyBody.com T-Shirts -
Interesting topic to think about. There is one issue with web based “thin clients” that people are having a hard time getting over, and that’s security of data. The majority of the population (people who wouldn’t know a blogmaverick from a Good GUI) are very skeptical about having their information on the web. They may be gettting more comfortable with sharing pictures, but spreadsheet and word processing information, that may contain personal information, is probably something they are less comfortable with. Maybe 10 years from now, but by then, everyone will probably be using portable handheld pc’s that connect TO your personal gaming system. Oh, and you’ll be able to time travel as well.
Comment by Aaron S -
– I can see how a merger could happen.
Think Tivo/WebTV/Xbox/any major cable/satellite provider.
– This would be a great thing, would come with eash hook up to TV, Mouse and keyboard. would have atleast
(could run TIVO/microsoft media) as OS
– Package has to cost $199 with 2/yr commitment.
– or $499 with month to month.
– monthly cost shouldn’t be more than $59
$59 for internet/TV/Gaming console – Great deal!
– Now its getting Microsoft, TIVO, DirecTV all to work together
Comment by Pallet Rack -
I think you are over estimating the scalability of the web. It is a limited resource, so unless google is going to start laying some dark fiber in residential ‘hoods I do not think they are going to have much to worry about.
Why is everyone jumping on this band wagon again, am I missing something here. While thin clients are going to continue people also want the High Def images and pristine audio. It is coming to be expected, in order to fulfil this fetish we need to have most of the information available on our machines.
While I believe the game console will morph, that surely is not in the best interest of the Game manufacturers. Remember the game consoles are sold at a loss for a long time. It is the games that they want people to play. No one wants to buy an xbox to do anything other than play games! It would be an expensive excel sheet!
Comment by Mark -
The coming age is definitely that of online data storage. You cant continue to rely on your PC with all that viruses, malaware and Trojans roaming around. You cant also place your bets on tapes and disks. There is only place to go and one thing to do. Hitch a ride to data safety with free online backup services like IDrive-E.
Lots of free online backup services are out there, right? So, what is the big deal here? There are a few things about IDrive-E that really stand out. If you get 30GB of backups for free, but you cant download 10GB a month, what is the point in backing up? But IDrive-E has no restrictions on the files you upload or the number of downloads/uploads you do. All data transfer encrypted with 128-bit Secure Socket Layer (SSL). IDrive-E efficiently uses your Internet bandwidth by compressing the data files during transmission. Backup files and folders from your local computer to IDrive-E. Easily backup files and folders from your local computer to IDrive-E or schedule backups for a convenient time of your own.
The whole process of restoring files and folders is a cinch. The IDrive-E Explorer view’ is a virtual drive with Windows Explorer-like view. You can view the latest 30 versions of data maintained on your IDrive-E account and restore any previous version you want with a simple drag-and-drop. You can also use the IDrive-E Classic interface to restore data. IDrive-E also supports multiple drag-and-drop operations using Explorer view. So, dont hesitate to try this new service.
Comment by steve miller -
Interesting comments. BTW, Penn Hills in the house..
Your thoughts on and the implications of Net Neutrality are specifically interesting to me. The GOOG guys are spending boatloads of cash lobbying Congress in an attempt to ensure that Net Neutality does not gain additional traction. The dynamics of the industry hinge on how NN is legislated (or guided under FCC rulemaking). If Tiered Services come to fruition, then it will depend on how much GOOG and others are willing to pay to prioritize packets. If NN is upheld it will be intersting to see what happens to the cost of bb connections into the home.
Comment by Jeff -
Good discussion, and of course, only the tip of the iceberg. The computing world, gaming world, television world and telecom world are in the process of colliding, and trying to pick an accurate outcome is a slog through chaos theory. (A butterfly flaps its wings, etc, etc.) I wrote about some of the same issues here:
Comment by Mari -
If only I had 1/2 of the business ingenuity you have! I hate to look like a sucka55 but, everytime you have a new blog and I read it, I’m impressed all over again, you think just like a regular person, with the smarts of the most ingenious businessman! You’re my role model.
Comment by DrivenToSucceed -
Virtual machines is the way to go. It makes portability as easy as possible, and there is no need for massive spending by the consumer every time an upgrade is put out.
Comment by basketball training -
I didn’t read through all the comments so maybe this was already mentioned, but more and more people want something they can use for every facet of their life. I want to be able to work from home, and use my computer for personal use. I don’t want to have two machines for that purpose. I think the PC will continue to succeed for that reason alone. If I could do absolutely everything I needed to for both work and play, then of course I would be that type of machine.
Comment by Mark Thomas -
I think the future maybe already here, nivio.com, has a grid of online desktops, windows ones
Comment by David -
Thank you for the post. I very much enjoy your blog.
The Internet allows us to find information very quickly. I worry that we become more impatient and our social skills and thinking skills suffer.
This country needs to emphasize math, science and engineering education. Our young people need to embrace technical skills and not just spend time uploading and downloading cool videos.
Thanks for listening.
Comment by Kind And Thoughtful -
Interesting post. Here’s what I think.
I’d like to through in a bit of human factors to the ecuation.
I believe that today when it comes to computing power for the consumer there are Desk activities and Couch activities (there are also “on the go” activities where phones and PDAs fall, but I’ll leave that for another post.)
Anyways, it makes sense for consoles to do DVDs, play music and slideshows (in addition to games) because those are “couch” activities. You do them from the couch or from the floor.
Editing media, and using personal financial applications are “Desk activities.” You do them from the desk.
So as long as such activites required you to sit on a desk, they will be perform in a desktop regardless of the computing power required. Therefore I disagree with you Mark.
Which begs the question, why don’t calling the consoles “couchtops” ?
Comment by Luis Garcia -
re: I believe that this bifurcation of personal/home computing into light and heavy resource consuming applications, will lead to a dramatic change in the technology industry.
It all comes down to platforms. Why can’t a small console, much like today’s gaming consoles handle local multimedia and gaming and have a browser , keyboard and broadband connection to do everything else online ?
We have had the same ideas about creating a thin, hard, small, appliance-like computing platform and have been in development for the past four years. Our Thinix SecureOS system Version 3.x (released in December of 2006) utilizes an encrypted disk architecture to allow users to utilize Internet based resources, create, edit and save Microsoft Office formatted documents, spreadsheets & presentations, and connect to other computers using: Citrix (ICA), Microsoft Terminal Services (RDP), Citrix GoToMyPC, LogMeIn, Linux XDMCP, and Linux NoMachine support. Our system features Firefox 2.x, Mplayer, XMMS, Gaim instant messenger, ThinkFree Office3, and a variety of other applications to allow users to be highly productive and ignore typical maintenance that is associated with owning a PC.
Our Thinix HDTV-Link platform http://www.thinix.com/hospitality/products/hdtvlink.asp
turns most HDTVs into powerful, maintenance-free computers. With HDTV-Link, users can connect to their office PC, or other Windows XP based PCs in their home, all from the comfort of their living room, using a wireless keyboard and without installing software or maintaining another PC in their home.
At Thinix, our vision is that people will increasingly view their computer as their Window to the world, in contrast to the current view where people view their computer as the place where their software and applications reside. (stated differently the computer is a connection to your stuff not where your stuff is). In the future data will be stored in the Internet cloud, and be accessible anytime from anywhere. The Internet is pervasive today and we believe that the future of computing is in providing computers which are convenient for users and which require zero maintenance. If your in the living room, you need a computer in your living room, if your in the kitchen, you need a computer in the kitchen. But who wants to maintain a large expensive complex PC in their kitchen? Our TS-890i http://www.thinix.com/hospitality/products/ts890i.asp is an integrated computer, with the entire computer integrated into the 15 LCD monitor. We will soon be releasing a 17 integrated system with built in 802.11b/g wireless networking.
So.. we think your on the right track.. For more information, please feel free to contact us.. http://www.Thinix.com
Don Van Oort
Comment by Don Van Oort -
Nice post. Over the course of creating both PC-based and web-based software over the last decade, I have been thinking about this very topic for awhile. Hope you have a chance to read my post from August 2005 about reinventing the OS. I came to some similar conclusions about the direction many applications are headed:
Comment by Mark Holton -
Mark- Yea I see the whole thing coming together. Total media integration. Sometimes I am loathe to post certain ideas, but what the hell. I envision an amalgam of all media onto one console: gaming, pc, tv, dvd the whole enchilada. From a business standpoint, this may seem like a bad idea, but as systems advance even further there will still be marketability of the various ops/packages that would be available. A microcosm of this right now is the stuff happening with cell phone media.Our homes will follow suit. Maybe also with an enhanced transportability function ala better laptops/pda’s that connect to our home-base. I see phone systems changing too much like Skype. Ma Bell is gonna go the wayside and even right now all those turkeys over at lame Sprint are trying to hone-in on that market/technology. Throw some feedback my way. The blog is awesome! Go Mavs!
Comment by Patrick Hall -
I lked your points, Mark! Thanks! They seem to be rather appropriate.
Comment by Nasty -
Mark’ article is great, but his argument hinges on the bandwiidth issue and codecs.
Consider this. Most high end video content these days is produced using special effects and 3D modeling. Live actors are shot in front of green screens and the backdrops are added later.
It is gettting much easier and more cost effective to convert live actors into 3D models.
The end goal of all game consoles is to be able to produce photorealistic rendering. That’s the direction the consoles head with each new generation.
I can recall walking into a electronic store thinking (briefly) that a TV set was showing a live football game only to realize that this was just a video game demo running.
Each year we see the movie industry inching closer and closer to being able to produce a movie that is 100% 3D rendered.
Eventually it will be quite possible to “compress” any kind of video into a 3D model that appears identical to the original.
This process will make the whole codec issue go away and allow movies and any kind of animation to be transmitted FAR more efficiently.
3D content is inherently resolution independent. This means that the same content can be delivered to both and HD or a conventional TV and it take advantage of the device it renders to.
This is actually a differnet kind of convergence. It is the convergence between reality and virtual reality.
Of course – people have been talking about this for years, but as we all know there is always a “tipping point” were all the talk become “reality” 🙂
Economics? We all now know that the engine that has driven the MS/Intel constant upgrade cycle ended more then a year ago. The whole industry needs reaons for people upgrade. What if you purchased a movie and could actually upgrade the visual qualiity and experience of the movie by buying some new hardware? That may sound nutty, but people do this all the time today with high end video gaming PC’s.
You might want to consider starting a whole new thread on this topic that looks at the business models behind Linden Labs, the impact of things like WOW, etc. These systems already point the way to how the bandwidth issues discussed originaly in this posting could be solved. Who are the players in this space and do you think that they see the online gaming platforms as a way to eventually deliver content previously thought about as “movies”.
Comment by William T. Radcliffe -
“It was a great game until Dwyane Wade decided to take over,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “And then it was over.”
Comment by Ryan -
Google will own the world. Well, not the physical world, but definately the binary version.
Comment by Matt -
As a Preacher i would very much disagree with your support of Amechie. First and foremost the Bible states that Honosexuality is a sin. It states tha cursed is he that lies with another man. I would not endorse any such behavior. Mark I had a brother who died of Aids because of this behavior. I am no Gay basher but I love winning souls to our Lord Jesus Christ. Instead of encouraging Amechie you should pray for him . My brother died at the age of 30. He suffered with the Aids. My words to you and Amechie are It’s hard for a rich man to make into Heaven, Jesus said its better for a camel to go through the eye of a needle through a haystack. That is really hard to do. Richs profit nothing in the day of Jesus Christ. This is the time to repent. I’ll leave you with this question? What can a man exchange for his soul to go to Heaven? God doesn’t need your money, he wants the soul of Man.
Praying for You and Amechie
Comment by David Neal -
Wow, I think that’s exactly what’s going on. If it’s going to fly, it’s gotta work fast and work EVERYTIME. We’ve been waiting years for java apps to become stable and work everytime.
Comment by T -
The problem with mixing with household technology with PC/entertainment technology is making it even harder to come down to simplicity. What I like best would be things that we adore and with a back-to-basic mindset, the world would be a better, cleaner place to live in.
Comment by Walter Chan -
Hey MC, you’re the man by the way. I agree with just about everything here, by the way, 360 is a blast everyone should have one and I can see you on Gears of War sometime. I don’t know how often you check comments but man, did you see the Pens game on Saturday night!? Staal and Malkin are awesome and Sid is still my hero. Get back to the ‘burgh soon to watch some playoff hockey man, its gonna get crazy around here!
On a sidenote: Please buy the buccos! Haha, thanks man, I enjoy your blog as I just stumbled across it today looking for Malkin Jerseys and i got to read your story you posted awhile ago about the autograph, nice stuff man. Peace.
Comment by Mike -
The one big problem with consoles is that their hardware refresh time is so slow. The relatively fixed platform is great for developers, but it means that consoles only catch up to the latest in new hardware every 3-5 years.
Comment by Drew -
Great post, Mark. Clearly Microsoft and Apple have the most to lose in the move to a networked model — although one could make the argument that an Apple-branded Internet ‘device’ would not be out of the realm of possibility if the company ever wanted to build a thin client.
But while Google is clearly jockeying to become a major player in networked applications, I think it will be the service providers that cash in on the thin client model. They own the last mile, after all, and it will be up to them to provide the quality of service necessary, esp. for business users, which I think is where the real application service story is. Verizon, AT&T, etc. will need to partner on the hardware and the software side, but in that respect it’s not that much different than the cable companies licensing content and buying set-top boxes from Scientific Atlanta, etc. Thin clients could be the next set-top boxes, in this regard.
Anyway, further thoughts posted on my blog, here: http://lifeandtimes.org/archives/29
Comment by Ryan -
You are forgetting the iphone will become a personal computer. It already has a full operating system and plenty of memory.
Comment by Chad Horstman -
There’s so much talk about watching TV on the computer. But who wants to watch TV on their computer? And who wants to do computer-type things on their TV? Not me. Not yet, until they really are integrated in a way that makes me want to do that.
Comment by basketball training -
At the end of the day we are going to see the Pc and the Television integrated together. The gaming consoles are our gate way into this migration.
Comment by Denver Internet Marketing -
I think that the future of computing lies in Utility computing and that Virtualization is leading the way for it. Applications such as SETI which pioneered the use of distributed computing to soak up dead cycles is where it will go. SAN is just the cusp but I think a solid view. With SAN you no longer wonder or worry about what size hard drives you have or how many – you worry about total capacity vs. your total needs. Processor, RAM, etc will follow behind shortly. In time you will have a central location for all CPU, RAM, Etc and it may very likely be distributed. We will in time go back to the basics of computing with truly thin clients. Internet delivery will be the key to all of this. The biggest problem currently lies in “the last mile”. We can move GB’s of data across the country or world in seconds but getting to a house, mobile device, etc is where the bottleneck is. In time the device will you read from will be irrelevant.
I also believe that the next evolution of man will be technological as opposed to biological. Evolution is moving too slowly to keep up with the fast pace of life that we are living. There are already scientists such as Dr. Kevin Warwick who are experimenting with body/machine integration. I have a very clear picture in my mind of how this will occur, although it is a bit complex. In time, the need for a device of any kind will become archaic and obsolete, the interface will be in your mind.
Comment by Mark -
It may serve us to always remember that, in the end, consumer and business demand always yields to economics–always. And economics is not always about money
Objection. As an Econ grad, I have to say.. Economics is great, but most of the markets we’re talking about are NON-COMPETITIVE markets.
Intellectual property and MASSIVE r&d costs means only a handful of companies compete.
And then you say, but that just means it’s a competitive oligopoly between Google, Apple, Oracle and MS.
Yeah. But that’s still just a handful of companies. And where there’s patents (ahem iPhone) it’s illegal to compete directly.
So, yeah. Economics is brilliant. But come on.. the free market shit applies to coffee prices and pork barrels, not Operating Systems.
In the case of the aforementioned companies, it’s ‘whatever the marekt will bear’.. which is, economics, yes, but NOT competition.
Comment by mike -
“Yes, go out of the way to add it. Even though its free. Download. It was freaking huge… are you ready? 924 MB!! I asked myself why I had to download such a HUGE package and why wasn’t it already installed.”
You just answered your own question. The iMac is a consumer oriented desktop, and 99% of people would not want about a gig of space wasted on… a computer language?
Dude. Think. Of all the things to be mad at Apple about.
And to think.. you started your post with such an ego..
Comment by mike -
I agree completely. I was struck with almost the same sentiment when I read about the new Microsoft Home Server announcement.
Other than gaming and video, who really needs this stuff local anyway? I hadn’t thought of going completely bohemian and using an Xbox/PS3 for Premiere and Photoshop, and an iPaq/smart phone/UMPC/whatever-on-a-stick with a keyboard and mouse for everything else, but I guess you probably could. Actually, since the gaming rig is mostly subsidized by the games, you can always get a killer console much cheaper than the equivalent PC/Mac anwyay.
Hmmm, I bet Google or MS Live (or, dare I say, local cable/telco if they weren’t so completely inept) would even subsidize the whatever-on-a-stick if I subscribe to their services for my “light” computing needs…
Comment by Jim -
Alright, Here’s another niche business for someone who has the money and the time to pitch it.
Why aren’t the leagues/stats from the xbox, wii, gamecube.. (choose your console) exportable and uploadable? All the game server sites and “clans” keep stats for their people. How about how you rank against the best? Or your buddies? Or anyone else?
Simple thing to do, and the advertising would pay for any development costs.
Comment by PSC -
Rather useful points! Thanks, Mark!
Comment by Nina -
Highly unlikely Mark.
Convergence hasn’t worked very well in the past (web tv, VCR/TV combos, you name it). Consumers don’t think the way owners/operators/visionaries think.
It’s exciting for someone to think about convergance, and how cool it’ll be, and how exciting things will be. But the average guy on the street doesn’t think like that. Like the PSP UMD flop. It sounds exciting to make these movies on a small screen, but the reality is, no one will watch it more than a few times, it’ll never be as good as a regular DVD big screen experirence.
With game consoles, I have a hard time picturing mom and dad rushing to do spreadsheats, after little Johnny finishes playing Super Mario Brothers.
There’s only so many hours in a day. If little Johnny or Suzie is playing games for a few hours after school, mom and dad aren’t going to want to wait around until they’re done to do their work.
Convergence has been an absymal failure so failure. Everything has diverged…digital camera, cell phone, mp3 player, blackberry, GPS system…every device I can think of has one primary purpose.
Comment by JohnB -
Comment by solomonrex -
How will those who use computers mainly for downloading and listnening to music affect this move to VMs? Seems they would be in step. Thanks for the great blog.
Comment by Allen -
No one would ever buy a satellite computer when you can get this from dell for $360.
Comment by superdave -
Mark, I believe that ‘revolution’ has already begun. The Nintendo Wii has the ability to surf the web and the nice things are that you don’t need a clunky keyboard and have a nice big screen to view. However, I think the change to the VM will meet quite a bit of resistance since one of the drawbacks to having online applications is that you don’t ‘own’ your files. Also what happens when the server goes down and there’s some breach in security? How often does a gmail server go down? (Granted they don’t stay down for too long.)
The other thing to remember is that we’re programmed to veg in front of a TV while we tend to ‘work’ in front of a computer. There’s years of human ‘programming’ that will have to be undone.
Comment by Dave -
I assume that most gaming consoles are near the “entertainment center” in the public area of the house. Most PC’s are in an office with a closing door. If the primary access to the Internet is through the public computer, 80% of the men in America will have to delete many of their bookmarks. Whether it is swimsuit pictures, joke email from a friend, or seriously dirty pictures, most men would not want their sons, daughters, or wife to see much of what they look at. There will always be a place for a PC in the home for this reason.
Comment by Benny Bradshaw -
interesting write up, and agree w/almost all of it… except when u place Apple in with MSFT.
“If this happens, what happens to windows ? MicroSoft ? Apple ?”
apple has positioned itself to be a huge beneficiary of exactly what u speak of. MSFT has the most to lose, their 90% market share of the OS.
(apple just needs to license their OS, and let the consumer realize what u just stated.)
The game conseles have huge potential to be set-top box of the new era. i just don’t think anyone at sony or MSFT know how to pull it off as well as Steve Jobs.
Comment by echotoall -
The future of computing is that there won’t be computing. Microsoft and Apple are doing this right now. These are computer companies making what were traditionally thought of as electronics: music players, video game consoles, phones. Computing will become increasingly transparent.
Comment by DShu -
I think we need to look to iPhone type devices for an answer to a lot of this- a portable, user-configurable device with a robust operating system and the ability to handle fast connections of multiple types. The challenge Apple faces is dealing with the mobile companies’ prediliction for crippling devices and bandwidth so they can upsell features. Watch how they manage their deal with ATT/Cingular- if Apple controls the platform and cuts a good deal for bandwidth they will own the market for devices such as those Mark envisions.
Please focus on the word ‘if’!
Comment by Martin Edic -
Nicely done–all good comments. It looks as though computer modelingonce so firmly entrenched in client-serverliberated by the full-featured personal pc with huge memory, may return to dumb boxes with very fast connections (thin client).
I see this as an economics question. The personal pc reduced the market friction of using computers to do tasks. Computer need three thingscontent, software, and an interface (lets set interface aside for the moment). Friction in content was reduced by the internet (QEDcontent can now be instantaneous). Friction in software distribution has been reduced by download delivery (no more boxes and disks), but not enough. There is more efficiency to be had through download times/bandwidth, preservation of capital, flexibility, and (perhaps most importantly) update/version control issues. A service-delivery model basically avoids the necessity of any delivery at alla truly revolutionary conceptand therefore the total elimination of friction (and the instantaneous delivery of upgrades/new versions).
On a side note; it should also be considered that the service-delivery model with Web-based access to your content (all of it) actually eliminates the need for a personal computer. Users will be able to work/get content/access from any device, anywhere. The term pc will no longer refer to personal computer as it transforms into Personal Content (stand by while I trademark that term and enter myself as the creator in Wikipedia). Airlines may provide access on the tray table, so to speak. Imagineno more lugging your laptop around. Just use the one where you land (or in the air). For truly personal or private content, all we need are thumb-drives (like we all have right now) that plug in to every devicewhether computer, phone, PDA, or iPod. The market will determine the level of devolution, but not the inertia of it. Think of a flood. The water is washing down the mountain slopes. If the river tries to restrain it, the banks yield and the water washes away. In other words, the channel is determined by the inertial demand (There is an appropriate physics calculation in there somewhere, but I have a conference call in a few minutes).
Security? People are already becoming accustomed to the incumbent security issues involved in this model. Consider cell phones. Every call, text message, camera phone image, ring-tone, and voice mail is hosted on the service. If we trust the service to handle the calls from our wives and girlfriends (or, for some people, both), we are almost certain to become comfortable with a publically traded company (subject to the SEC, FTC, and FCC hammers of justice) as they store/deliver our mortgage applications (every single major bank), company financials (Edgar Online), and tax forms (anyone using TurboTax now?).
Because the economics of the whole mess are so firmly aligned with this new modelthink like a BORGresistance is futile. The question is, in my opinion, when will the marketplace fully adopt it (3 years, 5 years, tomorrow?).
It may serve us to always remember that, in the end, consumer and business demand always yields to economics–always. And economics is not always about money.
Comment by Huckleberry -
Game console makers have been reluctant to really put their weight behind the mini-PC angle with their machines, because it subverts their entire business model. They are in the business of selling media, and nothing you can dial up in a web browser offers any exclusive profit potential for them. However, their hand may soon be forced if any of their competitors decide to go all-in with the online functionality. Then it becomes a selling point, and a big one.
Of the current three providers, I would expect Sony to do this first. Why? 1) Their business model is slightly more diversified, since their interests include both the sales of Playstation games and also the sale of Blu Ray disks. 2) Sony is currently viewed as the loser of this generation with their disappointing hardware sales, so they will be desperate to add value without incurring a lot of immediate costs. And 3) they are not trying to nurture and protect a monthly-fee online service (XBox Live).
Sony has all their ducks in a row for such a move. The hardware is there, and the motive is there. I’ll bet they are working on multiple saleable services right now (DVR, movie downloads) that can add value and revenue to an online push.
Comment by Jason Starnes -
My simple take on the future – CPU-intensive apps for the web, and disk-intensive apps for the desktop. The PC, or some other equally capable (with disk, RAM, etc) last-mile device, is inevitable.
Who manufactures and distributes these last mile devices, and what their capabilities and costs will be, is the real interesting question to ponder.
Comment by Vinod -
Sorry, I forgot the best part of the VM world. Every ‘computer’ is simply a portal to the internet where your stuff is saved on your virtual desktop. No more emailing stuff to yourself, carrying floppy disks around. No more having to drag your office laptop everywhere. There are just these $100 portals everywhere, accessing the internet where your stuff is. Yeah, security is an issue and needs to be addressed seriously. But in a world where I put my credit card number out there constantly, and emails contain all my biz secrets, aren’t we out there already?
Comment by Kevin Cherrick -
I think the Virtual Machines argument has a similar parallel to the debate about online news vs. the newspaper; that argument being that people would read online news, but the print newspaper would never die because “people like the feel of a newspaper in their hands”. I wonder if it would be similar for your computer, your operating system, your MP3 collection, etc. – does a person having those items on his or her home computer hard drive give them a sense of security that is not afforded through VMs? And what does it mean when the editor (or some other executive) of the New York Times says that it is possible they might move completely onto the web in 5 years?
Not to get too philosophical here, but too late it is happening – is the emphasis on mobile devices to provide a balance between the real world and the virtual world? Is it really about ease and portability of use or is it about making sure that we aren’t stuck in front of a computer, loading up an OS from some server somewhere else, talking with people on a social networking site such as MySpace through messages but never meeting them, downloading music from our favorite band but never seeing them in concert? Perhaps it isn’t so much about the fact that we need our information to be portable, we just want it to be.
So while we discuss the need for higher bandwidth, more memory, better looking graphics, and any other adjective or notation we can make to our existing computing capabilities, perhaps the best idea hasn’t been thought of yet. Perhaps it is such a radical shift that it could be best compared to going from the candle to the lightbulb – completely different parts that do essentially the same thing.
P.S. Mark, your footer says that you don’t own any of the contents on this site since last year!
Comment by D -
The biggest benefit of this (all apps online, $100 pc with broadband access and little else) is that it will extend the internet to all sections of society. I use MSOffice and the internet on my computer. That’s it. And music (itunes). I get high speed internet before I get cable, before I eat out. It is my number 1 luxury. But the internet is a different animal when you’re high speed vs. dial up. Surfing behaviour changes. So when it is possible for lower income demographics to have the type of access that I do (a single guy making $30k), they will have access to all the knowledge and cultures of the world. Then we’ll see motivated inner city kids really be able to write their own ticket because they have access to everything. And maybe they have access now, through libraries, etc. But sitting at home and reading blogs from people you admire (Ben Casnocha, Ramit Sethi, Seth Godin) is inspiring and so personal you feel like you can do what they are doing as well. Some x% of them will actually go out and put their ideas together. And then we all benefit.
I can’t wait for this to be a reality, and to see it turn our economy upside down (but still the best economy in the world?)
Comment by Kevin Cherrick -
Very nice post. I’ve been waiting for the market for generic virtualization and virtual machines to heat up like it should. Those virtual machines solve a problem in Computer Science for a long time. The geniuses who created VMWare and made VMWare Player available as a free download (using the Adobe Acrobat Reader model) have successfully decoupled SOFTWARE from HARDWARE. In addition, a virtual machine player has the ability to stop the computer at any point in time and SAVE ITS STATE. Genius. Now I can compute, stop computing, and pick up my computing later in time. Or, I can backup or email my computing to some other location. Once the Internet masses catch on to this new style of computing, I really do feel as though it will be a fundamental change to the way that we interact with our computers.
In the virtualization space, I think Google has a giant leg up on the competition because they are providing the means to has a smart network to work with your virtualized computer that you can take everywhere (even on your old USB hard drive or iPod — see http://www.moka5.com).
You’re absolutely right, it will be an interesting 5 to 7 years. For what it’s worth, I’m putting my money in virtualization.
Comment by Jeremy Lueck -
It’s upstream bandwidth that is the real problem here. Even with the fastest cable or wireless connection, it still takes forever to upload a handful of jpegs to your photoblog, not to mention the ages it would take to upload HD video of any sort.
Until the 5 to 10mbps that runs broadband to my house is equaled by the upstream time, the “online PC revolution” you imagine (from a gaming console or anywhere else) isn’t going to happen.
Comment by SpoVegas -
The other part of future computing to consider is complete, distance-independent person-to-person interaction. Connecting you and me over the network with wide-band audio, HD quality video, collaboration tools, etc. Cisco Telepresence and HP Halo are the leading edge of this technology. Blogged in more detail at NextBlitz as well:
Comment by gz -
You think too small.
Soon your PC will be a chip implanted behind your ear. It will come with HUD overlay of optical nerves that will serve a multitude of functions from map, billboard to real HUD/targetting for mil personel. Pilots will jack into thier planes and control them like their own bodies.
Need the time? just look in the visual HUD. Need directions, use the map overlay. Hunter? Soldier? You plug your gun into an implanted jack and use the camera sight as if it were your eye. Communications? Implanted cell phone with a subvocal pickup and bone induction speaker.
Why have physical billboards when you can have virtual ones that beam their messages directly to passersby’s cell/PC all seen in the visual HUD overlay.
And wait til the gamers get hold of it! True virtual reality gaming. BE the hero.
Add to that virtual sports and military training, shadow boxing and martial arts sparring taken to a new level. Virtual reality combat training. It won’t replace physical training or live fire training, but be another tool to enhance what is already done.
If you think this is far far off, think again. I give it 20 years tops, the blink of an historic eye.
Comment by Tim -
You say, “it appears that a thin client, distributed computing future is exactly what [Google] are expecting”.
Yes, certainly Google are working towards this. However, we have heard that story before. Long before. I remember well an experience from 1998. My employer was thinking that it might be a good idea to go for IBM’s thin client solution, which was basically just a dumb display unit (“workstation”) with no intelligence whatsoever connected to the massive mainframe computer. From a technology point-of-view, this was working well. There was a local network with fast response times, there were state-of-the-art thin client workstation. The IT department did not have to worry about updating 1,200 client PCs any longer, and they were quite happy about it at first (well, it was their idea anyway). But then they had to buy and maintain a 2nd mainframe computer due to the increased load, and they had to hire additional experts. The thin client workstations were surprisingly expensive as well.
And the users? They kept complaining that they could not work when the server was down or slow. They were unable to access local copies of their data (no hard drive means no local copy). They could not take their data where they wanted. In fact, the whole company was getting =less= efficient.
So, was it a success? Nope. It got rolled back about two years after its introduction. The IT department came to the conclusion (possibly influenced by a new top management) that distributed computing power still has its advantages.
How does this relate to your post? As outlined above, the idea of thin clients is not new. But people (i.e. end users, not techies) do not like the idea. They LOVE the idea of local copies. They LOVE to be independent of a (single) resource that claims to be “always there”, but isn’t when you really need/want it. They have been fooled too many times. (BTW, that’s why people still PRINT important emails. They do not trust their mail system. I can understand them.)
And do I hate it when a previously bookmarked clip on YouTube has been taken down? Sure I do. It’s annoying. Apparently, I can not RELY on YouTube videos being always there. And wearing my “user hat”, I do not care why the video has been taken down. It annoys me endlessly that it is not there when I want it. So, if I really =needed= the clips, I would try to download them to my hard disk. But the clips are just for entertainment, so I do not care. If they are gone, they are gone. So what?
But for exactly this reason, I believe people will be very reluctant to shift to new services that promise “to be always online, exactly the way you remember it”. Even a new page layout will disrupt the user experience. Was that ad there before? Why do I have to click here and here to get to that article? What does 404 mean? And why do I have to pay now for getting access to my documents?
Thin client computing is clearly the idea of techies, that are rarely in touch with real humans. Real humans have different needs, and that’s why I believe people will not fully move towards online in a long time to come.
Comment by Mark Zanzig -
Didn’t read all of the comments, so if it has been said I apologize:
Another very interesting read, but one thing jumped out at me…if there is such a heavy shift to consoles being used as graphical editors, this would affect Apple as you said. However, remember that Microsoft owns Xbox, and with the one-year head start there are more Xbox 360’s in American homes than PS3 and Wii’s (for sure respectively and possibly combined). MS is in a spot to lead such a change, and may be forced to as Apple creeps further and further into the house computing market.
P.S. Thanks for the great blog. After I finish my PhD in Kinesiology I’d love to work for you in any capacity in the Dallas area. Perhaps the Mavs could hire someone to help coordinate coursework for players looking to finish their degrees(a traveling tutor, per say)?
Comment by Will Walker -
I think that if MS set sthe agenda, the rosy picture of this future will be a wilted one
Comment by Ben -
Just want to comment about the ESPN Daily Power Rankings. They must be flawed. How is the only team in the NBA with a single digit loss record this far in the season be number two? The “number one” team cannot win games without their star player. We have. Dirk and Josh have been out for a number of games. Hollinger really has to re-evaluate his criteria.
Comment by Carlos -
Hi. I am the founder of Trendirama.com, a community of online amateur writers. We write about the future of everything. I would like to invite you to write an article on our website, perhaps based on what you are mentioning here.
(And no, this is not spam. I manually only offer this to a few people a day, who I feel can benefit from it.)
Comment by Javier Marti -
Personal Opinion here.
Home networks will become more complex. Software that manages home networks will become more popular and in turn will probably get up to the company size of a Mcafee or such.
The Home network.. will become more of a thin client.. with bigger and bigger harddrives hooked up to a main “pc”.
Most people dont want personal info or finances on someone elses server (when given the choice… sometimes.. they dont have the choice). Exponet HR is a good example of not having a choice.
Where is the market going? as a consumer. I do alot of things.. record video, online gamer, develop software, etc. etc. but i do. breakthings down.. i do most from a laptop.. and move data around alot..
i wouldnt feel comfortable on a xbox. for a number of reasons.
Comment by Mike Verinder -
it’s conceivable that the gaming boxes will become the home media system and displace PC’s in that regard. Google is positioned to capitalize on the shift away from desktop apps to SaaS applications like you noted. Amazon was conspicuously missing from your list though- they are heavily banking on the trend to virtualization with their S3 and EC2 web services. They give developers the API’s and raw tools to build end-to-end services around their utility computing cloud. This is a stellar move that entrenches them deeply. In the same way that ebay created a marketplace that now is the primary source of income for x millions of people- Amazon is positioning themselves to be the ebay of CPU cycles.
Comment by Sean Tierney -
Mark, you make a lot of really good points, particularly in regard to Google. However, I think there is one bad assumption in here. Gaming consoles would perhaps have a chance to replace traditional desktop PCs, but I think desktop PCs are already being replaced by laptops. A laptop is far more “personal” than a desktop PC ever was and is far more compelling as the price has come down and with the existence of wifi. I just don’t see how a gaming console as it exists today can ever replace a laptop for most people.
Comment by nick -
Sorry Mark, I don’t buy it. The thing that makes the PC so compelling is that software developer + run of mill PC + fairly inexpensive or free software + time = more software. Game consoles are still walled gardens / embedded devices. A Google VM would also be a walled garden. Would you have to pay to get your software in? It’s one thing to pay to get the word out, but just to get in? While e-mail, web, and office constitute a huge chunk of what most do with their PCs, you’d also find that a huge chunk of owners have a niche app you’ve never heard of that they need for their own niche need. This is what makes the PC a compelling common denominator.
If you doubt the niche app theory, look at the resilience of the Palm marketplace. There you have no big software developer players, but everyone with a Palm buys apps from little developers that do little things they need done. And despite lagging in the hardware wars and failing to rev the OS as promised, Palm still ships units and developers still make money on their products and come out with more. While Palm development is embedded development, it’s always been inexpensive to buy the tools and pretty easy for competent and motivated people to grind out apps.
Comment by Brad Hutchings -
Mark, your post inspired me to write a blog of my own about the future of personal computing. My comment above forms the basis of the post but I go deeper on each point. See http://dondodge.typepad.com/the_next_big_thing/2007/02/mark_cuban_on_t.html
PS Paul Pierce is back and the Celtics are looking better. The Mavs game on March 23rd is circled on everyone’s calendar. I hope you can make it to the game.
Comment by Don Dodge -
I think mire and more accessories will become standard. Today all computers play dvds, access the internet, and have features that were add-ons in the past. I think in the future personal computers will still dominate and hd burners, cable tv recording, and web cams will be standard.
Comment by satellite dishes -
When the robots take of the world we won’t have to worry about personal computing.
Comment by microwaves -
I think your vision of the future is certainly a real possiblity.
I think the only thing standing in the way is that people have traditionally been hessitant to buying specialized devices if the public views them as being underpowered. I think the pirce difference bweteen an Office app Pc and a standard PC woudl have to be very significant for that to work. The kind of PC you can get now for 300 bucks is basically the type of machine you have described but they are never advertised as such because of the underpowered stigma.
Another point is that in the last 5 years no one i know who has bought a new computer has bought a desktop unless they are specifically for power computing. People want mobility more than anything else these days. If computers are sufficiently portable and powerful, it will make the VM model difficult to be embraced. I do thin that the VM computer however will be important , it just may not be the dominant system.
Comment by superdave -
1. The PC industry (MSFT, Apple, Dell, HP, etc.) has a huge ecosystem and continues to make $$. They are not going to blow up the business model that has served them well over the years.
2. That means an outsider needs to do it….Google? If anyone has the assets in place and the capitalization to pull it off, it is Google. But what exactly are they after? They just want you to rid yourself of MSFT software (thereby cripling MSFT) and trust Google for all your software needs. Tough sell to the Corp IT guys but consumers are a different story. I don’t see Google prevailing on this front in any appreciable way
3. Larry Ellison and others have tried the thin client thing and it hasn’t caught on. Maybe someone will try again…but who? Dell, HP etc aren’t going to cannibalize their business. So a long shot.
4. VM’s are interesting…but until you have ubiquitous wi-fi and access points everywhere and anywhere, VM’s are on the margins and not going to be mainstream.
5. The status quo is ripe for a change….as you have observed, the dynamics for massive disruption are out there but who can line ’em all up to work for their advantage?
6. Off subject…but next time you come to Seattle I’d love to buy you a coffee and talk. I’m a former MSFT guy who has similar passions and interests as you do. Thx for considering the invite.
Comment by Steve -
>Will people stop putting their pictures on their PCs and buy gaming consoles for this purpose instead ?
Yes, why not?
Comment by FSBO -
Sunday February 11, 2007
WE ARE REALLY FORTUNATE TO HAVE MARK CUBAN SHARE WITH US HIS COMPUTER SMARTS. WOW OH WOW WHAT A GUY.
SIGNED, NANCY MORALES IN SAN ANTONIO
Comment by Nancy Morales -
Sunday February 11, 2007
One way to get to that nba championship trophy is to acknowledge someone has won and played a good game in the past. AND THEN SAY I’M GETTING THIS ONE CHUMP.
Comment by Nancy Morales -
What about the fact your console is tied to your tv? Alot of people have their gaming console hooked to a smaller tv and it is not that much of an issue, but if I’m going to be doing image editing, the standard tv does not have the resolution to produce quality pictures, and I only have one hd tv in the house. I’m not making the big bucks yet where every tv is hd and television resolution woldnt be an issue doing graphics on it with a console. Then you have to think about you have several remotes laying around and to add a keyboard and maybe a mouse to that mix is a bit much.
Comment by Mark M. -
Mark, You covered lots of major trends in this post. Some of these will converge on a single device or vendor and some will not.
I think you are right about the game console becoming the multi-media center of the home for games, video, music, and photos. Xbox is in a great position to handle all of these with more local storage.
I agree that new releases of hardware or operating systems don’t get much attention anymore, and I think the reason is because gaming has moved off the PC and onto game consoles. Games have always been the driving force for bigger disks, faster processors, and better operating systems. It was the gamers who craved the new hw/sw releases.
I don’t see the game console becoming the center for non-media uses like email, web browsing, or Office like applications. It is more likely that mobile phones and PDAs will take a bigger share of market for those uses. The game console and TV screen make lots of sense for gaming, video, photos, and music. But the TV screen is not ideal for web browsing, email, or Office stuff. The screen is the problem…both size and location.
Where does this leave the PC? I agree that all this horsepower (CPU, Disk, Memory) is unnecessary for simple web browsing, email, and office apps. But, the keyboard, screen, and location (desk or office versus sofa in the living room) make it the best choice for doing real work.
Does this leave an opening for a thin client or a resurgence of Larry Ellison’s “Network Computer” idea? Yes, I think it does. Both Google and Microsoft Live are racing to build huge data centers to host these applications online. Google is assembling their Gmail, Docs and Spreadsheets, etc to be a player for the applications. Microsoft Live is doing the same thing.
You are right that the desktop PC is on the way out as the dominant center for all computing. The game console is taking over the multi-media stuff. The cell phone and PDAs are taking over all forms of communication including email. This leaves an opening for thin clients to take over what is left…office applications…which may be hosted in the cloud.
These are huge trends that will disrupt the current market, but the leaders are already working hard to make sure they have a piece of it.
Great insights! Thanks for making us all stop and think about this.
Comment by Don Dodge -
I thought for a second there, Mark CUban found his courage again
some thoughts on the NBA
Wade is still a kid, for some reason the powers that be in the NBA decided to annoint him in his second year, its not his fault, its the NBA’s fault. hes an above average player but the way the syocphant announcers and sports analysts like Hubie Brown and Steve Kerr and a bunch of others rave about him is an insult to baksetball fans’ intelligence, and I wish Hubie and Steve and those like them would just get out of announcing but thats just me. its difficult to have any respect for most of the announcers save a handful of honest ones, they make the league into a joke thats difficult to watch
All right enough negativity now for some positivity
but despite all the bull crap there are still some exciting plays once in a while and the Suns, Lakers, and Cavs (Cavs even more so now that Pavlovic is finally getting a chance to play) are fun to watch, Oh and I also like watching the Hawks too.
Kobe Bryant is awesome, hes just an awesome person, we are all fortunate as a culture to have such a high quality guy be a sports icon. Hes mature now and hes grown into just an all around great guy. He’s still got big time competive fire but hes also a good sport and hes filled with positive energy and hes just an inspiration to see, not only for his talent but for his leadership and the way he conducts himself on the court and off the court in interviews. He is just awesome. I cant say enough good things about, I am filled wtih admiration for him. Anyone that gets a chance to be around him is lucky in my opinion, Hes the type of guy that makes you want to strive to be the best you can be and work hard in whatever you do in your own life. Keep doing exactly what you are doing Kobe, bravo
Bonzi Wells is awesome and if the rockets insert him into the starting lineup and give him 35 minutes a game, I predict that if Yao and Tracy stay healthy, the rockets will win the championship this year. Wells is thee most underated player in the league. In 2000 he and the blazers almost knoecked off the lakers in the westtern conference finals. last year he and the Kings almsot knocked of the Spurs. hes had some tough luck in that teams he has been on have always had a lot players at the 2 guard and small forward sports, but he needs to be on the court 35 minutes a game. Hes a warrior and hes intelligent and he just want to win and he’ll do everything that it takes to win games. ONe more time I hope Jeff is listening, PLay Bonzie Wells and the rockets win it all.
lets see what else
The league needs to stop giving offensive players the calls when they jump into defenders chests, At leat 10 times a game in every game one will see a defensive players jsut standing there with his arms up while the offensive players runs and jumps into him and the foul is called on the defender. I am tired of seeing the righful looks of increduliy on defensive players faces when they are jsut standing there with there arms up. Easily 10 bad calls a game jsut like taht, its shameful and the refs need to stop that.
Im still a huge Jason WIlliams fan, I hope he does get traded and I hope he goes to a team where they give him control. He can do everything Steve Nash does only fasster and with more style, and he is almost as good a shooter. IF we was given the freedom that Nash was his team would average about 130 points a game and it would be even prettier to watch than the Suns.
Its a shame that we only get to see little glimpses of the genius of Jason WIlliams point guard on the heat. No one has ever done the things he can do, He is in a class by himself,
He had a game in his first year with Memphis where he had 38 points and 13 assists, I think he could average that if he was put in the right situation
Im a big fan of Sasha Pavolvic hes awesome I hope He and Lebron take the Cavs to finals in the east.
IM a big fan of MOnte Ellis on the warriors, he is blazing fast and he cna jump and he can shoot.
Im a big fan of Josh SMith on the Hawks, I think hes ready to be a superstar, and he and Joe Johnson I think just might get the Hawks into the playoffs
Comment by craigp -
Computer users can be broken down to 2 types: those who compute, and those who don’t. And the ones who don’t, well, they usually overbuy and never come close to realizing what they have in front of them!
I recently purchased the iMac with the Intel Core Duo processor. And just a sign of the times, it did NOT come as I needed it because I am not the normal computer user. I code. And iMac/OSX has amazing coding bundled software called Xcode. But it does NOT come with the iMac. You have to add it. Yes, go out of the way to add it. Even though its free. Download. It was freaking huge… are you ready? 924 MB!! I asked myself why I had to download such a HUGE package and why wasn’t it already installed.
My guess was this: why waste all that memory on the Xcode when most users will never code and compile a C, C++, or FORTRAN program? Ever! Then I started thinking about what the % is who have ever coded. Being a grad student and modeling the climate (as well as hydrological systems), I could not even begin to imagine NOT coding. But I’m not the norm. So I wonder: how many computer users have ever written a program? 5 percent? 1% percent? Less? I’m not talking java or html. I’m talking programs that have to be compiled. Less than 1% …. ?
we’re a dying breed. especially us FORTRAN guys!
Comment by greg -
Sorry but I would never ever use any of the online services which can reveal the way I do business or my figures. Privacy matters more than ever in this age. I do not think that I am the only small business person that chooses to hand it’s business process to a large competitor. And yes even Google is a competitor as with that much of liquidities they can disrupt any industry.
I think there will always be room for a general purpose computing device to run business critical applications locally.
Comment by Bas Burger -
I doubt it. Those online apps give you virtually no options. Using a video game console as a personal computer gives you virtually no options, little room for expansion, little chance of upgrading the software, and no access to change things. Given that the latest gaming consoles cost nearly as much as a similarly powerful computer, I fail to see the advantage to going that route. If it’s power consumption, they’re going to become more similar in that regard as gaming consoles become more like PCs.
I don’t understand the trend of wanting 1 thing that doesn’t everything multimedia-wise, anyways – I’ll continue to buy an MP3 player that’s really good at playing MP3s and a cell phone that’s really good at placing calls – but there certainly is that trend going on. I think if anything the gaming console will become more like a PC, than people simply ditch their PCs for gaming consoles that are similar to what we have now. In the past gaming console didn’t have a hard drive at all, if I recall correctly. Now they run with hard drives, have USB ports, play off of DVDs, and have operating systems not much different from what runs on computers.
And I never remember the days of having to stand in lines for a computer, and that’s been the case for new gaming consoles since the NES.
Comment by Matthew -
Been there, done that. It was called timesharing, and is how CompuServe got started in 1969. From the beginning, the way computing gets done has been about the relative power of hardware, software and networking. When business-quality PCs first came out in the 1980s, those of us in the IT (we called it DP then) part of the world said, ‘oh yeah, who’s going to do the backup on all those PCs?’ The answer was that very few end users bothered to do backups, and nearly everyone who has used a personal computer for a long time has lost of lot of valuable work because of a hard drive crash and no backup.
Nonetheless, PCs filled a need, and eventually corporate IT departments began supporting PCs rather than fighting against them. The next problem that needed to be solved was how to share data between users, and how to have a shared corporate data store. Along came local area networking (including an outfit called MicroSolutions) to solve that problem.
Since then, hardware, software and networking have evolved in parallel, although networking has been the last to catch up. Now we have incredibly fast and cheap hardware, amazing software, and more bandwidth to the home that any of us would have though imaginable just a decade ago (remember when ISDN speeds seemed like a dream?).
And once again, users are finding that they don’t want the hassle of installing software, defending against viruses, and performing regular backups — all the operations tasks. They just want to drive their cars, not change the oil and replace the tires.
So here we are, back to timesharing. Google is building data centers so massive that connectivity to the electrical network is as important as connectivity to the Internet. So rather than cozy up to the main peering points, they’re building close to hydroelectric generating facilities, like Grand Coulee Dam.
The only thing we can be sure of is that this isn’t the last lap around the cycle…
Comment by Paul -
“Why can’t a small console, much like today’s gaming consoles handle local multimedia and gaming and have a browser
Well, at first I thought you were talking about the Mac mini, most of that stuff you mentioned, right, is done by Google, which is actually very nice.
Hardware releases are usually lame because it’s the SOFTWARE that makes such a big difference, not speeds or screen sizes.
Vista was lame because it was so disappointing. That technology has been around for a long time, and furthermore, the security improvements just arent there.
The difference is that, when software releases are powerful, it’s a big deal.
Whether bits are in a box, or on the web, they are what matter.
Google and Apple. Who else? Those two companies seem to be running things these days.
MS rules the world of business on the client side, and Linux on the server side.
Are we done here? 😉
Comment by mike -
A few of these tools are online now, but they aren’t exactly robust. JumpCut, for example, might be my video editor of choice if only I could download my creations to my PC, but it still has all the limitations you’d expect from a thin-client video editing tool. As far as I know, there are no online tools for editing audio or images, either.
I don’t really know why it needs to be online, but you might want to check out Apple’s $79 Suite of apps called iLife. Best in the world at doing exactly what you describe.
Don’t buy yet, version 7 is coming out next month.
Comment by mike -
There’s one wild card in this game plan, Mark. More and more people are getting curious about making their own media — blogging, podcasting, making music, making video, etc. Sure, most of these folks aren’t making a dime from it, but they still enjoy the craft and need the tools and CPU power to handle it.
A few of these tools are online now, but they aren’t exactly robust. JumpCut, for example, might be my video editor of choice if only I could download my creations to my PC, but it still has all the limitations you’d expect from a thin-client video editing tool. As far as I know, there are no online tools for editing audio or images, either.
IMHO, these are the people that will drive PC and Mac sales in the coming years, and their numbers are still growing in spite of the lack of profit motive. Apple in particular will likely stay in the computer business for a long time because of this market.
Comment by Dave's Lounge -
I agree with you, VMs are the future. It will also lead to mobiles becoming far more important to the user than the PC ever was.
For a start, manufacturers need to begin enabling wireless or bluetooth on all their displays (TVs/monitors).
I’m really interested in watching how work will become embedded into a personal life.
Could Bill Gates’ tablet world be far off?
Comment by Adam Cains -
Why would microsoft be in a bad position then? In terms on console they have Xbox360, and they have MSN, window live, and the current platform of internet explorer and window Vista.
If anything, if they manage to integrate all these together, they should come up a winner in the future of personal computing.
Comment by Dominic Lee -
Interesting points. I think you miss three things:
– Consoles are subsidized by game sales. One can substitute rentals for this, but historically, people have not liked rental software. This could change, of course, but I know how _I_ would feel if my financial data were held hostage.
– Bandwidth, the last mile, and the role of telecom. Our country is seriously screwed up on this front, and I don’t see it getting better.
– Business. While an amusing image, I have trouble seeing the bean counters massaging spreadsheets on an Xbox. (“im in ur CapEx, depreciating ur assets!”) Business sales made MS what it is. Consumer driven technology is changing that, but it is still a huge, and conservative, market. In some ways it is expanding, in that non-tech companies are forced by competition to not only use the efficiencies on ops, but also cater to consumers with websites, CRM support, etc.
As a forth point, and I’m not sure where this is going but it ties in to telecom, phones are a big, big deal. If the stranglehold created by the subsidy carriers pay to manufacturers can be broken and a true open platform emerges, all hell will break loose for existing models.
Comment by fishbane -
In Infoworld a few months ago, a writer attempted to work completely online to test all the existing applications and compare them.
Except for email and document access when not connected, his productivity didn’t suffer.
You will not see any improvement until Dell or a big player ships a PC with a free OS and tools like Open office.
The quickest potential for something like this is the $100 PC. When it is commercially available and actually works, essentially you will be buying a hard drive with internet access.
Comment by PSC -
All excellent points Mark. I wonder if it will be Google or Sony that comes out as the winner in all this or maybe a new startup that is not even in the picture yet. Obviously Google has the technological advantage at this point. It remains to be seen what they plan to do with it. They don’t say too much about their future plans except for advertising. How can someone other than the companies you mentioned profit from this? Do you have any plans to do something other than from the content side?
Comment by Tom B -
Comments are closed.