Extrapolating Computing

Remember when mainframes did all of the computing? And workstations were dumb terminals docked to the mainframes? The terminals had less power, but were more “mobile.”

Then everyone got a desktop. And the desktop is where you did most of your computing. And you carried around your underpowered laptop, which had to be synced with your desktop, or docked to a big screen, keyboard and mouse to be usable. The laptop had less power, but it was more mobile than the desktop.

Now most early adopters have a laptop as their main computer. And are carrying around their underpowered smartphone, which has to be synced with their laptop on a regular basis. The smartphone has less power, but well, it’s more mobile.

We’ll dock our smartphones to our laptops for a while. But, if we can extrapolate from the history of computing, the laptop is headed for the dustbin.

Which means that Apple will be ok. Google will be ok. But if Windows Mobile is any indicator, Microsoft is in deep, deep trouble.

10 thoughts on “Extrapolating Computing

  1. I don’t agree with your extrapolation. I think the right analogy is a pendulum.

    centralized distributed

    first the pendulum swung to the centralized size (mainframes) .. then it swung to the distributed side (terminals).. then with the web it swung back to the centralized side (web servers) and now it’s swinging back to the distributed side (richer browsers / AJAX, AIR clients, browser OS’s) but just with more points of distribution.

    I think as you have more terminals with data being centralized, there’s going to have to be more computing on the terminals to coordinate and sync everything.

    it’s why i run so much software on my mobile phone.

    eventually we’ll find a way to centralize a single view across multiple end points… and the pendulum will swing back.

  2. Interesting metaphor, but I think people are using mobile devices to augment and access online activities, but not replace their laptops and desktops. While, it’s a highly convenient form factor, but I can’t do a spreadsheet on it, type a note more then 15 words, code, or anything else of “substance”.

    Microsoft still has problems, and I think the bigger threat to them is that server-driven software is getting better while traditional client-driven software has maxed out. Do we really need more features in an OS, Word or Outlook?

  3. Some people still use mainframes. Some people still use desktops. Some people will still use laptops. But the average user will, at some point, probably have a smartphone as their only device.

  4. so the one model i could definitely see happening is that the smartphone becomes primary device.. but people maintain multiple screens.

    There was this IBM project a while ago that aimed to separate out the “computing” parts from the “display” parts…

    that way i could take my phone to a meeting and project whatever was on it..

    or I could take to my desk and work, where i have crazy 30″ screens so i can do my spreadsheets..

    i think the key that unlocks this world will be to decouple display from computing.

  5. Totally agreed – dock your iPhone into a larger display and keyboard for us geeks. But it’s possible that the average person will get by without. Remember that the average global citizen owns a mobile phone but not a computer. For them, a smartphone is a huge upgrade on every level.

  6. I think you have to follow the memes, not the modus.

    Not only are phones a medium for serving us bi-directional information, but they also leave us the freedom to interact in the physical world.

    Laptops are a medium for deeper immersion, when we want to focus only on getting tasks done.

    I am willing to bet that any software trying to do both will do neither.

  7. […] Here is a sectleion of vintage promotional photos showing computing equipment of yesteryear.Source: Posted by Makin at 10:46 Labels: computing equipment, daisy wheel, […]

  8. For now, I can’t be productive enough with a phone, so my phone will not replace my workstation.
    I suspect there is a huge opportunity to use a dockable phone.

    But it means that the application used in the big screen have different ergonomy than those with little screen. (maybe hosting the data “in the cloud” is a solution cool enough and we don’t need a dockable phone ?)

    However, Microsoft has a very big portfolio of activities, and the success as a company cannot be correlated with the success of workstation anymore.

    Media center, Xbox, Windows 8, Azure, they have really great stuff coming and have a brilliant community of developers. (The problem is that these developer are more enterprise developer than “mainstream” one, this is why there is so few apps on windows phone)

    Microsoft teams are becoming very receptive to the market and become to some extent non-Microsoft. (Bing team)

    My view may be biased since I’m a .NET developer, but I respect the path they take, they are less “mainstream” than other companies but it does not mean they are doing worse.

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