Tuesday, April 08, 2008


Alex Tolley

One medium-picture facet that you are missing is that this is another assault on the Microsoft hegemony. Certainly the big picture, as detailed by Nick Carr's "The Big Switch" is to move computing from being local to the "cloud" as a utility. (disclaimer: I already use Amazon's SimpleDB for my database and will be migrating object stoerage to S3.) That reduces costs, improves reliability and incidently removes a lot of in-house programming. The simpler this becomes, the easier it becomes for the non-programmer to create their own apps, much like VisiCalc and Lotus123 spreadsheets did for a wide variety of simple number crunching.

But the intermediate picture is that web delivery of applications is through the browser. Marc Andreesen had the temerity to suggest this a decade ago, and Microsoft's response was to destroy Netscape. This time, the boot is on the other foot. Every developer that codes for the web is a developer not coding another Windows app. Innovation, especially for networked applications will migrate to the web, ecouraging more use of these applications and therefore more use of the browser as interface on the local client. In this situation, why do you care what the local OS is? (You don't with your cellphone.) The apps will look like web pages - diverse in style and not looking like native OS applications at all. Even Apple is going to get hit, because who cares how nice their apps look when most of the time the user is not using them. This undermines the primacy of the OS. For Microsoft, this is a major problem. Most of their revenue is still from licensing Windows and upgrading Office. They are stuck in the "Innovators Dilemma", thrashing around trying to generate new revenue without cannibalising their Windows franchise. Vista's plethora of confusing versions to maximize revenue has been met with a huge yawn. Google's AppEngine is another nail in the Windows' coffin.

As a developer, what I am currently seeing is a charge to make developing apps and putting them up in the cloud easier. There is a spate of startups trying to do this. Google may become the 800lb gorilla in this regard - especially is they can make it language neutral and not locked in to their infrastructure offerings.

It is an exiting time to be in software, we are seeing the first major paradigm shift in computing since the invention of the World Wide Web.

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