The next 30 years

My first computer weighed about 50 lbs, had one 5-1/4 inch floppy drive, no hard drive at all and a screen slightly larger than my wallet. I was wowed by the fact that I could change type to bold or italic (after studying a 5-volume manual).

Today, I am writing this post while sitting at the dentist's office on an iPad. In my office, I work on a laptop that has more power and cspsbility than the bank of Cray computers that sent us to the moon.

Still, birthdays should be recognized. So happy 30th birthday, IBM personal computer! But it's not all cake and candles for the venerable PC. Even icons fade away and, says one of its inventors, the Desktop PC is dead. Mark Dean, a member of the IBM team that changed the world, says the future belongs to tablets and mobile computing.

What's the future of computing? We may be much more device independent. Software or "apps" will be less proprietary and more readily adaptable as platforms and mobile operating systems change. The past 30 years have focused on the hardware - bigger, better, faster - and building applications supported by and taking advantage of the hardware. While the next 30 may focus more on what the user is trying to accomplish - much of that via social and business online networks.

What's in/what's out?

  • IN: Software as a service. OUT: are the days of buying shrinkwrapped software, trying to hold onto your license key and suffering through hours of customer service if you have to reinstall on a new computer.
  • IN: It seems almost passe but .. the cloud. Keeping your content - documents, contacts, photos, vids, records - online will be critical to true mobile computing. But widespread broadband access that is cost-accessible to everyone will be critical. OUT: Hard drives, USB keys, flash drives, external drives. You can see what has happened to the price of USB/Flash drives as their purpose is devalued. The devices of the future (look at the iPad and other tablets out today) don't even have expansion slots.
  • IN: Security. And not only on the part of internet companies. Users have to take control and be aware of the threats to their data. Secure passwords and encrypted files are key if you are going to host them in a cloud that you don't control. Companies that provide backup for your cloud data may be the next service you've got to have. OUT: Throw out those weak passwords. Even a cracker in training can devine your birthday, your dog's name, your favorite song in a matter of minutes. Simple substitution codes can appreciably increase your security (3s for Es, for example). Remember: the data is yours and so is the responsibility.
  • IN: Networks and collaboration. Remember those high school days when all the smart and pretty girls huddled together while all the good looking athletes brooded by the spiked punch bowl - all while the dorky kids stared at their shoes and wished it were all over? Yeah, me too. If you aren't part of the online conversation - from a business standpoint - check the clock. Time is running out. OUT: Control. You have to give up a little control to take advantage of a lot of opportunity. You can choose to stay on the sidelines, but the conversation will go on without you.
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    More than anything, the future of computing will be driven by more grass roots market needs. The days of a handful of software developers creating 95% of the software in use around the world are over. Software development for mobile platforms has proven considerably more accessible to startups and small developers that are very open to getting new ideas bubbled up from the marketplace.

    So tell us: What are the apps you want to see in your computing future? What would you want to do with computing that you either can't do now or have to spend a lot more time working around problems than you would like. What's your computing vision? Please respond with comments.