Death of the Desktop Take III - A Post-PC World?

Someone at work passed around the parting memo of a Microsoft technology leader... to spark a discussion on what we see as future trends in technology. I made a long reply so I thought I'd duplicate it here.

I read 90% of it... and my comments are:

1) While the traditional PC and laptop sales my slow down some... to share a market with a much wider array of devices... targeting mobility... I don't see PCs and Laptops going away any time soon. Gamers are still building monster systems and no tiny, mobile device is going to change that. The other thing to understand that you only want mobile devices when you are mobile. Who would like to swap out their PC for even the best smart phone or tablet device when in a traditional office or home setting? Really, answer that. And just how many people are going to be mobile a considerable portion of the time requiring a 95% always connected economy? Some people but not most people... at least not until they invent teleporters.

2) Being a Free(dom) software guy I can tell you that there is a strong opinion and growing movement among the open sourcers that are saying the "Desktop is Dead". We of course say "The Desktop is Dead. Long live the Desktop". But the thought is that Facebook, Twitter, Gmail, and G-apps have become so popular and widely used... and they are NOT free(dom) software... that the open source movement needs to concentrate on building open source alternatives to those services. Not only where you can subscribe to some commercial services that are built from open source components... but where the backend-server apps and infrastructure software components are all open source... so any organization can build their own cloud with FOSS cloud apps running in it... not having to trust ones data to third parties and their closed apps. Whether one believes in the death of the desktop or not, it only seems natural for FOSS (Free and Open Source Software) to flow into the cloud computing realm. The gains that FOSS has made in server and desktop computing should not be negated by any potential moves to cloud computing.

The idea of open private clouds that can be modified and extended by anyone with talent to meet individual institutional needs... where the data creator is actually in control of the data... RATHER than storing it on other people's computers... is quite compelling.

3) The thing stopping all of this are the historical monolithic technology companies that have just as much to lose in disruptive change as they have to gain. Most of them continue to engage in the ever expanding patent war that is going on... and unless that is solved and our patent system gets overhauled... the courts are going to be responsible for deciding how much change happens and at what rate.

Here are a few personal blog entries (most link to videos) that I've written in the last few months on these topics:

Your Desktop is Free but Where's Your Data? (video)

Death of the Desktop Take II

Death of the Desktop (video)

Sorry for the length of this response but I have a few more points.

4) Desktop GUIs / widget sets / APIs have matured over the last few decades and are very capabil / usable these days... and if you pick the right ones, multi-platform and even mobile. Even with all of the innovation in the upcoming HTML 5 standard... HTML 5 still will only have a fraction of the functionality and tools developers have become accustomed to provided by a desktop environment. Cloud-based development is a huge step backwards even if there are a small handful of services leading people to believe the situation is different.

5) HTML 5 is still several years from standardizing and the support for HTML 5 in the growing browser horse race is much more fractured than in the past... making it currently another giant step backwards for compatibility and standardization.

6) The main reason all of the vendors are praising the cloud is because they have money to be made in new hardware sales. They seem to ignore the fact that it isn't that easy to abandon most of the hardware you already have and buy new. The industry greatly needs to start making hardware that lasts and is usable for longer. As a single example in a vast technology sea, we need to stop throwing away approximately 75,000 cell phones per day just here in the US. The disposable society needs to change because the planet can not support such a large, rapidly growing population with never reducing consumer wants. In the long term, cloud computing may help but that remains to be seen. The current trend is that people add more devices to their collection without getting rid of anything.