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I am lucky to have seen several glimpses of the future. It is interesting to see and interact with the people who are building the future - hardware, software, and services.
It's also interesting to see how these folks sometimes have no idea what the others are doing, but the products they're developing will help to push each other faster into the next generation of computing.
There's an old term you don't hear much anymore called Wintel. It was used to describe the whole Windows/Intel killer combination that made the PC market take off like a rocket. It was kind of like the military industrial complex for computers. It was much bigger than Microsoft and Intel.
Wintel represented the coalition of eager beavers building add-ons and accessories. Standardized (Hayes compatible) modems; standardized (Epson compatible) printers; standardized (AT style) cases. It seemed like everyone was creating a card that plugged into a standard port or slot - and making money doing it.
Standards didn't quite rule. Everyone, including Hayes, sometimes had an implementation that wasn't quite 100% within the guidelines. But the standard changed and evolved quickly.
Software developers made fortunes on games, screen savers, and specialty software to make your business run better.
"Anyone" could build a computer and add in all the whiz-bang hardware and software they wanted. It got faster every year, with a brighter promise of the future every year.
Computers kicked ass before anyone ever heard of the Internet.
And then came the Web. Evolution sped up several hundred percent per year.
The "real" world wide web, with usable browsers and usable servers, is just fifteen years old this year. You might hear http was around before that, etc. I personally built a web page and won an award for it in 1993. But there was no one to look at it except my customers and the awards committee. And the awards committee didn't have 1,000 other pages to look at!
Now we're on the verge of another massive change.
When was the last time you compared answering machines so you could buy a new one? Do you even remember?
Answering machines are still made. They exist and you can buy a brand new one today.
But 98% of us prefer voice mail. It just exists. It's there. Wherever there is.
We've stopped thinking about voice mail as a physical thing we buy and now we just buy the service we want. It comes with cell phones. It comes with AT&T service. It comes with VOIP. In fact, there are millions of unused voice mail accounts because it's just available because you signed up for something else.
Voice mail is a model for future technology. Clients don't want servers and desktop computers. They want technology to just work. They want their employees to sit down and just do their job. No one wants to install updates, fix a configuration, download a patch.
Technology is evolving away from a series of "things" you sell. It is becoming a service you provide. HP coined the term "All-in-One" awhile back. I thought it just applied to printers. But they use it to market their storage servers.
And maybe one day they'll use it to market a big black box that has only two ports: NIC and Power. And in that big box is everything you need to create virtual servers, virtual workstations, virtual switches, routers, firewalls, and specialty devices we can't imagine today.
Sun's doing this.
I'm leaving today for San Diego and the Zenith Infotech training on their version of cloud services. It's not a technical training. No hardware in sight. It's a business training on the business model of the future.
Citrix is building the tools you need to create this future. Available right now if you want to build your own.
Same with VMWare.
Same with MS Hyper-V.
I'm working with a software developer who is very close to releasing a product that will make the transition to hosted services and a "lighter" on-premise footprint very easy to accomplish.
I'm working with a hardware vendor who wants to bundle everything you need together provide all the technology a client needs (hardware, software, licenses, cals, etc.) into an easy monthly payment.
And that loops us back to Microsoft and Intel. They're still the biggest players in the PC space. And while they have competition for this or that, they are the absolute leaders in providing the core technology that will make all the rest possible.
But they're not alone.
We now have an alternative to Wintel: LAMP. The Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP industrial complex is alive and thriving.
Just like fifteen years ago, we're in an exciting time when anyone can build applications, offer them up, and see what's successful.
The happiest days of my technical career were the wild five years 1995-1999. I had fun and made a bunch of money doing it.
I believe we're about ready to do that again. 2010-2014. We can't even imagine how different our world will be at the end of that period. But I guarantee a bunch of people are going to make a bunch of money.
The future is here. I'm strapped in and the countdown has started.
Now we just need the economy to shake loose a little extra spending power so we can start implementing it!
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