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The Next Wave

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The Next Wave

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

-Clarke’s Third Law

This half a century old quote by Arthur C Clarke certainly seems fitting to the emerging trends in technology. The technology that surrounds us in the present day would definitely seem magic to someone twenty years behind our time. Phones that we can carry in our pockets, talking face to face with someone on the other side of the earth, computing power in our desktops that is way more powerful than what NASA needed to put man on the moon. Stuff straight out from a good old science fiction movie.

Thinking along the same lines, it would be perfectly sane to believe that what we perceive as magic today, might be the reality of future. Imagine having your personal desktop being available anywhere in the world. Imagine saving a spreadsheet in your home computer, driving to the office and resume editing it. Imagine working on a same presentation at the same time with your colleague working in another city. Imagine the concept of Personal Computers becoming obsolete. Imagine.

Paradigm Shift

In essence, we're moving from a PC-centered to a network-centered world. More and more applications will run in browsers (or browser-like platforms such as Google's Desktop, Yahoo's Widgets and Apple's Dashboard) rather than as traditional, standalone programs installed on individual hard drives, and whether your data resides locally or on some distant server will ultimately be both transparent and irrelevant.

Even the traditional web based applications are starting to look more and more like their desktop counterparts, the perfect example of which is Yahoo! Mail and MSN Live, which reflect the look and feel of a desktop mail client. On the other hand, more and more desktop apps like Apple iTunes now require some sort of network internet connectivity for their use. Then there are weblications like Google Talk, which work using a desktop app or within the web based Gmail. The line between desktop applications and web applications is becoming blurred.

The Big Idea

The web browser’s advantage is that it is ubiquitous. It can access your online data from any part of the world. Using a web browser or browser like applications like widgets is a natural choice to access and view your data. Using a browser, we can replace our Personal Desktop with a Personal WebTop. In other words, we replace our monolithic Operating System with a WebOS.

The concept of the WebOS is simple. There would be a very minimal operating system to boot, load the necessary drivers to support IO, video, network card, etc., and to run the primary application - a web browser. The standard CPU and memory available today would be fine, but it would need little disk space. Most of the data goes on the web and little is stored locally.

After you log in, the web browser connects to your WebTop. From here you could launch any of your "apps" from icons on the desktop or from a Start-like menu. These apps will reside on the vendor’s server but will run inside a browser shell and function very similar to traditional apps today.

The Upside

The most obvious advantage of having applications reside on a remote machine than the local one is that the application becomes OS neutral.



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