Welcome to Your New Computer

Let’s rethink what a computer is.

Computers are no longer those bulky devices under or on your desk. They are no longer those thin and slick laptops on your desk or lap. These have become merely interfaces to computers and computation power.

Your new computer is somewhere off in the “cloud”; you don’t own it, you can’t touch it, and you don’t even know exactly where it is. Your computer today is really a collection of hundreds of thousands of what you used to think of as computers before, all of which working in unison to provide you all the services you need.

Your new computer is on the Internet. Actually, your computer today is the Internet. The Internet is no longer an auxiliary service to complement the rest of your computation needs. The Internet today is no longer just a service, it is everything. Although our desktops and laptops are capable of doing wonderful things on their own, but if they are disconnected from the web we tend to think of them as useless.

The Internet today can stream you an infinite collection of videos, movies, TV episodes, and live events. The Internet can let you call, email, IM, and handle all your communication needs. The Internet can take care of your office needs of word processing, spreadsheets, presentation, team collaboration, and database. The Internet can store, organize, or even help you edit your photos. The Internet provides you with games you can instantly enjoy.

While this is not new, what is new of the past two or three years, however, is that you can get all these services with minimal configuration on your end, and with all these services running in your browser, and we’ve only just got started. This is the new Internet. This is your new computer!

With this, all the old debates of Windows vs Mac OS vs Linux are kind of irrelevant these days. All of them connect you to the same Internet, and that is where all the new applications run. What is relevant however, is the emergency of the new Internet Operating Systems. Unfortunately there isn’t much debate about this. However, if you think about it, companies like Facebook, Google, and Microsoft Live, are all competing to build your next operating system, or the environment where you work.

The closest of these to a full-blown “operating system” is probably Facebook. This of course is no wonder because they bought the Internet start up Parakey that was interested in building a hosted, virtual, Internet operating system. If you look at Facebook, they even adopt the mantra of existing operating systems. They have a little bar at the bottom where your notifications appear on the right (just like where your system tray icons would appear in Windows). You can install different applications to your profile, you start your applications by clicking on a menu from the left side of your bar. Developers have an API and programming languages to write programs to run on the Facebook environment. So it is in effect a full-blown “operating system”. I only put the quotes here because it technically doesn’t manage your hardware like a “real” operating system does, but it is pretty much everything else for you.

This is very exciting. Your new computer data and services are available to you 24/7 around the globe. It is very exciting because you no longer have to manage and maintain your computer as you inadvertently had to in the past. Previously, you would buy a computer to use it, and you’d end up administering it just to keep it running, which took away from the time you can actually use your computer to derive some benefit out of it. To realize this, think of how much time you had to spend to install applications and fix problems that you encounter (computer doesn’t work, this or that program don’t work ..etc). Now, all that is gone and taken care of by somebody else. You can now derive benefit from your computer without any extra effort.

This is also exciting because it creates new problems for us to think about. For example, we are now no longer owners of our data and computation. It is probably companies like Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, and Zoho that own your data. So how do you ensure that your data is still safe and confidential ? Your new computer services run on hundreds of thousands of machines in a distributed fashion, how do you make that possible ? Your new hosted services are expected to be up and running (available), and extremely responsive, 24/7 and around the globe, how do you make that possible ? How do you integrate the experiences of millions of people so that we can facilitate collaboration while still protecting security ? and how do use users’ experiences to create better services ?

This is the new Internet. This is the new world of “cloud computing“. This is your new computer. Welcome to your new computer.

  1. I understand that there is plenty of resemblance between Oses and “Cloud” computing. But I think it’s just another way big companies are milking us for more online time (which will soon become a currency)
    Every company you mentioned has some real-state on the internet that they’re trying to keep people “on”
    Google’s only good app is Gmail, they’re petrified of Facebook which is doing EVERYTHING these days. But is it sustainable? I’m not sure
    People are spending insane amounts of time “on” social networks. But I am a firm believer that this is not going to last forever. It’s going to “evolve” into a work environment, so cheap to operate it will be ridiculous compared to what people used to pay few years ago
    This is going to hurt the hardware business. Hardware in all shapes and sizes will become irrelevant. But beautiful new worlds utilizing what computers can REALLY do with today’s hardware is going to go on. This will likely slow down hardware development as the feverish quest for the fastest and largest will be a thing of the past
    Oh well progress comes in so many different shapes and sizes

  2. Yeah. .. i bet new desktop applications utilizing the new power of the machines will eventually emerge. But i think the main point is that the wave of the future is that we will always be connected to this “grid” or “cloud” in terms of our data and even application dependencies.

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