sticknick: (Kings Cross)
Now that OS X and Windows 7 are on par and have pretty much wrapped up a generation of box/monitor/keyboard/mouse computing, I often wonder what The Next Big Thing will be. I mean, come on. What more could you possibly throw into an operating system in order to make people want to buy the next version?

Both OS X and Windows 7 are solid, fast, sleek and shiny. There is nothing Apple and Microsoft can add to make them "better" other than obvious bug fixes.

So what is the The Next Big Thing In Personal Computing?

I asked this question on a Flame War site I frequent and one dude said "OS X with multi-touch". I think this person was referring to the iPhone.

I have an iPhone. I love my iPhone. I believe that the iPhone is the absolute best device to come out in the past 10 years.

Is it the Next Big Thing In Personal Computing? No way. Not by a long shot. It still needs to be coupled with a Mac or PC with iTunes installed to make it work properly. And iTunes runs on the box/monitor/keyboard/mouse model. And even if Apple adds full multi touch to OS X and releases a tablet, it's still the box/monitor/keyboard/mouse (fingers?) model because you have to download and install software in order to do anything and it stores all of your information locally.

Then I saw this:



Looking a this preview of the Chrome OS I finally got this whole Cloud deal and I can now see where it's going. Yesterday I could have cared less. I have seriously been trying to figure out what all the hoopla has been around "Cloud Based Computing". Web apps. Whoo-hoo.

Web apps = little programs that run in a browser.

Google has been chattering on about it's online mail and office applications for years. They've got maps and Picasa too. They have chat and they have Wave. And all of this is on the Internet. If I want to use any of this web based stuff, I'll open Safari and have at it!

I have a MacBook Pro attached to a 24" monitor. I also have a Powerbook for some tasks and storage. I have a Mail app, a couple of web browsers, the Adobe Master Suite, and Microsoft Office. I have around a terabyte of drive space strewn across the home office network by way of physical backup drives. This is all topped off with a mouse and keyboard.

If something happens to my computers, all my stuff is backed up and it'll only take me a few hours to reinstall the operating system and applications and copy over my files. And set up my media libraries. And re-add contacts. And set up my email app again and wait for my mail to download….

Wait… what if… this could all be replaced with a smallish laptop/netbook style device and a tiny operating system that could pull everything I own and need from the Internet? What if this computer was lost? Or stolen? What would it be like to buy a new one an not have to worry about lost contacts or content? All my music still there. Same with my photos and email. And what if I didn't have to spend hours reinstalling programs and tweaking settings? What if I just turned on the computer…

… and everything was there?

What if I could turn on this device, and be editing a photo for your blog in seconds without having to use cumbersome third party system hogging desktop software like Photoshop?

Think I'm crazy? Why is Adobe playing around with this then? Try it out. Sure, it's not Photoshop CS4, but ten years ago I couldn't imagine a standalone program that did basic photo editing that well, let alone something that ran off of a web page.

Need office apps? Microsoft will have you covered. So does Adobe.

I'm sure there are gamers out there who are thinking you'll need a kick ass computer and operating system to play. Maybe. For now. I will say that nine years ago I built a two thousand dollar computer to do two things: 1) Graphics and Web design 2) Play Games. This computer played Quake 3. Slowly. On low settings.

Now Quake 3 can be played in a browser plug-in. Fast. On high settings.

Yeah.

The combination of the upcoming HTML 5 standard and advances in the Adobe Flash platform is starting to really blur the line between standard desktop applications and web applications.

How awesome would that be? This is the Cloud. I finally get it.

Kudos to Google for envisioning what I think just may be The Next Big Thing.


Note: The hardware is fast enough. The Internet is fast enough (although we need to really get working on providing people outside of the main urban centres decent high speed). Now if Google can make Chrome multi touch and perfect voice recognition software, we can move fully away from the box/monitor/keyboard/mouse platform.
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