The following article has nothing to do with genealogy or history. However, I might suggest that all owners of computers should read this and the article written by Jonathan Zittrain.
Harvard Law School Professor Jonathan Zittrain is the faculty co-director of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University. He is also a professor of law at the Harvard Kennedy School, and professor of computer science at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. In his duties, he spends a lot of time looking at computer trends. Zittrain is the author of the 2008 book “The Future of the Internet—And How To Stop It.”
Zittrain has written an article in the Nov. 30 edition of the Technology Review entitled, "The Personal Computer is Dead." I agree with his premise, although I disagree with his conclusions.
Zittrain points out that the history of personal computing revolved around two operating systems, Windows and Macintosh. (We can ignore the tiny percentage of people who used Linux on their desktop and laptop systems. Windows and Macintosh together have accounted for more than 99% of the systems in operation.) For decades we've enjoyed a simple way for people to create software and share or sell it to others. Anyone could write and run software for an operating system, and the result was an endless assortment of spreadsheets, word processors, instant messengers, Web browsers, e-mail, and games.
In the past few years, the computing industry has undergone a radical shift from the purchase of software to the purchase of SERVICES. Software used to drive the computer marketplace. Now the software vendors have less power, less influence, and (in many cases) less revenue. The SERVICES vendors now dominate the marketplace.
Obviously, we still have Windows and Macintosh but those have now been supplemented by iOS for the Apple iPhone and iPad, as well as Android, Blackberry, Windows Live Phone, and a few other operating systems that are struggling to obtain market share. The plethora of operating systems has diluted the marketplace. Fewer and fewer of today's customers are concerned about operating systems. Instead, they seem to spend more time focusing on the available services: search engines, Gmail, Hotmail, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google Plus, Google Docs, Flickr, Mint, Pandora, Mozy, and dozens of other web applications that now dominate the marketplace.
Some of these services are available through a web browser while others require the installation of small programs (called "apps") on the handheld, laptop, or desktop computer. Many of them will work either through a web browser or through an installed app.
Zittrain suggests that this shift in computer usage is a bad thing as it allows for government censorship and control as well as de facto control by vendors over the customers' devices. I disagree. While there is some truth to every one of Zittrain's points, I think those are outweighed by the fact that computer owners no longer need to be hardware and software junkies.
We can choose the operating system flavor of the month based upon whatever applications are available for that platform. Most applications are supported by most operating systems, so who cares if the computer runs Windows or Macintosh or iOS or Android or some other operating system? For most of us, all we care about is the apps.
Nothing is ever perfect. There certainly have been and will continue to be numerous attempts at censorship and control. Some of these attempts will even succeed for a while. However, history has always proven that no one company can dominate the marketplace for extended periods of time when the customers become dissatisfied with that company's offerings. Just ask IBM. Or ask Microsoft, which seems to be losing market share every year.
In short, the new service-based offerings are showing the maturity of the computer marketplace. Now the driving question of any new purchase is: "What can this device do to simplify or improve my life?" I'd suggest that is a good thing.
You can read Jonathan Zittrain's interesting article on the Harvard Law School web site at http://www.law.harvard.edu/news/2011/11/30_zittrain-the-personal-computer-is-dead.html
If you enjoyed this article, Tweet it, share it on Facebook or on your preferred social network. Republishing of this article in newsletters, blogs, and elsewhere is allowed and encouraged. Details may be found at http://goo.gl/hoHH1.
Of course, if you haven’t done so already, you should join my email newsletter mailing list to stay current on my latest articles and announcements. You can also cancel at any time within seconds. I promise to never, ever send you any unrequested e-mail, other than newsletter updates.