I have been thinking lately about trends in IT and specifically about Google Glass. The prototypes are out now with full introduction expected in 2014. I think that the introduction of Google Glass and other alternative computing platforms and applications points to a world of much smaller computing devices and the separation of the client and the processor/data storage.
Throughout history, each new computer model has generally been smaller, more powerful and came with a friendlier, more intuitive interface. Compare today’s smartphone with the room-sized ENIAC computer of the early 1950s. It is smaller, friendlier, and far more powerful. We came from a room-sized computer to a computer that you hold in your hand within fifty years. How far can we take this paradigm? What does the future hold? How much smaller can we go?
With desktop computers, we have by and large mimicked the typewriter, which was commercialized in the 1860s. The typewriter in turn was just a portable printing press, which was developed in the 1400s. When we needed a portable version of the computer, we came up with the laptop and the tablet and the smartphone. It has the same display and often still a QWERTY keyboard. So, in effect, we are still modeling 600-year-old technology! With Glass and other similar technologies, I feel like they are finally trying to break that cycle. It is voice-activated and the heads-up display is integrated into the product itself. If you did need to create a document using Glass, I am not sure how you would do it (voice recognition?) but I am ever hopeful we can finally break our dependence on a 150-year-old keyboard design.
Processing and Storage
Because client devices are becoming smaller, they cannot maintain the level of on-board processing and storage that we have enjoyed in earlier versions. This is where the cloud comes in. It is almost as if smaller clients and the cloud were meant for each other. Remove the computing power from the client and move it to the cloud. Now, all you need is a client that can stay connected to the cloud and can find your setup and storage. With megadata centers hosting everything in the cloud, and increasingly reliable network connections, computing suddenly becomes much more efficient and clean. Small client, large storage and processing.
Trends For The Future
What does it take to break our dependence on the “product that came before”? How can we break out and truly reinvent how we communicate with each other and with our world? Can we find clues about our future in current and historical science fiction? We have been discussing a utopian “paper-free” world for at least thirty years. With new trends in IT, will we finally realize that utopia? Can we finally break free? These are things that I wrestle with and ponder as I envision the future of IT. How do you see the future unfolding? Are you hopeful or skeptical? For more on IT and internet trends, see the report from a recent All Things Digital conference.
Kelly Brown is an IT professional, adjunct faculty for the University of Oregon, and academic director of the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT topics that keep him up at night.