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TECH TALK: Reinventing Computing: Seven Revolutions

August 20th, 2004 · No Comments

The seven rainbow revolutions that need to happen to address the five goals to meet the six challenges are:

Grid: Computing needs to become centralised to simplify the end points and also reduce their cost. We are already seeing some signs of this as Google starts to move beyond search to provide email (Gmail) and discussion forums (Google Groups). With bandwidth becoming less of a constraint and smart software making interactions real-time, it is now possible to imagine and construct a public computing grid which takes care of processing and storage, providing a reliable, always-available virtual desktop for users.

Virtual Computers: The end points that connect to the grid need be little more than thin clients handling local input/output. What these virtual computers need is, for starters, the ability to take keyboard and mouse inputs and send them off to the Grid, and get back the virtual desktops for display. In due course of time, they can also support local peripherals like printers, scanners and webcams, along with multimedia processing so that only the compressed audio/video needs to flow over the networks.

Ubiquitous Connectivity: As both wired and wireless broadband networks proliferate, connectivity between the virtual computers and the Grid will be taken for granted. In fact, within a local area (an enterprise or neighbourhood), it is possible to have wireless access points which provide the hub for WiFi-enabled virtual computers to connect. This scenario is in fact very similar to that of cellular phones.

Loosely Coupled Software: David Weinberger likes to talk of small pieces loosely joined. The same philosophy needs to apply to software. Rather than looking at massive monoliths which can take forever to build (Longhorn, Microsofts next-generation operating system, is one example), there is a need to modularise software through openly accessible interfaces at various levels. For example, one can imagine Visual Biz-ic as a Lego-like development environment to construct business process management libraries for small- and medium-sized enterprises to mirror their information flows.

Two-Way Content: The next iteration of the Web can be seen in the world inhabited by bloggers. The PubSubWeb the publish-subscribe Web is built around the syndication enabled by RSS, and feasted upon by bloggers and early users of information aggregators. What this web does is create the platform for community-centric content in which content is continuously enhanced and a group mind starts to take shape. Blogs, RSS and OPML (to construct personal directories) become the building blocks to contruct the Memex.

Humane Interface: The user interface that is at the edge of human-computer interaction needs an overhaul. Whether it is a shift away from a keyboard and mouse to an increasing use of speech and gestures or 3D virtual reality interfaces or contextual workspaces, it is time for move away from files, folders and icons. The need is to put users at the centre and focus on assisting them to accomplish tasks, rather than having to worry about specific applications.

Tech 7-11s: To make computing available to the hundreds of millions at the bottom of the pyramid, it is necessary to look at neighbourhood computing centres which provide a shared infrastructure for access, much like the public call offices (PCOs) have for telephony in India. These points of presence could also be local training and support centres, providing the much-needed last-mile distribution for the computing ecosystem.

By taking a holistic view of the ecosystem and building a chain of integrated innovation, it will be finally possible to fulfill the dream of making computing accessible to every family, student and employee in every corner of the world. Only then will the true promise of the computer as a means to deliver solutions and services for the next users be realised. This is where the future of computing lies. This is why computing needs to be reinvented. This is where the next technology cycle will begin. This is the next big thing platform and opportunity entrepreneurs have been waiting for. This is a transformation that will take root first in the worlds emerging markets. This is what we need to make happen. This is the next computing Kumbh Mela.


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