TECH TALK: Disruptive Bridges: The Coming Computing Shift (Part 2)

The latest Economist has a cover story on Computings new shape. It talks about the emergence of smartphones and wireless-enabled handheld computers as the next digital devices, marking a possible end of the PC era. Writes the Economist:

Mainframes ruled the computer industry until the rise of the PC; another 20 years on, the PC’s reign now seems to be coming to an end. Previous generations of computers live onmainframes are widespread, and PCs are certainly not going awaybut each successive generation of computing devices is smaller, more personal and more numerous than its predecessor. Mainframes filled whole rooms, and belonged to single companies. PCs sit on desks and are used by individuals or households. Phones are truly personal pocket-sized devices that are carried everywhere. More than a billion people around the world now have one.

The switch to mobile devices is thus a logical long-term step.

Adds the Economist on Microsofts strategy:

Microsoft’s once-visionary mission statementa computer on every desk and in every homenow seems dated. Instead, the company talks of empowering people through great software, any time, any place and on any device. This is an acknowledgment, concedes Ed Suwanjindar of Microsoft’s mobility division, that the PC is no longer king, and that mobile devices are totally critical to the new extended vision for the company.

In other words, the desktop is out, and mobility is in.

What is very interesting about both these stories is that two of the worlds leading computer companies (IBM and Microsoft) are making bets away from the personal computer. The worlds 6 billion people only have 500 million computers. In fact, India and Chinas 2 billion people have less than 40 million computers between them. Are these not important markets? Do these people not want a computer on their desks and in their offices? Or will they leapfrog to a smartphone in their pocket?

As we contemplate these questions, heres a wider perspective from Ciscos John Chambers (quoted in a Business Week interview):

If you’re growing [productivity] at 1% per year, like we were for almost three decades, every 72 years you double the standard of living of your country. If you grow at 3% per year, you double the standard of living every generation, which means that our children will have twice the standard of living that we did. Their children will have twice the standard of living that their parents did. If you grow at 5%, you double it every 14 years. That’s what business and government leaders around the world understand.

I believe that as productivity goes up, profitability goes up. Then small-to-medium businesses will be the area where the biggest consumption of new jobs will occur.

What I’m worried about is that increased productivity and technology will, over time, push companies to be located wherever the best-educated workforce is. So you’re going to see global competition — not just for jobs, but for companies — in a way that we’ve not seen before. The jobs will go where the best-educated workforce with the best infrastructure, with the right supportive government [are]. That’s why I’m so impatient about education.

Even as technology makes available new opportunities for the worlds developing countries, the digital divide is all but too gaping.

Tomorrow: The Digital Divide

TECH TALK Disruptive Bridges+T

Published by

Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.