TECH TALK: The Network Computer: Service-based Computing

At DemoMobile 2004, Chris Shipley discussed her vision for the future of computing. Even though the context of her keynote was the developed markets, much of what she talked about is universally addressable because the underlying infrastructure (communications networks, mobile devices) is being deployed globally. This is what Chris Shipley had to say:

On the surface, [the] idea of device computing makes sense. The locus of our computing and communications activities has moved from desktop PCs to mobile devices. Over forty years, computational power has migrated from large mainframes to mini-computers, to workstations, to PCs, to laptops, to handheld devices.

And with each progression, some pundit stood up at an event like this and declared that the computing paradigm had made the shift to the new platform. Mainframe computing. Mini computing. Desktop computing. Mobile computing.

With that history and context, device computing seemed the logical next step.

But, its not.

Quite frankly, while all these devices are amazing in their capability and power, they are virtually nothing on their own. Just plastic, LCD, silicon and solder, buttons and jog dials that deliver very little value if they arent connected to some other computer or service. For the most part, mobile devices whether a cell phone or a PDA, game gear or the custom slate the ups driver carries these mobile devices are little more than beautifully designed, computationally rich input/output and storage devices.

Its not until you add a connection a radio, IR, cable, or docking station that mobile devices become truly useful and very exciting.

So, to say that wed entered the age of device computing was to miss the point.

Certainly, we are moving to a new paradigm in computing. Of course, mobile devices play a key role in the new definition. And, its easy to see how the devices themselves might get all the attention. Some of you wear cell phones and email devices on your belts like the gunman of the new digital frontier. We agonize over which cell phone to buy, which device is best for remote email. We talk like proud parents about our latest laptop purchase and will demo at the drop of a hat the features and functions of our favorite handheld.

The device is the visible, physical instantiation of what is truly going on here. The device is the end node of a connected system of computing. A system that is larger than mobile devices, or even wireless networks. A system that fundamentally changes the way applications and data are delivered to the point of interaction. A system that profoundly affects the architectures and opportunities of computing from the enterprise to the home.

A system that I call service-based computing.

Service-based computing delivers applications and data from a managed computing platform to a relatively simple end device the point of interaction with the data. Service-based computing puts the onus of managing the computing environment on the service provider, and liberates the end-user to engage with the information. Service-based computing will drive elegance into application and device design. Service-based computing not only enables, but requires, simplicity and reliability in end-point devices, no matter if they are a cell phone or a desktop PC.

Indeed, service-based computing is bigger than todays mobile and wireless market. It is broadly encompassing of most enterprise, small business, individual, and convergent consumer computing. Service-based computing is the future model for nearly-all computing and communications.

We are already seeing Chris Shipleys vision of service-based computing around us in the likes of the Internet service platforms like Google and Yahoo. As more and more of our data starts residing on servers, the client devices will just become the endpoints to interface with the data. This is the Internet OS that Tim OReilly has been talking about.

Tomorrow: The Internet OS

TECH TALK The Network Computer+T

Published by

Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.