Imagining the Internet (2): the Cloud

Here’s the next question from the Pew 2009 survey of experts about our online future, as described in my December 25 post. In that post I neglected to mention a major online resource for this project. It’s the site operated by Pew’s partner, Elon University: Imagining the Internet, A History and Forecast. Lots of exciting and scary predictions – like with the Internet wired into our brains, we’ll do search just by thinking. Which brings us to the cloud, Google and gatekeeping…

Q.2 – Will we live in the cloud or on the desktop?

A. By 2020, most people won’t do their work with software running on a general-purpose PC. Instead, they will work in Internet-based applications, like Google Docs, and in applications run from smartphones. Aspiring application developers will sign up to develop for smart-phone vendors and companies that provide Internet-based applications, because most innovative work will be done in that domain, instead of designing applications that run on a PC operating system.

B. By 2020, most people will still do their work with software running on a general-purpose PC. Internet-based applications like Google Docs and applications run from smartphones will have some functionality, but the most innovative and important applications will run on (and spring from) a PC operating system. Aspiring application designers will write mostly for PCs.

[my answer: A]

Please explain your choice and share your view about how major programs and applications will be designed, how they will function, and the role of cloud computing by 2020.

[elaboration]

“By 2020 we’ll still be feeling pulled in 2 directions: wanting the convenience of the cloud and the enhanced privacy, security and speed of the local. But the local won’t be confined to the desktop and general-purpose PCs. That paradigm will be exploded by ubiquitous computing, IPv6 and the primacy of mobile broadband, which will re-define the local in terms of our personal space. Cloud computing will become important enough to transfer Internet gatekeeping powers from ISPs to firms like Google. By 2020, Google’s vast array of well-made (and still largely free) products will create walled gardens based on customer consent rather than lock-in. The old-fashioned concepts of the desktop and general-purpose PC will fade away, hastening the demise of Microsoft, which will continue to lose share in growth sectors like mobile broadband.”

[update]

Dec.30 – Some interesting ideas, all jumbled together. The “personal space” reference means that as the PC and its “local” hard drive disappear as the “desktop” paradigm, we individuals will become our own desktops, with embedded microprocessors and peripherals in clothing, handhelds, vehicles we happen to be operating – and our bodies too. Stuff like the chip inserted into Daniel Craig’s forearm in Casino Royale.

“Search, but you may not find”

I see other folks now agreeing that when it comes to IT market power and its potential for abuse, forget MS. By 2020, nobody will hold a candle to Google. But when I refer to Google’s walled garden as created “by consent,” I’m confusing consumers and business users. As with Apple’s walled garden, consumers get two things with their consent to use and be used: good products and some freedom of choice. But Google’s business users are in a very different position. As Adam Raff argues in a NY Times op-ed this week, Google’s dominance and capital resources have given it overwhelming control not only over search, but many adjacent markets as well. And according to Raff, Google has been abusing this control by manipulating search results in ways that are highly prejudicial to SMEs, especially those that may compete in lines of business Google has entered or is thinking of entering:

“Google’s treatment of Foundem stifled our growth and constrained the development of our innovative search technology. The preferential placement of Google Maps helped it unseat MapQuest from its position as America’s leading online mapping service virtually overnight. The share price of TomTom, a maker of navigation systems, has fallen by some 40 percent in the weeks since the announcement of Google’s free turn-by-turn satellite navigation service. And RightMove, Britain’s leading real-estate portal, lost 10 percent of its market value this month on the mere rumor that Google planned a real-estate search service here.”

Just as our regulators are finally grappling with Net neutrality, Raff makes a compelling case for expanding regulation to promote “search neutrality.”