With so many platforms and digital storage solutions its difficult to gauge where it’s all going, which platforms will stand the test of time and which are just a phase. Mobile phones, laptops, desktops, tablets, games consoles, smart TV’s, the cloud, software, hardware.. to name just a few.
I think the answer is simple, none will die but all will merge. I see the future of technology existing in 2 basic forms, terminals and the cloud.
The terms desktop, mobile and TV will be replaced by environments: work, travel, home.
Perhaps the best way to explore this theory is to see how each current medium will translate to these ‘environments’.
Desktop = Work
Desktop will remain but not as we currently know it. Our machines wont have the need for local storage, instead everything we digitally own will be stored on a hard drive on a server somewhere in the cloud. The desktop will essentially just be a monitor and possibly a keyboard. We won’t own physical hardware, we will merely subscribe to a virtual console. We will subscribe to different software packages and applications and will have the option to upgrade to a faster performing console with greater storage. There will no longer be the issue of having to update our software or upgrade our machines, this will automatically happen. Pirating software will be virtually impossible and the risk of losing data a thing of the past. Technology and software will no longer be owned and our machines will be replaced by terminals (connected monitors) which will exist in different forms and sizes. Our work computers will essentially be replaced by a profile that we are granted access to on our virtual console. Leaving an employer will result in that profile being instantly removed. Perhaps our console ID will take the form of our national insurance number, the moment we start working for a new employer our work profile will be activated. Certainly a good security solution for companies that have sensitive data. Since physical storage will no longer exist there is no risk of the data getting into the wrong hands, well.. short of any high level hacking!
Mobile = Travel
Whether we are at work or on the go the console we access will be exactly the same, it’s just the terminal that will differ. Mobile will remain, however the reliance on local device storage and performance will be irrelevant as it will merely be a wireless terminal that accesses a remote console. Suddenly this gives us the power of huge servers in the palm of our hands. Losing your phone will no longer mean losing your contacts, music or pictures, as none of that data would exist on your phone. This will also hugely reduce the amount of data that needs to travel to the phone as all scripts will run server-side. All that will differ will be the layout of the console and content to cater for the smaller screen size. You could borrow a friend’s phone and run it as your own by logging into your personal console. With the increased evolution of screen technology our small mobile devices will also transform into a tablet, mainly thanks to either projection or flexi screen technology.
The key things to note here is that every terminal we have access to will be our desktop, mobile, TV and Games console all rolled into one.
With NFC, mobiles will also soon become our payment medium, this will alleviate the worry of losing your wallet. Should you lose your mobile terminal you could simply login to the retailers terminal to pay for the goods, at least until you receive your replacement mobile terminal.
TV = Home
Although Smart TV’s are on the rise I think the form they exist in now will be short-lived. In the future there wont be locally based apps and software, it too will act as a terminal. We wont need a sky box or digital receivers as these will be services we just subscribe to through our console. So again the TV services we subscribe to will be available via any terminal we have access to, whether it be our phones or TV.
When we go on holiday we will login to our console via the hotel room TV and access all our saved TV programs as well as our work documents, contacts and pictures. No longer will we be restricted to the content the hotel subscribes too.
So, how will this evolution improve our lives?
I think the main benefit will be consolidation; the pure fact that we can access everything we digitally own wherever we are is a great and efficient solution. Currently our data is duplicated across multiple devices, I for example have all my pictures and videos on my phone, laptop, memory sticks and backup hard drives, never mind the pictures I have copied for families and friends. The future solution will ensure that only one version of that data will exist and that version can be enjoyed across multiple terminals and shared with friends and family, in turn giving me greater control over how my data is shared. Also the risk of losing our data, whether it be work documents, pictures, emails, contacts and text messages will become a virtually impossible scenario.
As a consumer the personalization benefits will ensure that we are only offered products and services that are of interest to us. More than ever our digital footprint will paint an accurate picture of who we are and what we like to do. Whether it be our spending habits, favorite TV shows, working/commuting habits, music preferences, whether we like to take videos more than pictures, how often we speak to family and friends… The list goes on!
Another great benefit is less waste. Since we will no longer need to constantly update the hardware we own it will ensure that we will slowly shift towards a more efficient and less wasteful society. We will instantly benefit from software updates and service upgrades without the reliance on buying new hardware.
As with everything however there are the negatives.
The greatest risk here is summed up by the old saying ‘Don’t put all your eggs in one basket’. By putting everything we own in one place we risk losing everything, should something go wrong and our console go offline, it wont just mean losing access to our music and pictures but also our keys, wallet, phone, TV, work documents etc. One would hope that the blackout would be short-term but its clear that any blackout period would result in a major disruption to our lives.
For the same reason it leaves us more open to attack. What would be a greater terrorist target than wiping out the servers that hold our lives together. Traditional terrorism could take the form of hackers. We have recently seen a case of terrorists hacking in and bringing down the Tel Aviv stock exchange and El Al sites.
Privacy is a huge potential issue too, since we don’t physically store or own the data there is the risk of others seeing what we own and do. Now I’m a believer in that if you are not doing anything wrong then you have nothing to hide but what would happen if that data somehow got into the wrong hands.