Thursday, January 22, 2009

Windows 7, AJAX,, Bberry and my living room

Walt Mossberg wrote a positive pre-review of Windows 7 in the WSJ. He's a wonderful writer with a honed skill to express himself with the voice of you and I. His perspective is that Windows 7 looks to be Vista done right, with one major advancement towards UI support of touch screens for the desktop/notebook.

Perhaps, he's right that after 3 painful years, where hardware vendors 'upgraded' us to the PREVIOUS Windows version for $150, Windows OS' will again provide acceptable performance. I think not. What was designed as acceptable 3 years ago, pre iPhone/Blackberry Bold is no longer state of the art in this fast changing computing environment. Nor, as a platform supportive of where the going forward opportunity is for the industry and its entrepreneurs.

Over the past 3 years, many of us have enjoyed a steady migration away from desktop applications, towards cloud based services, including storage. I would love my PC to support, even enable this phenomenon. After watching a seamless feed of Mr. Obama take the oath of office via Hulu it's apparent that bandwidth, though not HD capable yet for a streamed environment, is a good enough, and rapidly improving, viewing experience.

Important innovations in the AJAX world are fueling a rich client feel to web based applications. No doubt we will shortly enjoy measurable improvements in the serving of content, and the web based application experience that will accelerate our move away from a client-centric OS. Already, GOOG's suite of applications, Zimbra/Yahoo, and Salesforce's experiences rival current 'rich' client experiences; and they are rapidly improving with steady browser, UI and computational innovations that are notable for MSFT's absence of leadership.

I would also like a PC to be as DUMB as possible, give me bullet proof appliance-like hardware, browser at the ready, with sufficient bandwidth to fetch cloud based applications, content, and bring relationships to me, or enable me to discover new and exciting places of interest. Facilitate a device to be my personal media server, on call to send my content, or web preferences to a chosen remote device (smart phone or XBox) on demand. Free me from limited content ownership by supporting access (like Pandora). While the PC is getting simpler, let's have an OS design philosophy that supports the stunning price/value equation embraced by consumers in the netbook market.

The metaphor of PC based computing, which happens to be web enabled, has reached its innovative dead-end. Cloud based computing, brought to a device (which may be a PC), is the present and near future. Till MSFT shows the courage to more aggressively 'eats its young' we will remain dissatisfied, as users, with their direction. Sure, Windows 7 boots faster and supports almost as many devices as XP...yawn.

MSFT rightfully earned its dominant position by commoditizing the desktop. They brought incredible value by simultaneously reducing the initial cost of applications, decreasing training through standardization of the UI, and plummeting our total cost of ownership. They have lost their 'permacheap' credentials to a host of competitors ranging from Google, to Red Hat and even a not for profit, Mozilla. This is only a sampling of the first generation of vendors attacking aging application and infrastructure 'permacheap' holdouts. I expect many more will savage the rising cost of ownership numbers, reduce user networked complexity, and cast a light on implicit relationships.

As an investor in early stage software/internet companies, I could not be happier that an older generation of vendors has built a walled-garden of maintenance drug-like revenue annuities. The IT industry's hardware, software and internet vendors are in the midst of a consolidation wave that exacerbates their exposure to permacheap, disposable solutions.

I am wishing them many more good reviews to support their somnolence while they cling to the tyranny of a client-centric time, whistling our favorite Cricket tune

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