On my way to work I’ve been listening to a bunch of the Stanford Entrepreneurial Thought Leader Podcasts. They are all fascinating. I feel like it’s such a better use of my time than just listening to music. I actually look forward to my drives because these talks just turn my creative side loose.
The Vinod Khosla lecture was particularly fascinating. Khosla is best known for starting Sun Microsystems, but he currently is making waves in cleantech and other environmentally friendly technologies with his VC company Khosla ventures.
In the talk, Khosla mentions how 10 years ago he predicted that long distance phone service would be irrelevant today. He was laughed at, but today none of us think twice about placing a long distance call. Whether we’re calling from home or our cell phones, it’s the same cost to call across the country as it is to call next door. All domestic minutes are created equal. This sounded nuts in 1999. I used phone cards to call home when I did my first internship in Massachusetts in 2001. I used to carry quarters in my wallet in case I needed to access a pay phone! Now pay phones are disappearing and calling cards are worthless. Crazy how fast things changed right?
All of this got me to thinking: how much has computing changed over the past 10 years, especially as it pertains to the web and web business? And what will it look like in 10 more years?
Here’s how I see it (and please, correct me if I’m wrong or if you have a differing opinion):
Computing as it was in 1999
- A desktop was a much better value than a laptop for the same money spent.
- Laptop batteries barely lasted a few hours (my college laptop from 2000 lasted about 15 minutes after a few months).
- Memory and storage space were at a premium.
- Wireless internet barely existed. The most common way to access the web was a 56k dial-up connection, with high speed ethernet just starting to become available.
- CRT monitors were more affordable than LCD monitors. CRT’s were expensive and therefore screen space was expensive.
- The best use of the web was informational. Music and video were too bandwidth heavy (with the exception of file sharing over Napster or P2P networks on college campuses).
- E-commerce was just becoming something people were getting comfortable with.
- E-mail was starting to become a common method of business communication, slowly minimizing the impact of the fax and phone.
- Software was something that you paid for and was installed on your computer.
Computing today in 2009
- The cost of components has driven down so fast that for all intensive purposes laptops are just as affordable as desktops.
- All laptops have wireless cards installed and the wireless web is readily available at eateries, coffee shops, hotels, and airports.
- Most homes bundle high speed internet with their cable or satellite TV offerings. Some apartment complexes (mine included) offer free high speed internet and cable to all tenants.
- Download speeds of 5-15 Mb/s are the norm on high speed connections.
- The cost of memory and storage are essentially negligible. 3 GB of RAM or a terabyte of hard drive space (more than most people need) costs less than $100.
- Average users generally do not need the storage or computing power of an entry level computer.
- The internet is readily used for shopping, audio, video, software/applications, and more.
- Free web software has in many ways caught up (or even surpassed) their offline paid counterparts. Think Google Doc’s vs. MS Word.
- Netbooks offer enough computing power for most common tasks, while being more portable, cheaper, and having a longer battery life than traditional laptops.
- Cell phone networks are offering 3G mobile broadband cards at affordable prices, sometimes in conjunction with the purchase of a netbook.
- The iPhone has created an entirely new internet of applications.
- E-commerce has become the norm. The majority of web users (85%) have made a purchase online.
Bold predictions for computing in 2019
- Memory and storage will actually become negligible, as will computing power. A computer that is faster than 99% of what most people need will cost under $200 and be the size of an iPod.
- Battery life on a computer won’t be an issue. Wireless electricity, which is already here, will aid in reducing/eliminating the need to ever charge things the way we view charging now.
- If your computer is small and you can take it anywhere, screen size will be the big phenomenon. The laptop will eventually fade out as companies come up with more innovative ways to emulate the mouse, keyboard, and monitor. Companies like Myvu are already doing this with their personal media glasses (crystal model shown above).
- Local storage will be pointless – unlimited safe, secure storage will be available for free in the “cloud” and be accessible from anywhere with any electronic device.
- Broadband will be free and limitless for every device in every location. Think how the Kindle uses Verizon’s 3G network and extrapolate that technology 10 years. Download speeds will be so fast that we don’t even pay attention.
- Cable TV won’t exist as we know it today. With free HD channels over the air and limitless content available in HD on the web, there won’t be a place for that monthly fee. It’s already starting. Look at Hulu or Netflix or MLB.com – right now baseball fans can stream HD games to their computer, which of course can be hooked up to a HD TV as a substitute for the cable broadcast.
- SaaS (software as a service) over the web will take over operating systems to the point that we don’t “install” programs anymore…and we don’t even notice or care. Maybe the Google Chrome OS is the OS of the future?
I think that’s all I have for now. Certainly computing has changed a ton in the past 10 years and will probably change even more in the next 10. I’d love to hear what you guys think about this. What are your predictions? How will these changes impact business? Schooling? It’s fascinating stuff to ponder.