Thursday, May 08, 2008

Thoughts on "computer services" replacing "computer hardware"

I'm about half way through getting all the needed software and configurations setup on a new, work issued, laptop. With a processor of 2.49 GHz and 3.5 gigs of RAM, it's a pretty impressive machine.

The one thing I hate about getting a new machine is setting it up. The basic software (e.g. Office) is always loaded, but there are ancillary things missing like Beyond Compare or Textpad which I always make sure are installed. The Desktop Support guys avoid all these specialty software, as they should in my mind.

Someday I think all of these upgrades will go away. I envision a day when you won't buy a computer from Dell, but simply buy a service from Google. Your computer, as you know it, will be hosted in some far away data center. Upgrades will be simple. Need more processor speed or memory? Simply adjust your hardware needs with a dial like device on the user interface. Your next monthly bill will reflect the increase. Kind of like when you upgrade your phone service or recycling bin.

Your new computer service from Google will be available from anywhere on any device. You'll get the same look, though a bit smaller, on your personal device (e.g. cell phone) as on your home device (e.g. large monitor with keyboard and mouse).

Of course the biggest challenge will be communication. That is, how would you use this new computer service if you didn't have network access. This challenge, while still present, is slowly being taken care of. All the major vendors (e.g. Sprint, AT&T, etc) are now providing high-speed wireless networks. It's nearly impossible to not have network access now.

Given all this; What do you think about my idea? Do you think computer hardware, as we think of it today, will someday be replaced by a computer service?


Scooter said...

I have a love/hate relationship with services. Sure, they drive ease of use and new functionality but, on the other hand, service providers have a motive not to support old models. The use case comes to mind where I use a computer effectively forever, or Irepurpose the hell out of it, moving it from my primary machine, to my patched but serviceable primary machine, to my secondary machine, to my wife's primary machine, to my parents' cabin machine, to my father-in-law's print server, to art project for someone doing tech art (take a look at the machine running those bubble tubes at the Science Museum). If computers were services, I'd probably have to pay a minimum monthly fee for that use over the entire life of that activity, not to mention I'd be paying a minimum monthly fee that likely reflected a minimum standard higher than what I really needed, and that may pay for their own services at some standardized add-on rate (as opposed to my ability to simply turn off my power).

Of course Ryan is just going to drive over me and my bike with his car and then it won't matter, because I'll never make it to your service-centric future.

Mac Noland said...

Scooter, I don't think you're seeing the light. Yes, old hardware, used for art would be gone, but just think of all the time savings. No need to drag that old dog up to your parent's cabin and get it setup. Everyone would have their personal devices (i.e. their computer), which by the way, would be online.

I hope you make it to my service-centric future as I want to make fun of you as you drag around that metal box, which they currently call a laptop, in a roller case.