A post on ForumOxford pointed me towards Ray Ozzie's monologue about Microsoft and the future direction of the IT industry, "Dawn of a New Day".
Beautifully-written, yes. And containing much wisdom and knowledge.
But displaying, once again, the arrogance of the software mindset which believes it has conquered physics.
Contrast this with Jobs' comment last week:
"We create our own A4 chip, our own software, our own battery chemistry, our own enclosure, our own everything"
The idea that software engineering has the capability of beating hard limits and challenges in RF, power management, silicon and so on is myopic. Apple understands this and works to juggle all of them appropriately. (As does RIM, incidentally). But then Apple value hardware at least as much as software, from milled aluminium shells to customised bits of radio front-ends.
Ozzie assumes that wireless networks will be fast and pervasive. But what the software crowd (whether it's in Redmond, Silicon Valley or London) fails to comprehend is that there are no 3G networks to connect tablets or clouds to, in most parts of the world. Nor the money to justify the build-out in the depth needed to realise Ozzie's vision. Nor the willingness to support subscription-based business models. Even in the developed world, ubiquitous, high-performance indoor networks would need fibre everywhere for WiFi or femtos.
And lets not even touch on the legal and regulatory hurdles. But good luck trying to persuade the GSMA to ditch roaming charges for data, specially for cloud devices. Maybe give the WTO a call and see if they can sort it out over the next decade or two? Until then, I'll keep my local storage and processing, thank you very much.
It's interesting that none of the best-known software billionaires talk about the "post-PC era". Maybe that's perhaps because, through their non-IT philanthropic work, they get exposure to true "ecosystems", ones based on far more complexity than Ozzie's filtered view of computing. We're not yet living in a post-malaria world, despite Gates' heroic efforts through his Foundation.
At a recent conference, I crossed swords with a well-known and outspoken financial analyst, who complained that PCs hadn't evolved in 20 years. I pointed out that sharks & crocodiles haven't evolved in over 100 million. They are still occupying and controlling their own (literal) ecosystems rather better than humanity does with its.
Ozzies's comment about devices that "They’re instantly usable, interchangeable, and trivially replaceable without loss" also displays the overwhelming naivete of the software mindset.
It ignores that fact that end-users (you know, customers) like expensive, unique and tangible hardware. It performs many social and behavioural functions, not just acting as a cloud-services end-point. Software isn't loved and cherished, and neither will cloud services be. Software isn't polished, used as a status symbol, or oohed-and-aahed over. Nobody walks across a cafe to excitedly ask a stranger if they've *really* got the new OS7.3.
Yes, there will be some "trivially replaceable" devices (3G dongles, for example, already are), but anything truly personal will stay expensive. Again, Apple understands this - as does Nokia, squeezing out an extra few bucks at the low-end, differentiating hardware against no-brand competitors in the developing world.
Telecom dinosaurs refer to "dumb pipes". I predict that software/cloud dinosaurs will refer to "dumb devices". Both are wrong. (Yes, I know - Larry Ellison already got this one wrong in the 1990s)
Yes, cloud services will be more important and we'll see more devices accessing them, or optimised for them.
But the notion that this means that the world is somehow destined for a "post PC" era remains as risible now as it did a year or two ago, when the term was first coined.