Is the End of the Desktop OS in Sight?
First developed by the engineers at Xerox PARC, apocryphally ‘stolen’ and improved by Steve Jobs and Apple before finally being brought to everyday use by Microsoft Windows, the Graphical User Interface (GUI) and underlying desktop Operating System have become synonymous with computers. GUI proliferation ended tedious typing of arcane code and democratized computer use to the point that even an 80 year old techno-phobic person is now capable of sending email and using online banking.
The development of the desktop operating system is perhaps the most important development in the history of consumer computing. Regardless of what operating system you use, be it Windows, OSX or a Linux-based systems, the same point and click principles apply – but regardless of their similarities in concept, the underlying code for all of these systems is entirely different, making cross-platform computing a complicated and often impossible endeavor that requires developers to write multiple versions of the same product software from scratch to fit each device and OS individually. Perhaps worst of all, good devices that lack market share are often overlooked by developers and fail to ever gain traction in the market because they never reach critical mass from an available software perspective, which stagnates innovation and leaves only a few entrenched platforms to serve a customer base that thirsts for more innovation.
The rise of mobile devices has only made matters more complicated with many different operating systems in play. Sure, one option is to seal yourself off in an all-Apple or All-Microsoft walled garden, but for most people this really isn’t a desirable decision. The annoyance and lost productivity resulting from trying to remember the idiosyncrasies and keyboard shortcuts of the OS you’re using at the moment and the non-compatibility of software across various platforms used by business colleagues frustrates users and stifles team productivity. These hurdles may soon be cleared, thanks in large part to the increasing capabilities of web-based computing products and a move toward generic industry standards like HTML5 which may lead to the demise of proprietary desktop operating systems and a new era of brand-agnostic connectivity.
While Apple and Microsoft have vested interests in keeping their operating systems alive and viable, the seeds for their coming irrelevance have already been planted. HTML5 is quickly becoming the standard for delivering web-based applications, and the beauty of these programs is that they look and work the same way, regardless of what platform is underlying the content. Cloud-based computing is moving user data and software applications online – with a soon approaching moment when people will have ubiquitous access to their data from any terminal, be it a PC running Microsoft Windows, an Apple running OSX, or a smartphone running Google Android – in essence removing the operating system from the equation in much the same way that phone carriers have seen their role reduced to providing relatively generic bandwidth for all devices.
As we’ve become accustomed to having access to our applications wherever and whenever we want them to be available, the question looms: Why shouldn’t we simply access our own personalized web-based desktop? Online computing, storage, data access and hosting have become as fast and in many ways even more reliable than a personal physical hard drive in a computer under your desk. Browser-based interfaces will offer a level of consistency and ubiquity that proprietary hard drive based OS software simply can not match.
Microsoft made an attempt at unifying all of their disparate operating systems with Windows 8, giving it the same look across all devices, and eliminating the system’s iconic “Start” button, but the results were confusing to many users and complaints eventually brought Windows 8.1 which restored the old Start button. The idea behind it was good, but in the end the failure of this approach was that it was merely a cosmetic attempt to unify the systems, rather than a true integration of all devices from your cell phone to your tablet to your car console, gaming system, Facebook account, home automation devices and beyond. Unifying ‘all things Microsoft’ simply doesn’t have the same power or same allure that unifying ‘all things digital’ will have on the mass market.
Google is already delivering web-based spreadsheets, word processing and an app launcher built into it’s Chrome browser. Dropbox is allowing users to move and store files across platforms, and the moment seems reminiscent of the time when computer scientists were able to get things done but the world lacked the point and click capability that would eventually drive the entire consumer market to adopt powerful new technologies.
The move to web-based computing will reduce costs for corporate IT departments, vastly simplify the process of updating software or hardware, and usher in a new era of fully managed computing that gives users the freedom to utilize their skills and talents while having technical experts quietly keeping the platform in proper working order behind the scenes. NationalNet is at the forefront of the Fully Managed Hosting and Collocated Server markets with a state of the art data center that provides efficient, high speed connectivity and the best possible level of data reliability. Those exact same skills may soon be put to use by individual people collocating their personal computing power and seeking fully managed computing services which leave the technical aspects of software compatibility, virus protection, data security, hardware integration and everything else ‘under the hood’ to a team of IT experts who can be counted on to keep their entire suite of applications optimized at all times.