Blank Is The New Black

The feeding frenzy over the Chromebook continues in the tech press.

By the end of the year, they are all going to be so embarrassed.

It will take another seven to ten years for a Chrome-like all-Net vision to be prevalent.

And when that happens, it will destroy hardware as we know it.

Hardware will all become blank and dumb and generic.

One notebook, netbook, tablet, cellphone, will be like any other.

None of them will need anything more than a minimum standard set of specs to be operational and functional. This kind of commoditization is what Chinese manufacturing excels at.

Since everything — the OS, the UI, the software, and your own files — will reside in The Cloud, there will be no need for the kind of mobile hardware we have today.

Imagine a mirror. A mirror reflects what is put in front of it. Mirrors are compatible with everything.

That kind of universal adaptability and use is what hardware will become.

It won’t matter if you are using Chrome in the Cloud, iOS in the Cloud, Linux in the Cloud, webOS in the Cloud, or something that has yet to be imagined — an Uber OS that Just Works.

Any piece of hardware will be able to run it.

All of the hardware will be blank and dumb, fast, wireless, and cheap.

Hundred-dollar notebooks, seventy-five netbooks, fifty-dollar tablets, twenty-five dollar phones.

Of course, there will always be manufacturers cutting themselves an edge with design. So a blank Apple tablet will have more surface style than a generic no-name tablet from China. But even that premium won’t command anything near the kind of iPad prices we see today.

General wireless blank hardware will be so damn cheap, on sale everywhere, that all the worries we have today about theft and replacement will vanish. If you lose a paper newspaper, do you care? That’s the kind of no-worry world that’s ahead of us.

Google’s Chromebook is the first step towards that.

But it’s only a first step — and a baby step at that.

6 Comments

Filed under Other Hardware

6 responses to “Blank Is The New Black

  1. The cloud itself will also need to become a lot, lot more reliable. Two days outages are not going to be acceptable when literally all our stuff is stored there.

  2. Unfortunately, you’re making a classic extrapolation mistake here: You’re looking forward on one branch of tech while ignoring the possibilities of the other.

    Namely, you’re assuming that client-side software will stand still and that cloud-tech won’t turn into a clusterfuck of mistakes and greed-driven idiocy.

    Which it will.

    Web apps are and will be great for certain apps, but is worse than ‘native’ apps for some things. This will continue because as web tech evolves and improves, native apps will as well. There are a lot of low-hanging fruits for improvement of the native APIs of iOS, Android, and even the Mac, and, unlike most of the tech the cloud/web industry is based on, they aren’t designed by a committee of infighting autocrats who are completely disconnected from actual, on the ground, use cases (HTML5, I’m looking at you).

    So, in short: ‘Native’ apps are better than web/cloud apps at some things today, and they will continue to be better at them tomorrow, because this is a race where they’ve got a 40 year head start and they’re not giving up their lead.

    Fun fact: the web is over twenty years old, we’re in the middle of the birth of a new generation of web tech (HTML5 and related standards) and we still don’t have any way of doing usable rich text editing on the web. The only thing done by HTML5 on the text editing front is standardise the crap that’s already implemented. Assuming that this will be solved is daring, to say the least.

    Cloud tech also disregards some of the basic concepts of what made the internet powerful: The end-to-end principle ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/End-to-end_principle ) and the Rise of the Stupid Network ( http://isen.com/stupid.html )

    A dumb network of smart clients will always outperform a smart network of dumb clients.

    The Cloud is also much more vulnerable to disasters, mistakes, failures, and any other sort of Black Swan event that can’t be accounted for.

    So, the cloud: Good for some things, better than native for others, worse than native for most. It’ll be a big part of some corners of the industry, but don’t expect it to take the board.

  3. Another point: Any piece of cloud tech is a bitch to scale to many users, costs a fortune and consumes an ungodly amount of resources. A native app that performs the same task can be made by a small team of people and only needs a dumb server to sell and distribute, scaling up to many users is relatively cheap, and you’re not tied to any piece of infrastructure or capital expenses.

    • mikecane

      And yet, that an iPad 2 now has the power of that Cray Supercomputer that intimidated the hell out of all of us in the 1980s also shows just how drastically and dramatically things can change. What I also didn’t say in my post, because it was really a sidetrack, is that the current carriers must be overthrown or just bought out. I expect machinations ahead that will see Apple, Google, Amazon, and Microsoft buying up carriers.

  4. Shock Me

    It all sounds a little utopian to me. I’d hate to be the worker in the factory making these disposable electronics or the poor schlub in rural India or China that melts them in open pits to recover the precious metals.

    I’d be fine adding this service in one of my browser windows, but I would still want the speed and responsiveness local files and compiled applications provide. Eventually this is where the offline capabilities of this product will have to go.

    None of this will improve until solid state storage drops in price and metered bandwidth goes back in that dark hole it just climbed out of again.

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