RootsTech 2014

Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Friday, February 17, 2012

Battle of the Giants -- Apple, Microsoft and Google

Apple's announcement of another new operating system, this one named "Mountain Lion" highlights the battle going on between the three huge software/computer companies. Microsoft has already previewed its "Windows 8" some time ago. Could Apple's announcement of another issue of OS X be a preemptive strike in the ongoing battle? Meanwhile, Google is far from standing at the sidelines. It takes some considerable effort to understand what Google is doing; here is a sample:
Google has announced the release of an experimental Chromium build that includes an integrated Dart language runtime. The browser, which Google calls Dartium, is being made available as a technical preview for the benefit of developers who want to see how the Dart virtual machine works in a browser.
Dart is a new programming language that Google is developing for client-side Web scripting. The language has a more conventional object model than JavaScript and optional support for static typing, features that Google claims will allow it to be faster, safer, and more conducive to tooling than JavaScript. Much like Microsoft's VBScript, Dart is a nonstandard client language that is developed and supported by a single vendor outside of the Web standards process.
 Google has moved decisively into the hardware side of the battle with its Google Chromebook computers. If I were to make a guess as to the direction the battle is taking, I would point out that both Apple and Google are developing products that directly compete with Microsoft and Microsoft does not seem to be responding in any way that will out flank either of its competitors.

It looks more and more like the operating system of the future is a browser and the browser of the future is an operating system. You have to remember that Apple is either the first, second or third company with the largest market capitalization, periodically trading places with Exxon Mobile and PetroChina. Apple didn't even get into the top ten until the fourth quarter of 2009 but passed Microsoft in the process of moving to number one. Microsoft is also in the top ten of companies with the largest market capitalization.

None of the three necessarily rank as the largest companies in the world, but large does not always mean profitable.

WHO WILL WIN? Cell phone or computer?

 There is a fundamental shift in computer technology. I believe there is a convergence between what we now call a "desktop" computer and the cellphone or tablet computers. The cellphone (computer) will become more and more powerful until, in a relatively short time frame, you will simply walk up to a keyboard and monitor and your cellphone computer will connect and you will use it like you now use a desktop. This will likely occur at the same time most software applications move to the Internet or the Cloud or whatever you want to call it.

For example, people ask me repeatedly which genealogy software program I use. The answer is I use several, but what will become my primary repository for genealogical data remains to be seen. Right now, the best candidate is WeRelate.org, the online wiki from the Allen County Public Library. If and when FamilySearch's new product, Family Tree, goes online, it may become a candidate if it will accept images. This trend of using online programs will only continue to become more pervasive. I believe that software programs as we know them today, in a box at a store or ordered online, will disappear. All software will become distributive, that is, available as an online program.

So which of the companies will win? Apple is in the best position to take advantage of the movement of computers to cellphones and software to the Internet. They already sell iPhones and have agreements with cellphone providers and they already have an online store, the App Store. Google is in second place with the Android operating system and the Android Market. They also sell a network computer as i pointed out above. Microsoft? They seem to be left out in the cold dreary world of business and government. I do not yet see a future for Microsoft in the consumer world.

Should you move to a mobile device right now? The developments I am talking about will take a couple of years so you can stay with your desktop for a while. But you will see more and more online applications taking over the function of standalone software programs. In genealogy look at MyHeritage.com and Ancestry.com for examples. If the other software companies don't move rather quickly over to an online integration, they will be left dead in the water.


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