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Author Topic: The state of the Internet OS feels like 1980 all over again (Tim O'Reilly)  (Read 1137 times)

zridling

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Tim O'Reilly talks about the State of the Internet Operating System in a must-read post.

connected-world111.jpg

"Ask yourself for a moment, what is the operating system of a Google or Bing search? What is the operating system of a mobile phone call? What is the operating system of maps and directions on your phone? What is the operating system of a tweet?

"On a standalone computer, operating systems like Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux manage the machine's resources, making it possible for applications to focus on the job they do for the user. But many of the activities that are most important to us today take place in a mysterious space between individual machines. Most people take for granted that these things just work, and complain when the daily miracle of instantaneous communications and access to information breaks down for even a moment.

"But whichever technique is being used, the application is relying on network-available facilities, not just features of your phone itself. And increasingly, it's hard to claim that all of these intertwined features are simply an application, even when they are provided by a single company, like Google. Keep following the plot. What mobile app (other than casual games) exists solely on the phone? Virtually every application is a network application, relying on remote services to perform its function.

"Where is the "operating system" in all this? Clearly, it is still evolving. Applications use a hodgepodge of services from multiple different providers to get the information they need.

"But how different is this from PC application development in the early 1980s, when every application provider wrote their own device drivers to support the hodgepodge of disks, ports, keyboards, and screens that comprised the still emerging personal computer ecosystem? Along came Microsoft with an offer that was difficult to refuse: We'll manage the drivers; all application developers have to do is write software that uses the Win32 APIs, and all of the complexity will be abstracted away.

"It was. Few developers write device drivers any more.  That is left to device manufacturers, with all the messiness hidden by "operating system vendors" who manage the updates and often provide generic APIs for entire classes of device. Those vendors who took on the pain of managing complexity ended up with a powerful lock-in. They created the context in which applications have worked ever since.

"This is the crux of my argument about the internet operating system. We are once again approaching the point at which the Faustian bargain will be made: simply use our facilities, and the complexity will go away. And much as happened during the 1980s, there is more than one company making that promise."

zridling

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As mouser has long warned: the last thing I want to do is get out of one monopoly (Microsoft) only to fall into another (Google or Apple).