25 years of Mac

January 24 marks the 25th anniversary of the Macintosh. Introduced by Steve Jobs, this revolutionary computer was the first successful computer with a mouse and a graphical user interface (GUI). The first Mac was pretty low-end, with 128 KB memory and a processing speed of 8 megahertz, and could barely mange to run the new type of operating system. But it marked a change in operating systems, moving from arcane command line interfaces to graphical interface based on a desktop metaphor.

Although the Mac was easier to use it was fighting an uphill battle with giant market leader IBM. The war of the OSes was highlighted in the Ridley Scott superbowl ad:

Today, the Mac has managed to capture about 10 percent of the market.

Back in 1984 the computer was an infrastructure product. Programs written for one platform don’t work on the next. By selecting one platform you were limiting all software written for any other platform. Microsoft understood this and emphasized open API architecture encouraging developers to target is API.

This is of course still true today but there are some suggestions that the computer and the desktop metaphor are becoming increasingly more like a commodity. With the web the platform has moved and which OS you use is not so important.

Wired has an interesting article on the Mac’s anniversary.

Innovation of the Year 2008

For my New Technology course I talk about technology trends and in the first lecture I look at some important events of the previous year. I talk about trends such as explained in Technology Trends of 2008. I also select the Innovation of the Year 2008.

For 2007 it was the iPhone. Not because we had not seen a smartphone before – in fact the iPhone had similar features as many smartphones at the market at the time, it was because of the impact the iPhone had – the iPhone Effect. Even before the iPhone hit the market it had changed the telecom industry.

This year I present three innovations that I think were important in 2008.

First is the Apple App Store. The App Store is to iPhone what iTunes is to iPods. Apple did good job on this store and made application downloads very easy to use. With over 10.000 apps, it is reported that 300 million apps have been downloaded. And if you look at the numbers, iPhone users are far more likely to download apps than users of other smartphones.

Second innovation is hulu. Hulu, although it got a bit hyped last year, is an example of a revolution. The revolution is about separating the form and distribution from the content. While the industry was fighting format wars of disks, Hulu is providing alternative distribution format. In fact, Hulu is offering the same stuff as tradition ad-driven TV stations. It is just using different mediums. Hulu is of course not the only site providing on-line streaming of content, but what is interesting is that the owners of Hulu include content providers such as NBC and others.

And the third and last is Google’s Chrome. After few years of slow action in the web browser fight, we see something new. Again, this is not a new product but it might be the beginning of a new browser war. It might become a one of the more important fights of Internet technologies as it will determine how applications run over the network. After reviewing Chrome on my Vista driven PC (doesn’t work on my Mac) I found it to be a nice browser but I’m not sure if it is faster or more secure. At least not for my browsing.

I chose these innovations since I think they signal change. A change in how the mobile world is converging into the internet, computers and devices. How content will be delivered (and maybe the content owners are realizing this) and how applications will be deployed on the Internet.

2009 will be interesting.

Technology Trends of 2008

When thinking about technology trends of 2008, my first thought was that not much happened this year. Not a very eventful year in terms of new inventions coming to the market. Ok, we got Chome and iPhone 3G, but these are not going to change the world. But if you dig deeper the year 2008 turned out to be remarkably important year in terms of technology trends.

Here are some of the important trends that come to mind:

Social Networking – Social networking was not invented in 2008, but that year it hit the mainstream, or reached the tipping point and took off. People of all kinds went to sites like Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin, and discovered long lost friends and relatives. It is estimated that Facebook has 140 million active users. If Facebook was a country it would make it into the top ten countries ranked in population, of similar size as Russia. That’s about 2% of the world population.

Another reason to mention social networking is it’s role in the U.S. presidential election 2008. This is one of the reasons an unknown senator like Barack Obama was able to even win the nomination to run, winning Washington insider like Hillary Clinton, and then John McCain. These people have very powerful network connections inside the political circles, but with his site http://www.barackobama.com, the president elect built a network of the masses using the Internet.

Cloud Computing – This is the buzz-word of the year. Cloud computing went fast up the hype cycle but there are signs that it has already reached the peak of inflated expectations and has found its application. Others might argue that the term is just a name of a phenomena that has been steadily growing for few years already – utility computing and web services. However, we are seeing new types of services like Amazon Web Services which offer not only storage space and computing but also a database called SimpleDB.

Improving the Memory – With increased popularity of digital gadgets like music players, demands for more memory, less physical size and faster access speeds have driven memory advancement to a point where we are seeing more use of memory like flash memory. This of course is not new and hard disks are still much cheaper, but in 2008, the solid state memory technology reached a point where is affordable in these devices and the prices of flash memory can only go down. One indication of this swictch in technologies is that solid state memories are entering the PC. Mac Air has an option of a 128 GB solid state drive, and Intel is already shipping a 160 GB solid state drives for PCs.

The Mobile Garden Opens Up – The Apple iPhone may have been last year’s invention of the year, but for 2008 it is the iPhone Affect. If any of Apple’s invention of 2008 should be mentioned it is the App Store. The Apple App Store created a new market for mobile application – truly a blue ocean innovation. According to the Economist, the App Store has taken off even more quickly than iTunes, Apple’s industry-leading online-music store. In the first two months, iPhone users downloaded more than 100 million programs.

The trend here is that the traditional closed garden models of the telecoms is breaking down. The gates are being opened and the enabling technology is the Internet and the Fixed Mobile Convergence (FMC). The App Store is one example of this. Sure, Apple still keeps its hands in there, but anybody can create apps, sign up with Apple and start selling though their system. While Apple has turned the garden into a public park, Google wants to make world a national park. With Android, the open-source mobile operating system, Google wants to free up the mobile software market.