Archive for August, 2010

Where Next for My PC

August 25, 2010

I have been pondering this for quite some time:

Where is the PC going, and what substantial changes are likely for the operating system and for productivity software?

Keywords here for all of us: cloud, mobility and context.

Lately, Apple and Mac media has been asking, “What is Apple doing for Mac OSX 10.7? …for IOS 5? ¬†Lately, Windows 7 has received some deservedly good press, and I wonder what is in store for Windows 8… Lately, there has been a lot of talk in the tech media about “thin clients” and “cloud apps” in lieu of locally executed productivity applications running on a “screamer” desktop PC. Hmmm… So, where is all this going? Well, I’ll tell you!

Minimal Local Storage – no petabytes, and probably not even terabytes. Here, the thin client pundits probably are on to something, but I don’t think they see the forrest for the trees just yet. What storage resources you have locally may really need to be quite small if you can utilize many devices and servers. The real evolution I expect to see will be with the file system…

Distributed File System – a combination of NAS and SAN functions with a substantial layer of security. I may have a folder of documents stored physically anywhere – on an Apple server, a Microsoft server, an AT&T server, a Google server, a Yahoo server, on my desktop hard drive, in flash in my iPhone – anywhere, and I don’t want to need to know where.

  • I need to be able to have instant access to my document files anywhere and anytime.
  • I need to be sure that I have exclusive access to my files.
  • I need to be sure that all my files are strongly encrypted to keep the server owner honest and to defeat the likely hacker.
  • I need to be able to share any file with anyone I designate.
  • I need to be able to define the organization of my documents and folders of documents without regard to the physical location of a file.
  • I need to have the same file organization presented to me regardless of which physical computing device I am using.
  • I need to be able to access certain files even when a local device is turned off or is not at hand (multiple device aware).
  • I need to be able to access certain files even in the event of a local computer failure (locally fault-tolerant).
  • I need to be able to access certain files even in the event of a remote server failure (remote fault-tolerant).
  • I need to be able to access certain files even in the event a network failure (network fault-tolerant).

Gesture-Based User Input System – gestures, but not necessarily touch or mouse. Here, I think that Apple is right on track. Mouse behavior has been exquisitely refined, touch interfaces are being diligently defined, cameras are being built into every display device. The next step is to extend type, point, click, touch and swipe to arbitrary surfaces and new hand gestures in the air. Any time, now… I’m waiting…

Agile Display System – my display “desktop” moves with me to the best display system that I have access to at any moment. ¬†As I move from room to room, building to building or city to city, I want my work and my display desktop to follow me and be visible to me on the best display device I have access to wherever I am seamlessly and instantly at my command – with a gesture of some sort to cue and command the device and use it.

Contextual Environment Anticipates My Needs – community-aware, activity-aware, time-of-day-aware and location-aware. Who am I with with right now and who I am meeting with later in the day, what I was just doing and what is scheduled next on my calendar and what is queued on my To-Do List, what the time of day is and what do I usually do at this time of day and what is scheduled next, where am I now and where am I going next – all this has a direct bearing on what I want to do with my computer right now! I want my computer to anticipate my every move. This is a BIG effort to complete.

Unobtrusive Automatic Refinement – settings to accommodate the “cloud”, mobility and context should change automatically based upon limitations and failures encountered, additions to my community, appearances of new devices and services, and new collaborations.

Identification – this is key to secure sharing and hacker warfare. If your credentials are unknown, you don’t get in. How to assemble a set of trusted credentials? How to verify them unobtrusively? How to manage and maintain them? How to revoke them? How to detect spoofing and challenge the credential? Well, that requires some finesse, new standards and some user education.

If you ask me, this sounds like another decade of significant opportunity in this industry’s products and services – and a tremendous life cycle extension for the PC and its OS and applications.

PunchCAD – Great People & Great Products

August 7, 2010

I love to praise – I really do. It seems as though there is less opportunity to praise these days, but today I am compelled to praise a terrific company with great products, and more importantly with great people working hard for their customers.

Punch Software

In my “hour of need”, this company treated me as though I was one of their most important customers, and they solved a “sticky” problem for me in short order. This is the third time – out of three support calls – over three years when I was treated very well indeed AND my problem was completely resolved. With a license for only one seat for a mid-scale CAD product, I am clearly not “the big kahuna”, but this company treats me as though I am their most important customer when I call. And at the end of the day, they solve my problem, too – every time.


You folks are exemplary. and I would like everyone I work with to know that. I can tell that you are passionate about your products and your customers.



Footnote: Punch Software and PunchCAD products were recently acquired by Encore Software. I hope that this is a good marriage for everyone!

The Passion to Learn is still with the Youth

August 1, 2010

This afternoon, several local alumni and I greeted dozens of freshman students on their way to Rice University. For these talented kids, school starts in just two weeks. Their faces were painted with excitement, and their parents wore a mix of pride and trepidation. I attend this “send-off” party every year to “shine” just a bit on the students and their parents and tell these new students that they have tremendous experiences to look forward to. I remember this very event when I was just 18. These kids will do just fine – they had the proverbial spark of youth. But this year’s entering class of Rice students displayed a spark – a passion to learn that I have not seen for a number of years.

Over the past several years, when asked, these new Rice students would answer that they were going to study (fill in the blank), but they uniformly preferred to speak of what they wanted to do after their formal education. Some wanted to become politicians or lawyers or doctors of scientists. For many years, these bright students have expressed a broad swath of interests and inclinations – and more importantly they were excited by their career ambitions.

This year’s new students were much more specific about what they were going to study, and much less specific about their career ambitions. To my surprise, none who I spoke to were going to study electrical engineering – one student was excited about chemical engineering and a career in the energy industry. The vast majority were going to study “bio-sciences”. Yes, this year’s students were quite different from past year’s.

“Bio-sciences” – what is that? Not just biology – not just bio-engineering – not life sciences – I gather it is a mix of all three domains. While many of these kids were on a premed path to medical professions, most were almost completely vague about their career ambitions. Just “bio-sciences”… They were uniformly focused on learning. They were excited about their prospects at Rice. And they were optimistic about their vague futures.

It is great to see the spark of youth, and it is invigorating. It is reassuring to see the passion to learn again, too. To some degree, I think it is important to milk the “here and now” for all there is – to focus on studying hard in school, for example. To some degree, if you do that, a good future will just come to you – and I think it will make for a better adventure along the way. These students have terrific futures in store.