Monday, March 11, 2013

5 things that won't exist in the (stateless) future

In my opinion, the trend markers for technology and business point to a future that is stateless: one in which data, applications, and the devices that interact with them are all decoupled from one another. Some of the current top-level predators of the tech world are endangered species.

Cloud computing is fundamentally stateless.  So is all the banking you do on your bank's website. The Chromebook is the first stateless laptop, with a stateless phone OS on the way from Firefox.  My coverage of stateless includes business cases, impact on licensing, apps, and digital rights, and a 5-step "try it now" guide for businesses:

The Stateless Future

As that future emerges, these 5 things are endangered:

  1. Fat operating systems: MacOS, Windows, iOS, and Android are all built on a central idea of the tech past, that operating systems, applications, data, and device are tied to each other.  The OS future belongs to lightweight systems that move beyond that concept: they provide connection to the net, user interface for web apps and data, and almost none of the other client-server complexity that fat OSes entail.

    Today, the only two OSes that reflect that future are Google's Chrome OS and Mozilla's Firefox OS. The old-fashioned operating system vendors may one day play catch-up, but their legacy operating systems are already extinct.
  2. Local applications, app downloads, app updates:  all of these disappear when web-sourced applications reach maturity.  App stores as we know them will likely continue, but the apps they sell will be web-sourced, not installed locally.
  3. Branded, device-specific media sales and delivery: iTunes and Google Play have a terminal illness.  They are efforts to keep users locked in to ecosystems of music, applications, written word, and video that perpetuate a business model based on outdated technology concepts.  As such they're both easy targets for stateless rights management, and the disintermediation of Apple or Google; unless they change profoundly, and fairly soon, they will both be irrelevant.

    Who is most closely aligned with the future?, with their HTML5 web app, their retroactive cloud-enablement of CD music bought in the past by their customers, and their willingness to meet customers on any device, any place, any time.  Amazon doesn't have to care about OS or device, as long as you buy from them.  
  4. Cost as an indicator of the power of your device: Once, tech status came from the speed and power of your PC, laptop, mobile or tablet.  Processors, RAM, storage space, all those markers of your tech cred no longer matter when the power is in the web, and essentially unlimited.  See Google's Pixel Chromebook as the harbinger of this effect.  It's expensive, but where is the money? In the display and user interface, and in the construction, which looks good enough for an executive to show proudly in the boardroom.

    The $1400 Pixel has faced critical disdain because it scarcely does anything more than a $250 Samsung Chromebook.  But that is exactly the point.  The Pixel reflects the stateless future, and a wave of technology democratization.

    The need for social and business positioning has always been with us; for the last 20 years or so, the device you carried gained status from what it could do, and how much you spent for it.

    When tech ability ceases to differentiate, other status markers come into play.  Possible outcome: status-branding of devices, such as a Coach mobile phone, or a Mont Blanc laptop.
  5.  Device encumbrance: a clumsy term, but an important idea.  Your entire world of contacts, data, apps, and all media need no longer be connected to any specific device in your possession.  Forget your laptop?  Lose your phone?  It no longer matters, beyond whatever status your specific machine brings you (see #3 above.)  Buy a $10 cheap temporary phone, log in, and everything you ever had is with you again.

    NONE OF YOUR STUFF resides on the device.  The security benefits of this effect alone make a hugely compelling business case for enterprises.  
This list is intended to be provocative, to challenge ingrained ideas about the nature of our devices and about ownership of the content they currently hold.  The old concept is that data, application, operating system, and machine are tightly linked; let go of that, and every one of these outcomes is not only possible, but likely. 


  1. You have encapsulated the real issue regarding our future in ONE WORD. Statelessness. Moreover, you've very accurately identified the tip of the iceberg and given it a proper name. There are a few Titanics heading for that iceberg.