Hardware Will Take a Backseat to Software — Perhaps for Good

Cloud computing is the single biggest reason ……

This year – 2012 – will be one of the worst years in recent memory for new products.

It’s not that manufacturers aren’t trying; it’s just that hardware innovation has taken a backseat to software (and software-as-a-service). Make no mistake, there will be newer, thinner, brighter televisions; higher-powered laptops and digital cameras; and more accessory announcements than you can shake a stick at. But that’s not really where the action is.

The real action can be found around the interoperability of these products.

Displays will be displays. Buttons will be virtual. Glass will be everywhere. The real innovation will only be seen when the device is turned on and used. It can’t be touched, only experienced. It’s not what OEMs do; it’s how.

Press trying to get a photo of the latest new product is gradually becoming a tutorial, in which we need to understand how it changes our lives.

In the enterprise, there is a general move to the cloud or cheap clusters of generic servers.

The vast majority of what we do is now far more dependent on an Internet connection than on 8 cores of processing power or the latest version of Windows running on a Wintel system.

Advancement in hardware are increasingly irrelevant for most users. Incremental improvements in hardware will yield incremental improvements in the capabilities that software can exploit. However, most tablets, for example, can already show movies in full HD and support immersive gaming.

Perhaps the biggest barrier is bandwidth, though. If the ubiquitous broadband issues can be solved, then we’d have a game changer in the other direction, making local hardware even less relevant.

Cloud computing is the single biggest reason that hardware has lost any real importance to the majority of users.

The gaming industry brings in many billions of dollars on new titles running on 5-year old hardware. The innovation is happening with the developers.

It doesn’t take 8 cores to watch videos on YouTube.

The ability to take advantage of many cores and clustered computers is a software issue that needs addressing rather than a computing horsepower issue.

Too much software still has not been optimized for advances in multicore technology or GPU processing. You can throw all the hardware you want at Word and it’s still going to be Word.

As with most things, the real bottleneck isn’t the hardware, it’s the bandwidth and the software. Android continues to lack the smoothness and responsiveness of iOS, for example, even on very fast phones.

It’s a chicken and egg problem. Why push the hardware envelope when the largest group of users struggles with platform fragmentation and poor optimization or spotty data connections?

Consumers as well love their gadgets, but need those gadgets to be inexpensive, have solid ecosystems, great battery life, and access the web at high speed. While hardware innovation is tied up in this, the real story is software and Internet infrastructure, not awesome new advances in hardware. And frankly, awesome new advances have, appropriately, gone by the wayside in favor of evolutionary platform advances.


CES 2012 preview: hardware is (almost) dead

Hardware: Does it really matter anymore?


About Ahmed

Software craftsman, programmer, developer, system/business analyst, DBA and PM.
This entry was posted in 2011-2020, 2012, Cloud, Predictions. Bookmark the permalink.

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