Written 08/27/96

Alexís Vision of Future Moves in Computer Technology

DESKTOP PC and phone will merge - letís call product of merger DESKTOP.

From your office you will establish instantaneous digital connection from Desktop to your server on the Internet. Youíll pay by the capacity of your connection to the Internet. For example now we are paying by the number of phone lines, plus connection charges.

PORTABLE Every person would have a small device - a sophisticated combination of cellular phone, beeper and computer - letís call it PORTABLE. Every time you get a message or call - it will notify you. From that point you would have two options - respond immediately (which is more expensive) or bring yourself to any Desktop (which should be widely available like public phones) and respond. The concept of Portable would change dramatically. There would be no incentive to carry hard drives and accessories with you everywhere. Remember that we carry a phone, but we are not carrying phone books. A prototype of operating system for Portables is ready to appear - Microsoft would call it Windows CE (Consumer Electronics).
DESKTOP SYSTEMS In the office environment we would see a DESKTOP SYSTEM (analogous of phone systems now). Desktop Systems would convert N connection to Internet to M Desktop connections. (M>N) Bandwidth is flexible so now one is going to get "busy signal". Desktop Systems will do the job of Routers (dividing available bandwidth among all current users).
Computer and TV will merge In the home environment we would see a merge of Computer and TV. Internet connection (bandwidth can be increased incrementally) would be standard (like now one or two phone lines now). The connection would be sufficient to respond to any messages, interact, play games, get information and watch movies. No more busy signal ever! Several family members can independently use connection and receive voice or electronic messages. Gateway 2000 already introduced a Computer / TV device for the living room and this trend will continue.
Death of LAN There would be no reason (or incentive) to store or handle information and data locally. Most tedious functions like backup, security setup, day to day maintenance will move to your Service Provider. The usage of Desktop would be as difficult as plugging a phone into a phone jack. Phone numbers will be replaced with e-mail addresses, and each time you are trying to establish a connection with another person you would have your choice of Voice or Message. Obviously direct voice access to a person can be restricted, turned off or prohibited.
Office Work Do you need support or manuals on your phone usage? Sometimes, but very rarely. Office computer work would turn into browsing your databases (Clients, Claims, Recommendations, Projects, Summaries, Invoices, and Transactions). You would be able to get information from others (read only mode) or work with your data (read and write mode). It is possible that big offices would have some kind of local caching devices to reduce Internet load, but other than that all information would be stored on your provider server. Desktops might integrate scanning and printing capabilities or it can be completely separate devices, but all of them would be harder to use then fax and copy machines.
Multiple contact "numbers" - one Portable Every person would have Portable and "home" contact mailbox (number). An employer would just map new employee "extension" (e-mail box) to former personís Portable. That way all notifications destined for that particular person would be reflected on his or her Portable. A person can restrict hours of notification, view source and destination mailbox name. All portables will differ in number of features, options and configuration.
Whoís getting all the money Another interesting separation should occur in Services / Account / Mailboxes area. Service Providers would sell hard disk space and mail boxes. Communication providers will sell and deliver bandwidth. Troubleshooting and maintenance would shift dramatically from your office to Providers. At you location your would have Desktops - easy to use and not serviceable devices! Remember that you do not repair or upgrade your phones, your just buy new ones! The same situation will be with Desktops. All the money in this area will be tightly associated with services. If something goes wrong with you Desktop you call Provider or Vendor. You call Consultants only on initial implementation stages. Consulting in Computer area would become a "Computer Telephone" like type of business - reselling other peoples services. All support and maintenance will shift to NET / SERVER centers, where the majority of support calls will end up.
Slim Profit Several important changes would occur with a wide spread of Internet trade of goods and services. It would be very easy to look up the lowest prices on any hardware item or consulting service. Near universal competition will bring prices closer to cost and that will trim profits.
Future value of experience, not knowledge Very similar tendency would take place in workforce market. Value of knowledge will drop - anyone would be able to lookup any information on the NET, but value of experience will increase. Ability to determine and fix communication problems, provide quick answers, envisage faults and prevent them would be of value.
Destiny of Software Development You would never buy software ever. Your provider would sell services - database services, accounting services and so on. It would be the providersí concern to buy and setup software, make all the upgrades, contact technical support, backup and protect your data. Developers with Internet programming skills will be in demand. Cost of software development and implementation will be reflected in the price of provided services (mail boxes and disk space).
CONCLUSION To stay competitive and strong we should consider moving our consulting business into service provider direction. Seems like reselling NET / INTERNET services (not hardware) might be just the way to go. It would cost an incredible amount of money. The way to get them is either a merger or a huge external investment. That would make us move into much bigger office space, buy a lot of hardware. In that situation most of our experience with 15-50 node networks will be irrelevant and we would have to gain new experience with thousands of connected Desktops. Our small size starts hurting us. We would be able to provide local solution for global client problems.
SECONDARY CONCLUSION Secondary conclusion deals with Mail software. Buying mailboxes at an Internet Provider would be the way to go for small and medium size businesses. MS Exchange server isnít a way to go. MS Exchange is too hard to maintain and support. Tendency would be to get rid of all servers (including Mail Servers) and move them to service a provider site.