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Platforms are Back in Fashion

23/04/2009 1 comment
The platform is coming back 

 

 

The platform is coming back

Whatever people say about Microsoft, it has made computing accessible to millions of people around the world. It has never been the most innovative company in the computing world but it has always made it that bit easier for more than just highly technical people to do things with computers. There will probably be a plethora of people commenting about the innovation they may or may not have suppressed in computing, but the fact is that over the last fifteen or so years having a computer in your house has not only become normal, it has become essential. 

So, Microsoft technology is not the most exciting technology but it is probably the most important technology that is out there in the world. Their technology has enabled masses of people to get onto the internet, write documents, send and manage emails, and manage your documents for a relatively good price. And more importantly, Microsoft has got people into habits from which other software developers have taken advantage by developing slicker, more flexible and more imaginative alternatives. 

But the biggest thing that Microsoft has done is build a ‘platform’ upon which most of us rely for our PC’s, laptops and servers. Without a common platform, software and computing would be a whole lot more expensive than the prices we are used to today. I can see the swarm of comments building for this post already from ‘open source evangelists’ already. There are plenty of excellent open source applications out there which are highly innovative.

The next big thing ‘boring but important’ change to a platform received further coverage on the BBC with the headline ‘Adobe Flash secures set-top deal‘. Many households with more than one TV in the house but ‘the box’ lives in a different room to the home computer. This has long been talked about. Microsoft and Apple have been building products to enable ‘digital homes’ so we can stream music around our homes from one computer or watch TV through our ‘media centre’. But they have never really been anything other than gadgets. Our internet service providers have been setting us up with bundles of TV, satellite, internet and mobile for some years now too, foreseeing the convergence of all our communications from one provider.

But that’s where the convergence stopped. As the communications cables came into our house from one provider, they split company inside the house and went their own ways to the devices which specialised in being connected to them. The good old TV, albeit an HD-flat-screen-surround-sound-digital panel thing, still has an entertainment spot of its own in the house. The PC or Mac is used for surfing the web to watch videos, collaborate or just browse away the hours looking at stuff you had no idea you were interested in until that very moment. But try surfing the web through your TV and it has been a pretty clunky affair until now. TV’s were not designed to cope with the rich animations and web sites with which we have become familiar. Watching TV through your laptop becomes a very solitary affair which is the opposite to how we have used TV’s for decades. 

But this announcement from Adobe moves us into the next phase of our PC’s, TV’s, DVD’s and mobile phones. Installing Adobe technology into the next generation of TV’s will start to enable web browsing and using rich internet applications in the manner to which we are used to on our laptops and desktops. People will be able to surf the web through their TV’s in a familiar way and, for example, they will be able to download or stream BBC TV programs from the iPlayer and watch them on their TV’s. 

Soon after, we will see the move of the Adobe platform onto mobile phones to enable richer applications to be used on them than is now possible. There is Adobe technology out there which allows this to a certain extent but it is not good enough yet to be able to maximise the potential of the mobile phone to publishers, broadcasters and software developers. When this happens on mobile phones, we will see an explosion in the media which is streamed through them as well as the applications which are used on them.

So, as this activity happens in the background, quietly getting on with building the platform the results of which we will soon become familiar, just remember the name of the company Adobe and have a look at this site and get a feel for how the next platform is being built and what it will mean to you. It’s not the most exciting read you will have, nor may it seem to be terribly important. But, it will be part of your life in the very near future.