Saturday, February 3, 2007

The Day the PC Died: Vista's Irrelevance May Fuel New Thinking

Microsoft's Windows Vista operating system made its debut with a festive flair of activities in New York's Times Square and the beginning of an estimated half-billion dollar marketing effort. So far, it's probably money that would have been better spent coming up with something a little more likable that could market itself virally. Overdue, oversized and overburdened with features that fail to advance the interests of publishers or enterprises significantly there are few who can give compelling reasons to upgrade to Vista for the sake of publishing.

PCs are far from dead, but with open source software making slow but steady gains in desktop use and more specialized platforms for mobile and home entertainment content rising rapidly the PC seems to be migrating to a role of a personal server for a variety of more specialized platforms. The multiple flavors of the Vista operating system try to fill a variety of specialized roles, but in the process of doing so it winds up being too many things to too many people rather than a solution for specific problems for individuals and institutions. Most importantly there is little in Vista that would inspire someone to say that it's an indispensable content authoring platform.

But in enterprises and in many forms of consumer media the assumption still rings loudly that PCs will continue to be relevant for the foreseeable future. That's probably true for another five years or so, but it appears as if alternative platforms are going to become more prevalent - and in doing so create more pressure on publishers to come up with platform-independent publishing products and solutions. The Web browser as a basis of content delivery has already set the stage for much of that migration, but as users begin to develop their own petabyte-scaled content archives being able to offer them the ability to use that content on the next latest platform easily will become an increasing priority.

Large enterprises are already on this via Information Lifecycle Management initiatives to manage permanent content archives, and the Web itself has services such as Archive.org that record much of the Web's content. But personal content archiving systems - real libraries that can be managed from a variety of platforms with a minimum of hassle - are generally fairly geekish affairs that don't lend themselves yet to keeping content from being obsolesced with every new gizmo that comes along. Bonus points for someone who comes up with the real personal library of the future some time soon - a dull-sounding opportunity to some, perhaps, but perhaps key to the long-term future of premium electronic content.
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