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It has been a while since I last blogged. As I wind up from vacation, I find the need to comment on what I see as a rapidly shifting paradigm in personal computing. With the exception of video games, there have been very few application advancements over the last several years.
There are four core functions of a PC: Entertainment, Publishing, Communications and Information retrieval. Putting entertainment aside for now, we see that applications such as word processors and spread sheets, email and web browsers satisfy all the remaining functions. Over time, it has been shown that publishing and email are such low-MIPS consuming that they can be sucked up into the Web browser. Following this logic further, we see that certain companies have realized that (with the exception of entertainment), the power of the modern PC well exceeds what is necessary to do most of what the average person does with a computer.
This trend is obvious with modern smart phones and net books. There is not a lot of processing power in these devices, and yet most people find them sufficient to accomplish their daily tasks. So what are the biggest consumers of PC MIPs? It is not just Entertainment (mostly games and video) but also the Operating System (OS) itself.
Now, companies are solving the OS issues. In fact, some companies are betting that the OS is nothing more than a browser through which you can access all your computing needs. These new OS are known as "instant On" from the standpoint that they boot in seconds, with a minimal amount of background functionality. They are focused on being secure and simple and optimized around web access. Overall, the size and performance required to run operating systems will be dropping dramatically.
In the not-too distant future, the home PC will actually be a set top box or remote server in the cloud which people access via simple terminals that can either be used wirelessly or at various locations fixed throughout the home or business. The servers will run continuously and the terminals will be enabled via these simple operating systems.
High-end video games appear to be the one application segment that the browser has not conquered, but they represent only 5% of the PC usage and there is still a fair amount of functionality which can be provided over the web interface. In the mean time, for the most part, video games will be enabled via consoles.
From a business standpoint, the highest consumer of PC MIPs will be video, yet we are already enabling that on the mobile handset.