The future of the Internet: it's in the app

The web is not the future software architecture of the Internet, Forrester chairman George Colony says. It's the App Internet.

LAS VEGAS -- What will the architecture of the future Internet look like? A hint for all you developers out there: it's in the app.

Forrester chairman and CEO George Colony came storming out of the gate here at the second day of the 2011 Forrester IT Forum, trumpeting the benefits of an "App Internet" world that leaves the PC and cloud computing models IT professionals have come to know in the dust.

Placing the "PC" model (focused on a central group of local servers) in contrast with a web-based cloud model (focused on distributed web-based computing), Colony said the App Internet model -- in which powerful local devices run applications -- will dominate the future architecture of the Internet.

True, the hardware-based "center" of the network is becoming more powerful, driven by Moore's Law. But the periphery of network is also becoming powerful, Colony said -- leveraging the extraordinary storage and processing power in both places.

"The old PC model is a dead one -- it doesn't leverage cloud assets," he said. "The web is a dead technology [model]. It is not the future software architecture of the Internet."

Take Apple, for example. The company -- which posts 85 percent revenue growth per year, and 92 percent profit growth -- is "lucky" to have stumbled into the App Internet architecture.

"At first [with the iPhone] they were resistant," Colony said. "It took months to get Apple to build App Internet architecture for billing and advertising."

Now, Apple's an "early winner" in the App Internet. Compare that with Google, a company with "high web ideology" that gives it considerable risk for a vendor, he said.

"Google makes 97% of its revenue from web ads," he said. "It would be like it's 1984, and Microsoft is competing with Apple -- but Microsoft is giving its operating system away for free."

"Who's having the steak dinner while [everyone else peers] in the window? Apple," he said.

But the future is now, Colony said. The App Internet market is already a $2.2 billion business this year worldwide, growing at 8.5 percent compound annual growth rate.

But what about Dell or Hewlett-Packard? With an app store expected on every device, can they reform the PC to fit into the App Internet?

And what of SAP and Oracle? "These guys can pretty quickly get traction in App Internet," Colony said. "The question is pricing."

And Microsoft? "Microsoft gets it, to an extent," he said. "Silverlight could be a fantastic development platform for App Internet."

And Facebook? "Any company that's highly web-centric is in trouble. Facebook is very ideological about the web. You're going to see a social player come in and use App Internet and give them a lot of trouble."

"If you look at the App Internet, you're going to see two or three players we've never heard of [that dominate]."

But the future is not yet written.

"All of these businesses can shift strategy," Colony said. "Every 10 years in tech, there's a big vendor who we think is dying who makes a big comeback. In 1980, it was Intel, moving from DRAM to microprocessors. In 1990, it was IBM [from hardware to services]. In 2000, it's Apple."

In 2010, Microsoft is a candidate for reinvention, Colony said. And if history is any lesson, it will require a change of leadership.

So how do you get there? Colony outlined a few points:

  • App developers will need new skills.
  • Biz process must allow no new app without the App Internet. "No new CRM, no configurators," he said.
  • Generation Y employees will be coming to the office with devices already running on the App Internet.
  • CIOs must practice BT that's agile, rapid and customer-centric. "Prove you can drive customer centricity by embracing the App Internet," he said.

Plus, "SharePoint may not be the answer," he said. But "the fires are burning at Microsoft. Microsoft is going to have to get App Internet religion quickly."

Why? Because "the cloud is not the final solution. It's not the hammer that can hit every nail."

"The cloud is definitely not the solution for the future," he said.

A daunting screed, for sure. But Colony said the essence of business technology is to stay current -- and change is a part of the equation.

The reason: because customers and young employees are already using these devices.

"You wouldn't be in this business if you didn't like change," he said. "If you don't like change, you should get out of this business. These are the moments we all live for. You have to live for this. It's never a simple way to live, but it's reality."

More quotable quotes:

  • "IEEE researchers benchmarked the iPad 2 to be equivalent to a 1986 8-core Cray 2 -- running at 1.65 gigaflops. In 1993 the iPad 2 would have been among the top 30 supercomputers in the world."
  • "Gilt [Groupe] customers prefer apps to the web 70 to 30 [percent]."
  • "In Q2 2010, Nokia sold 98 million telephones and made $250 million in profit. Apple sold 8 million phones and had $1 billion in profit. That shows you how bad Nokia's business has been."

More from the 2011 Forrester IT Forum on ZDNet:

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