Time was, technologies began their lives in the enterprise and then, eventually, drifted out into the consumer realm. Now, we may be seeing a reversal of this pattern. Consumer demand and buying power seems to be drivingnew waves of innovation that only later hit the corporate world. Mobile phone and device technology represents a good example of that trend. Well, the same thing may be happening in the world of Web services -- at least, sort of.
As an article this week in the Wall Street Journal points out, today's souped-up computers are way beyond the needs of typical computer users. "Nowadays, consumers can do much of their computing without relying on their own PCs for a lot of processing or storage," it states. "Millions of Americans already use free Web-based e-mail and online photo services. Powerful servers and massive hard drives owned by the likes of Yahoo and Ofoto store the e-mails and photos and run the applications that consumers use to manage them. The user's PC needs little more than a Web browser and a display."
The point here is that consumer trends are pointing the way toward a "thin client" future that actively leverages the capacities of the Web. "Some are pushing a technology concept sometimes called 'Web as platform.' It's rooted in the premise that an increasing portion of what people do on PCs happens within their Web browsers, so the desktop environment, operating system and even other applications become less important, just as local storage and processing speed do."
The difference now from the thin-client mania of the mid-90s is that there is less emphasis on the client -- or device -- itself. "Cheap PCs abound, and increasingly intelligent and data-networked cellphones and other hand-held devices can tap into Web-based services. Most TV sets will be able to connect to the Web in one way or another within a few years."
Asconsumers become increasingly familiar with such behavior, expect them to put pressure -- through various direct and indirect means -- on IT departments andcorporate decision-makers. Increasingly, the Web becomesthe platform -- and that will help drive aggressive investment inand implementation of Web services.