Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates has been talking up Web services and SOA, which is music to our ears, of course. But what will Microsoft's role be in this brave new world? Interestingly, while utility computing proponents say processing power should flow like electricity, Gates goes a step further and suggests we'll just snatch it right out of the air, no matter where we are. Web services, SOA, and mobile computing are making this a reality, he said at a recent conference in Singapore.
"We have the availability of information wherever you go, delivered by the breakthrough of wireless networks [in the office and public areas]. This means that when you take the portable PC with you, you're connected up," said Gates. "That portable [device] will get even smaller and will turn into a tablet device where pen-and-ink can be used as well as the keyboard."
Web services and SOA are creating "standards that work at very high level — containing data like healthcare, supply chain and e-government records, and letting those be exchanged between systems of all types." This means that "the software can connect no matter what language it's written in, or what environment it's written for," he added. "So in an ecommerce application, you don't have to insist that the buyer and seller have a common implementation [but] simply that they abide by the same [Web services] standards."
Gates' view is that this ubiquitous IT power won't quite be omnipotent, since it will be augmented to some degree by local processing at the device level. But, once the world is covered by mobile networks, is it conceivable that we won't need that much local processing power? Which will we need more -- handheld mainframes, or intelligent terminals?