The technology landscape is, yet again, undergoing some rapid and massive shifts. The world finally succumbed to the gravity of the Internet and the resulting democratization of information, business, and technology is giving birth to new global markets and huge opportunity. But along with the next tidal wave of technological growth on a global level comes the risk of yet another technology monoculture. These are the very issues that keep Sun chief operating officer and president Jonathan Schwartz up at night.
Here at PC Forum, he took some time out of his business schedule to share his views on where the world is heading and how everybody needs to be thinking about technology. But, during the interview--which is available as both an MP3 download and as podcast that you can have downloaded to your system and/or MP3 player automatically (see ZDNet's podcasts: How to tune in)--Schwartz may have dropped a bit of news about a forthcoming Sun initiative.
The last time a technology showed up on the landscape that had the potential to sink its claws into everything digital and Microsoft had the opportunity to leverage its monopoly of the desktop to be that technology's key player, the technology was identity management. Microsoft's flavor of it was called Passport, and Sun intervened by starting the Liberty Alliance. Given the amount of wind that was stripped out of Passport's sails over the year, it could be argued that the Liberty Alliance succeeded in heading off another wave of Microsoft domination. But the risk of another monoculture still exists, particularly when it comes to media clients and digital rights management -- two related technologies that, like identity management, either are or will be hooked into almost all things digital--including our devices and the telecommunications infrastructure. As Schwartz and I discussed the risk, he hinted that another Sun-led Liberty-like move might be afoot.
Schwartz was here at PC Forum to discuss the issue of globalization and also, during the interview, talked about what he thought the tipping point was that led to the current wave of explosive growth in technology. Said Schwartz:
If you read my blog, you know that I'm a fan of having culture and social change impact technology change. If you look at the evolution of the Internet on PCs, the Internet happened without the permission of either the manufacturer of the device or the monopoly provider of the operating system that went onto that device. The Internet just occurred because there was volume.
There were 300- or 400-million devices out there that could in fact be enabled by the Internet. As soon as that capacity existed, all of the sudden, there was market opportunity and people were taking advantage of it very quickly. Yahoo was created. Amazon, Google, on down the list as well as businesses around the world that figured out how to take advantage of it to a PC. But the PC is largely a device that's used by people of our respective generation.
If you go down another 10, 15 or 20 years, what you'll see is kids walking around with mobile handsets that are much more functional than your PC for the things that they need to get done and so the services that we see being created are as much occuring on those mobile devices where there is much less cultural reticence to the idea that I'm going to go create a new business -- I'm going to go create a game or I'm going to go create a network service. The similar destruction of the barriers to entry, the mapping of a new demographic that isn't so caught up in the traditional definition of an IT company -- you know, what is a mobile service on a handset... is that an IT company? Well it is because uses technology but it's not because it's all about dating -- the combination of those two as well as more money coming into the market is really creating a different world.