The Internet is amazing. In just six short years it has spawned thousands of new businesses and generated billions of dollars of wealth. Dot-com fever has captured the hearts of America's technologists and entered the lives of many Americans. In the midst of all of this, it's useful to look at where we've come from, where we are now and where we're going.
Let's go back to the beginning of the PC era. In the early 1980s for the first time computers were small enough, cheap enough and simple enough to make their way to the desktops in homes and businesses. At home people used computers for personal finances, word processing and games. At work people used computers to access the business systems once directly accessible only to computer professionals. With these PCs and local area networks we saw the tremendous growth of the client/server industry and the growth of technology giants like Microsoft, Oracle, Sun and Intel. We also saw the emergence of one dominant access platform, Wintel.
In 1994, with the invention of the Internet browser by Netscape, we saw the birth of the Internet as we know it today. The funny thing about the emergence of the Internet era is that fundamentally it was built on the same technology as the PC and client/server era. Yes, we had computers and networks that were bigger, faster and cheaper, but the basic technology was the same as we saw in the client/server era. The main difference is that the IT industry became enlightened. With the Internet we discovered that if we agreed on certain standard ways of doing things, we could provide greater access to computer systems than ever before and thus grow the industry to everyone's benefit and profit. No longer did we need to debate how to send a byte from one computer to another. The debate was settled and now we send bytes using TCP/IP. Thus we see the emergence of a small set of key Internet standards such as TCP/IP, HTTP, HTML, Java and SQL. More Internet standards will emerge, such as XML and CORBA, but they'll emerge based on general industry acceptance, not on the agenda of one or two major industry players.
Another thing the Internet has brought us is the beginning of the end of the Wintel dominance as the access platform. Because of the industry-wide agreement on open standards, we're discovering that Wintel isn't required to access the Internet. The best example of this is the iMac. Here's a technology that's been around for over 10 years and has seen resurgence just because Apple repackaged it as an Internet access platform.
So where are we going now? Most experts will agree, I think, that when history is finally written it will mark year 2000 as the beginning of the Post-PC Era. And what will this era bring us? Computers will penetrate every aspect of modern business and personal life. Post-PC Era computers will be everywhere. We'll come to depend on them as we depend on electricity. Corporations will be able to extend their reach to customers and employees everywhere and at any time.
Primitive single-function devices such as cell phones will become sophisticated application platforms. Everything will be connected to the Internet at one time or another. Data and information will be available 24x7, anywhere, anytime. There will be many, many varieties of access platforms and the Wintel dominance will fade into history. Java will be the technology that will enable the deployment of a single application on the plethora of Post-PC Era platforms.
The mobile Internet creates some new challenges. Connect time is expensive and although it's getting cheaper, there will always be a cost, hidden or otherwise. Also, wireless connect time is the biggest drain of battery power. People using Post-PC Era computers will want 24x7 access to their critical applications and won't want to wait until cellular connectivity just happens to be available, nor will they tolerate the interruption of critical activities as a result of unreliable connectivity. This drives the need for mobile wireless applications to function while not connected. Activities on mobile wireless devices will generate data that eventually must be synchronized with back-end systems. This drives the need for local storage of data on mobile wireless devices. At PointBase we are the providers of the data management and data synchronization products that enable creation of mobile wireless applications that are available anytime, anywhere. PointBase is simple, small and 100% Pure Java.
The amazing growth of the Internet era has been fueled by a computer on a desk that is attached to the wall. The assumption has been that the center of productivity and creativity is around a stationary desk in your home or office. What happens if you can get the same level of productivity and creativity anywhere, anytime? This is when the Internet will be unleashed and become really big. If you think it's big now, just wait and watch as the Post-PC Era unfolds.
Bruce Scott, president, CEO and founder of PointBase, is a leader in the area of enterprise and embedded database architecture and product development. A cofounder of Oracle in 1977, Bruce cofounded Gupta Technology in 1984, pioneering the notion of the small-footprint database server for Intel-based platforms.