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Death of the Desktop Operating System: A Glimpse into The Future

The Death of the Desktop Operating System is something you might hear geeks whispering about in corners, arguing frantically over the benefits of a streamlined, cloud-based, iPhonesque system versus the power and capabilities of the clunky-yet-hearty desktop. It’s chatter on forums and other social media. It’s even been the subject of a whole lot of blog posts in the past year (Meta much?). With Apple’s Mountain Lion merging another step closer to iOS and Microsoft’s Windows 8 launching tomorrow looking like a squarer version of Milton Bradley’s Simon, what does the future look like for the desktop OS and computing in general?

Heads in the Cloud
For many, the future is mobile and integration: smartphones, tablets, 4G, smart cars, smart TV. These people are embracing the future, and as I type this piece on my Google Nexus tablet, I can’t say they’re entirely wrong. Obviously this is the new market, and everybody wants to jump onboard, kill the iPad and make their billions in the growing industry. Tablets are being made for children, movies and music are heavily streamed over the Internet and the ol’ desktop experience is looking more and more like a cellphone.

Past is Prime
For others, this mobile future doesn’t replace the computing ability, reliability and market for a big, honkin’ desktop – hands down. Mobile devices can’t edit audio, video or other 3D\vector models. They can’t store terabytes of information locally, and you can’t upgrade or build one yourself if you wanted to. For enthusiasts and power-users, hokey touchscreens and newfangled WiFi are no match for a good desktop at your side. As someone who first got into technology by taking apart and reassembling desktop computers, I can’t say they’re wrong either.

Freedom of Choice
Is what you got. For the next while, we’re going to see some big strides in both directions. Intel is at the forefront of making processors faster and smaller with more processing cores. You can build a desktop for under $1,000 that performs like a supercomputer, and a single server on the bleeding edge of current technology could probably outperform all the computers in existence 25 years ago. At the same time, we’re getting tablets with HD screens, phones with quad-core processors and TVs that spend more time on the Internet than I do. Just when you think you have a tablet or smartphone you can live with for a while, something new comes out that is faster, more portable, bigger screen, more GBs. There are more options in these markets than the average user can keep up with, and it’s only getting worse. I struggled with buying an e-reader versus a tablet for months until I decided on the Nexus, and it’s rumored that on Monday Google will announce a price drop of the 8GB model, offer a 32GB Nexus and add 3G to some of them (and that’s just a few months down the road).

Survival of the Litigious
Simultaneously, the companies that bring us hardware and software can’t seem to stop suing each other in an effort to gain market share. Patent quarrels and feature feuds are always lurking behind the scenes, holding things back and inhibiting (ever so slightly) the progress and myriad choices consumers have come to expect from the industry. The intellectual property turf wars don’t seem to stop with hardware either. Microsoft isn’t using “Metro” to describe their new interface because of lawsuit threats. Google is being sued. Apple is being sued. Facebook is being sued. It’s unlikely, but with the focus on lawsuits this year, it’s easy to imagine a future where the companies with better lawyers survive and those without fall. Without being a lawyer or doing months (or years) of technology and patent research, it’s impossible to say which claims are valid, but in the present it’s likely that every major hardware and software manufacturer has some intellectual property theft in its past and digital blood on its hands.

Back to The Future
Ultimately, the direction of computing and computer companies is still up in the air. Like 1980s time travel movies taught us, the death of the desktop hasn’t been written yet and the future of the mobile frontier is still undetermined. Whether we lose the desktop as we know it or keep progress burning on both ends is ultimately up to the consumer. The possibilities are seemingly endless, and what we do now, the products and software we use and purchase, will determine what the next generation of computing looks like. As long as there are options available, tech companies will continue to add the products and features people are willing to pay for.

Whether good products and ideas get sued into submission by the big names in technology is another question. When we buy one product over another, use one ad-based cloud or web service over another, we strengthen those companies. It’s common enough for companies to sue or acquire one another, and if one of these giants gets out of control, the future will be whatever they decide. It’s something to keep in mind and as we leap ever-forward that the market is only as diverse as we make it. Technologies will only last as long as we support them.

Either way, we’ll get the future we deserve. Whether it’s a future with endless possibilities or one converged tech-giant making our phones, computers, televisions and tablets with a unified OS and digital marketplace, it’s up to us.

And it starts now.

Tell us what you think about the future here in the comments or on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+.

For more information on the future or all your computer needs, contact Geek Eacy Computers at
420 N. Church St. STE 1
Kalamazoo, MI 49007
(269)548-TECH (8324)

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