The e-commerce industry in South Africa has experienced a boom since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic — and Black Friday was no exception….
The web will die says George Colony, the rather insightful boss of Forrester Research — and here is why.
He says that fundamentally the web is a waste and inefficient. It fails to take advantage of the incredible processing power and storage abilities of the powerful gadgets and computers we use. It makes no sense to leave these out of the equation. Rather the best use of the technology at our disposal today is to use both the internet and the processing power of our devices — what Colony has dubbed the “app-internet”.
Both the old and new architectures are dead
Colony said that there have been two major computing models. The first is outdated and dead — this is the PC era where we put executables on our desktop. The problem: this model does not leverage the cloud.
Then there is the cloud model which sees all our applications and information going online. “Put everything in the cloud!” they say. But even this isn’t good enough. “Cloud” may be the latest, hot topic of the day, but is not suitable because it fails to exploit the incredible processing power of the devices we use today.
The incredible rise of processing power and storage
To back up his argument the Forrester boss looks at the incredible growth of processing power throughout history. It doubles every 18 months. Storage doubles every 12 months. Both are not only becoming more powerful, but cheaper too.
Colony says that although the network is improving in power and speed, it’s not advancing as fast as the tech on our devices (storage and processing power namely) so it would just be plain crazy to ignore this part of computing when developing applications and solutions.
“If you were to build an architecture based only around the network, you would be wasting all of this extraordinary improvement in storage and processors,” he says.
“The iPad2 is equivalent to a 1986 Cray II supercomputer. It was the pre-eminent computer in the world. In 1993 the iPad2 would have been considered one of the 30 fastest computers in the world. My question is, considering the power of this device, what will we hold in our hands in five years from now?” he asks.
The ‘app-internet’ emerges
Colony says we will see a new model emerging called the “app-internet”.
“We will have very powerful services in the cloud (data etc), connected to and interpolating with very powerful applications on these local devices (PCs, iPads and servers),” he says.
Almost every company Colony speaks to says that they are able to better mirror a “real-world, store experience” in an app environment than a web environment.
This application environment is “faster, simpler and more immersive” — and just simply a better experience.
Forrester believes that the app-internet is a US$2.2-billion market, growing at 85% next year. His company surveyed some big players — and 41% claim to be migrating their development away from the web to applications.
“This is the architecture we believe will become dominant in the future,” he says. “Remember the web is not the internet. The web is a software architecture we decided to put on the internet all those years ago. Just as the web replaced other software that preceded it, so the web will eventually be replaced itself,” he says.
“App-internet we believe is the best direction for that replacement.”
The ‘web huggers’ will lose
Apple is one of the leaders here, but it was incredibly lucky too. Colony reminds us that Steve Jobs never envisioned that others would write apps for the iPhone or iPad — he was only talked into that later.
He says the “web huggers” — companies like Google, Facebook and Renren — are in trouble because these are very HTML-focused companies that generally ignore the power of the device.
“Google, if they could, would stop the world from turning. They love the web. Every time you click on the web they have a chance to make money — they do not want the web to end,” he says.
But it’s not all bad news for Google: It has Android. He notes that Google are having a “Lenin-Trotsky moment”. Google has seen the writing on the wall and are focusing all its efforts on Android.
The three big internet-app players of today
Colony says there are three companies emerging in the new app-internet ecosystem:
First, there is Apple with its brilliant iOS platform (but it could run into problems in its ecosystem because it is “overcharging”, witnessed by the Financial Times-Apple tiff). Second is Google, not Google the search engine, but Google the Android maker. And third, “a dark horse” in Amazon, especially if you look at Amazon Silk, the web browser developed by Amazon for Kindle Fire. Colony says this is a “very cool step away from the web and towards app-internet”.
Could Microsoft make a comeback?
If you think back in the history of the technology industry, every ten years there is a major tech company who we think is dead that makes a comeback. In 1980 that was Intel, in 1990 that was IBM, in 2000 it was Apple.
Colony says that Microsoft is the company best positioned to make a comeback, but it would also need a “generational change in leadership” for this to happen. Microsoft is well positioned because it is a seasoned software, hardware and internet player, so can take advantage of all these ecosystems — and harness both the power of the device and the network.
One look at Microsoft’s brilliant Windows Phone platform makes you believe that Colony may well have a point here.
“If you look at the app-internet architecture it looks alot like gaming: You can’t play Call of Duty over HTML or over the web. You have a very powerful device (an XBox) using its resources with the cloud.”
Watch the full talk on YouTube here: