We are living in very exciting times. The pace of change is dizzying and the impact this progress is having on our present and - more importantly - on our future is difficult to comprehend in its entirety. This is the age of powerful microprocessors, sophisticated software, new hardware technology and high bandwidth, high-speed networks. Add to this the increasing importance of portability and recent advances in mobility and it is easy to see why what is going on today can have a profound impact on the way we live, learn and work in the future.
The PC gave us a new way to work, play and communicate. In fact, it brought onto our desktops computing power, which until a few years before had only been available to corporates. Actually, this power was only available to rocket scientists! With the advent of the Internet, the PC offered us the most convenient and flexible way to head onto the Net. But people want more than this. They now want the power of their PC with them whenever and wherever they need! And this has led to predictions of doom for the PC.
What the naysayers often overlook is that the PC in itself is not standing still. In fact, it is undergoing tremendous evolution year on year. It is becoming increasingly powerful, reliable and easy to use. And while hardware, software and networking are becoming increasingly complex, this complexity is being hidden from the user. Perhaps one of the most significant developments related to the PC is the improvement in user interfaces. Interacting with the PC is gradually becoming more and more natural. Natural language processing, voice and handwriting recognition software and touch-screen software is offering us an easy, human way to interact with our machines.
In fact, the PC has given us a high volume, low-cost model that has been the primary cause for its widespread adoption. And whatever shape the computing devices of the future take, they will be based on this model.
As far as I can see, at 100 million units a year, the PC is as alive as ever. What we will see, going forward, however, is the PC being complemented by a set of cool devices with rich functionality. And additionally, I foresee the PC morphing into several new form factors, such as the book-sized tablet PC, the auto PC or the television-based PC. We are entering what could be classified as the PC-plus era which will take the power of the PC and make it available anytime, anywhere, on any device. And really we are realising what it means to have a "personal" computer!
There was a time when convergence was seen as the coming together of the telephone, the computer and the television to form one super-gadget that would be multi-functional. People also saw convergence as the coming together of telecommunication, computing and consumer electronics technology. But what we are seeing today is really a different kind of convergence - a virtual convergence. Digital technology, combined with advances in microprocessors, hardware, software and bandwidth, has led to seamless, universal connectivity. And while this has meant the combination of telecommunication, computer and consumer electronics technologies, it hasnt seen the combining of all appliances into one super-gadget. On the contrary, it has seen a proliferation of small, smart devices ranging from palm-sized PCs and tablet PCs to auto PCs and web-enabled phones.
This universal connectivity will bring information and services we need and make them available to us wherever, whenever and on whatever device we choose. And this "virtual convergence" is really what we will see more of, going forward. So more than a convergence of devices, it will be a convergence of all the information that is relevant to us, in one place. All our information, be it news, addresses, e-mails, calendars, will be available for access anytime, anywhere. What we will also see in the near future is intelligent access to all this information, device, situation and need-based information availability in an intelligent manner to avoid information overload. In sum, in the future information will be neither device-centric nor PC-centric, but user-centric, and this is the single-most significant change that will impact our future in the Digital Age.
For governments there is potential here to use technology to bring down costs and improve performance dramatically. The digitisation of government forms and files, the sharing of information and best practices across governments and easy, real-time access to - and feedback from - citizens are some of the possibilities here. A step further would be for governments to look at utilising technology to revolutionise their education systems and bridge the digital divide. For the end-user, the way information is accessed and the ease with which technology can be put to work will undergo dramatic change. As technology becomes more affordable for a larger cross-section of society, its impact will increase exponentially. For businesses, emerging technology will make possible knowledge sharing across continents and collaboration in the real sense of the word. It will also bring about access to just-in-time information for better decision-making and maximisation of business opportunities.
In all of this, we see ourselves focused on one thing, and that is providing software building blocks that run on the very low-cost hardware and can make this all happen. Our software building blocks played a central role in the PC revolution. And now, with the Internet revolution thats built on top of the PC revolution, we see an opportunity to recreate that software, build it anew, to play that same kind of role.
Over the past 25 years, weve busted almost every myth about the PC and about what it can or cannot do. Going forward, I believe we are on the threshold of the most exciting phase yet of the technology revolution and we are excited to be on the ground floor of this new age, helping herald it in the future.