Saturday, November 05, 2005

Internet Operating System

In 2000 I joined Borland as the company's chief strategy officer. My job was to try and figure out what growth options were available to this venerable independent development tools vendor. During my first six months there I worked on a number of possible directions, ultimately settling for entering the market behind Rational as the number two provider of the system of record for software development organizations... its a long story. But what I was more excited about was something people were just staring to talk about -- an "Internet Operating System." Now in 2005, Google and Microsoft have both committed to this new vision, and perhaps eBay's purchase of Skype is an indicator that there will be at least one other company at the party...

I thought the Internet Operating System (IOS) was a good name for this next generation of the Internet, as it helps to get people thinking about it as a deployment platform. Think about what a disk operating system is (or became over the past 20 years) -- effectively a set of device drivers that perform three main tasks: input, output, and storage. On top of this you have layers of abstraction -- the mouse is one kind of input device, the keyboard another.

In the new Internet operating system, or what some people are calling the read-write web, there are similar input/output and storage mechanisms. Flickr is a particular storage mechanism for photos, for example. Shutterfly could be thought of as an output device.

The next generation of software developers will have this enormous sandbox called the Internet to build applications within, connecting all kinds of "devices" to each other in more and more interesting and powerful ways.

Now does the Ebay acquisition of Skype start to make sense?

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