Twenty yeas from now a new generation of computer users will look back on the operating systems of today with the same bemused smile we look back at the cars of the late 1950s and early 60s. They had huge fins, were the size of a small yacht and burned up just about as much gas.
That’s right, I’m comparing Apple OS X 10.5, or Leopard, and Microsoft’s Windows Vista to those old behemoths — big and flashy and totally unnecessary.
Instead our grandchildren will be using discreet, unobtrusive operating systems that will be invisible to the naked eye.
They will, if you want to think about it like this, almost be a return to the concept of a command line, only in this case they will respond to either a typed command or a voice command or perhaps a gesture to open, join, find, save or close a file.
Most likely they will be embedded in the system that you buy or in the network. Operating systems that try to make a statement as today’s crop of OSes do will look awfully foolish, and perhaps the users of these systems will also be ridiculed for using them (as if we had a choice). But imagine what you would think of the guy who in 1959 built an extension on to his garage in order to accommodate the length of his Cadillac. The OS of the future will not, like the current crop of OSes, feel it is necessary to toot their own (car) horn. The truth is Leopard and Vista are not user-centric, but instead are ego-centric.
They are created by a massive team that is collectively trying to say, “mine is bigger than yours.” Consider if you will who the team leader at the very top of each of these companies is and you’ll see that I’m not that far off base.
In the future, however, the OS and the computer, will become a true utilitarian tool, just like other tools where form follows function not determines it.
Today, whether you look at the simplest tool like a hammer or a giant crane at a construction sight, tools in the analog world come with few, if any, frills. There can be beauty in the spareness. And this I think will be the direction the next generation of operating systems will take.