The Commoditization of the OS
When Netscape Navigator was released in 1994, it quickly claimed more than 90 percent of the internet browser market. Marc Andreessen, the company’s co-founder, predicted at the time that the Web would make operating systems such as Microsoft’s Windows “irrelevant.” However, 20 years later, the desktop landscape is still 85% dominated by Windows. Andreessen is absolutely brilliant, but his predictions about the browser have not proved out as operating systems are the gateway to the 4 million desktop applications built on Windows. Whether it was WINS, LAMP or others, the operating system and corresponding software stack provides a controlled environment to ensure software compatibility.
Of course, only including the desktop statistics in the landscape is very incomplete. During that time span, the internet population has gone from 35 million to 2.5 billion+ and 1.5 million applications for Android/iOS. Mobile proliferation has dramatically fragmented the overall operating system market share:
Fragmentation and Information silos
The traditional method of requiring specific devices, operating systems, platforms and tools have left a massive chasm in the enterprise across those systems, business units, company lines. To the end user, these problems of interoperability are a nuisance at best or just broken and convenience trumps just about everything for end users. To the IT organization, the problems are operational, security and financial vulnerability without any visibility or control.
Two decades later, with the dynamic demands of business on all devices, platforms and browsers, a deeper dive into Andreessen’s question of Operating System relevance is warranted. Mark Zuckerberg described the problem of the solution stack and the silos it created “Right now, you have these different silos — iOS and Android and Windows. But when someone buys a phone, they don’t want to be limited to just the apps and experiences on that phone…, I think partly you’re asking whether every app should have components that work across these silos…Those are basic things people want and developers want.”- Mark Zuckerberg in Wired
The Cross Platform Operating System
Mary Meeker’s 2015 Internet Trends previews one view of what the future may look like for the end user in a post-consumerization, mobile-enabled world: “ [Messaging] leaders [are] aiming to create cross-platform operating systems that are context persistent communications hubs for more and more services.” A cross platform system that is context persistent and interacts seamlessly with across platforms and systems would be a transformational new runtime.
With the browser, the working assumption has been that all web sites should be app-like and ought to perform complex tasks e.g salesforce or gmail. According toPeter-Paul Koch, mobile platform strategist and author of quirksmode:
“It’s time to recognize that this is the wrong approach. We shouldn’t try to compete with native apps in terms set by the native apps. Instead, we should concentrate on the unique web selling points: its reach, which, more or less by definition, encompasses all native platforms, URLs, which are fantastically useful and don’t work in a native environment, and its hassle-free quality.”
Most SaaS software or tools you leverage will not end up on your homescreen or desktop nor would you want them there. Instead, they require a few just-in-time interactions. Users will expect this information on the web because they’re not going through the hassle of installing their app.
Work how you want to work
Dropbox is making the transition from the Web, to mobile to desktop application more seamless. With a “Open” button when you click a file, assuming it exists in the locally stored Dropbox folder on your PC. You’ll then be taken directly to the file to read or edit it within the native application.
While this may seem like a relatively simple capability, this ability actually facilitates a just-in-time interaction that’s hassle-free or link to a deeper workflow in the desktop app.
Two examples from the horizontal stack that every single employee may use to be more productive:
The future of enterprise will be enabled by cross-platform systems that are context persistent whereby the information is networked together.