So, last month it was in the news that Microsoft is bringing the full Windows desktop experience to ARM chips through an x86 emulation layer. Well, there’s some vagueness around “full” as yet, but here’s why I find this hugely exciting.
Not too long ago, our mammoth PCs and laptops were the center of the universe. Our Palm Pilots and other mobile devices synced with them. A bit more recently, we shifted to making “the cloud” our data hub, syncing everything with it. This put our laptops and mobile phones on a more level playing field. But what Microsoft is now teasing is the third evolution.
We won’t have mobile phones anymore. We’ll have pocket computers. And they won’t be limited, dumbed-down devices; they’ll be fully functional computers capable of running every application we might need them to. We’ll dock them with a large screen in the office (something Microsoft and Motorola have already explored), connect them to a mid-sized screen for serious in-the-field work, and use their own small screen for everyday mobile use. Applications will dynamically adapt for the screen we’re using at the moment. Eventually, we may be able to “dock” to a RAM expansion module, for example, for when we’ve got serious work to do, or connect to an external GPU or other processing boost as needed.
And nearly all of this technology already exists.
Microsoft is superbly positioned to re-sieze the market, given their dominance in the desktop space. If you could suddenly carry all of your LOB apps around with you – no more syncing, because you’d only have that once device – it’d be a game-changer.
Now… what about the standard BYOD problems? Well, Microsoft is well positioned there, too. Who’s to say your device can’t simply run two VMs? One is your “work VM” and the other your “personal VM,” and whichever one isn’t in use right now simply isn’t allocated any RAM or CPU resources. Again – this can exist today if we wanted it to, it’s just a matter of getting a good user experience on top of it. Work can control the “work VM” on your One Device, encrypting it and wiping it as desired – without affecting your “personal VM” and its applications and data.
There are two companies positioned to pursue this model: Microsoft and Apple. Microsoft now effectively has one OS for every device, meaning they can now let us just use one device (aside from edge cases that demand a different compute platform, like serious gaming, hardcore CAD/CAM work, etc). Apple doesn’t exactly have one OS, but they’re not very far from it, and they’ve already started iOS developers on the path of dynamic app displays to accommodate different screen sizes. Google, notably, is not as well positioned, because Linux (Android) has never had the massive penetration at the desktop of Windows or Mac. Google’s response, ChromeOS, is still lightweight and somewhat niche; you’re not going to run Photoshop or a lot of non-Web-based LOB apps on it. Google has further to come to get to the “one device for all situations” world.
Anyway… it remains, for me, an incredibly exciting and innovative time. I can’t wait to see what Microsoft (and Apple, and even Google) do next.