Interesting two posts over on Nick Carr’s blog describing Google’s plans: Eric Schmidt’s Tough Talk and Microsoft’s Rebuttal.

Perhaps the most interesting quote from Schmidt is:

…seeing “a profound technological shift in computer science” that will end the dominance of the “client-server computing architecture…

With the debate continuing to rage about what is or isn’t Web 2.0, the one thing everyone would probably agree on is that it is very different to the traditional client-server form.

I fell into the world of IT in 1992. I was a trainee accountant at the time (for all of, oh, about 3 months) and, being on the bottom rung in the department, got the fun jobs like re-keying data from the mainframe terminal into a spreadsheet on the PC so the accountant could do something useful with the numbers that the mainframe wouldn’t allow. I shouldn’t moan mind – it was that re-keying (and further re-keying across different spreadsheets) that led to the career change, when I discovered that a macro could automate just about everything once I got the data onto the PC… I jumped straight into the world of client-server and never paid much attention to mainframes. I remember the attitudes of those mainframe folk who would sniffily dismiss my macro writing and simple Windows forms applications… Fast forward to today and the one thing I never want to become is as sniffily presumptuous when client-server comes up against alternatives that do things differently and more easily. Hence the never-ending fascination with emerging trends and their influence.

So back to Nick’s posts. If Web 2.0/3.0 will render client-server as old hat (I wouldn’t say obsolete – even mainframes are still kicking around), will it be Google or Microsoft or an-as-yet-unknown-other who will take the lead? And what will the landscape look like? Will we hand over the keys to our data and let it all live in the Internet cloud? Will we favour internet applications over client and server products that require installation on local devices? Will we accept advertising taking up screen estate in return for free business software?

Among the never-ending list of predictions made at the start of this year, Robert X. Cringely made an interesting comment:

…2006 will look completely different whether you are a home or business computer user.

There’s no doubting the truth in that statement today. Too often I hear organisations rejecting newer technologies in favour of a locked-down, centralised and managed environment, claiming their users don’t understand or need Internet-related trends (who do they think helped make YouTube worth $1.6bn to Google?).

Perhaps the most positive outcome from Web 2.0/3.0 could be the breaking down of the walls separating what it is like to be a home computer versus a business computer user and enable organisations to realise the benefits in social computing. Take a simple example – knowledge management. One of the biggest barriers that has prevented successful knowledge-sharing has been persuading people to contribute content, i.e. write stuff down. Well hello? What am I doing right now. Did Blogger, Flickr, MySpace and YouTube pass by unnoticed? Nobody expected so many people to be prepared to start creating and sharing content, but it is happening. Yet still organisations want to introduce staid old-fashioned KM techniques that look more like document management than knowledge sharing.

Whether it is Microsoft, Google or another who succeeds in bringing Web 2./3.0 to the enterprise will likely depend on who does the best job of making it easy for organisations to pick up and use consumer-driven social technologies and become more competitive than those who don’t… simple really 🙂

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