My Computer in 2012
As we get close to the 1.0 release of our opentaps Open Source ERP + CRM system, I've been trying very hard to think about what future versions will do.
The immediate future is pretty easy to see: we have a good system for bringing together processes and data in a company. We can easily extend it to meet the needs more of more companies and industries. We'll also be adding tools for data analysis.
But what should opentaps 4.0 do? And how should it do it?
This is hard for me to see right now, but I could envision how future computers in general should work, so I'm going to jot down a few notes to help me think later:
In 2012, my computer is the size of a credit card. I'll take it with me wherever I go and turn it on either using a scan of my eye or my thumb. It comes with no monitor and no keyboard, but once turned on, it will project a display on a surface, and I can tap and move around objects like an iPhone. I will mostly interact with it via voice, though. It should have transferred my voice print from a previous computer.
The most important tool on my computer will be my buddy list. This is actually a ranked list that is automatically generated by my computer. The most important ones are people whom I have tagged as my buddies, with the ones I frequently interact with being more important. Next down are people on my contacts list. Further down are people which I have transacted with once or twice, say on eBay. Further down from them are people whose blogs or photos I have read once.
If I search for something, my results will be filtered based on this buddy list, based on importance. Results which my buddies have liked are given the highest rankings. Results from the occasional blogger whose blog I read (like this one, perhaps?) might show up a little higher than the general muck, but not much.
My second most important tool will be a calendar. I can schedule in events myself, but it will also automatically schedule things for me. For example, if I make a dinner reservation or book a hotel, those dates will be automatically noted on my calendar. It will also automatically remind me of things. Finally, my buddies and I can share calendars, so we could see what we're each doing.
I will have an annotation tool to make notes and bookmark links wherever I go. I can annotate anything I want--a document, a web page, a scheduled event, a photograph, and they will be available.
My computer will also be a phone, camera, and video/audio recorder. I can take pictures or record conversations wherever I go. It will also interface with all the machinery of my life: my car, my refrigerator, the lights in my backyard, and so on. Before I get in my car, I can see if it needs a checkup or more fuel.
I will have all the applications I use now and more, and they will be local on my computer. My credit-card size computer will be extremely powerful, so there's no reason to use it as a dummy terminal and access basic applications over the web. I will, however, be able to share my documents, spreadsheets, and presentations with anybody I want to over the web. At the push of a button, it will synchronize my local document with a web version and make it available. It will also download changes made by others into my local version for me to consider. A sort of SVN for everybody.
Similarly, I can start jotting down notes or recording some ideas on my computer and then publish it as my blog. You'll be able to hear as well as read my blog. (Yeah!) My blog will essentially become all my records, notes, pictures, and experiences that I care to make available to others.
My photos will work the same way: I take some pictures with my computer and then can push them to the web. You will then be able to see it and then bring it into one of your albums. For example, I might take some pictures over the weekend, and you might use a couple of them for an album about Los Angeles, along with the pictures taken by other people who live here.
Except we'll no longer think of it as the web. The concept of local versus internet will be less visible. People won't say "I'm putting this on my web page." They'll say "I'm going to share this with everybody out there" or "I'll let my buddies see these pictures". The computer will deal with the web, not people. It might use an account that I subscribe to, either paid for automatically as part of my communications bill, or freely given to me in exchange for advertising rights. (Who knows? Maybe a news service would give out free accounts in exchange for publishing rights.)
I will still have a browser, but I'll use it as often as the yellow pages. The general purpose web browser will only be used to access content from providers with antiquated websites. Most of the time, I will be accessing information from service providers via what looks like the "widgets" on the Mac. For example, if I want music, I'll fire up a music widget. I can then tell it to use the music stores of my choice and select from albums, artists, and songs from it. It will manage the downloads and play the music for me, either with little headsets I carry in my pocket or beamed into my home speakers. Similarly, if I want to make travel arrangements or book a dinner, I'll fire up a little "concierge" widget. It'll subscribe to the travel services for me, look up flights, book them for me, and put them on my calendar.
My computer will be highly personalized to my needs. It'll know that I don't want to go to the same kind of restaurant twice in a week, that I don't want flights with stopovers, and that I prefer hotel rooms away from the street. I can also ask it to "hide" all my work-related tasks and appointments during the weekend.
And one more thing: I won't have to browse around through folders and look for files any more. My computer will know where to find things for me.