The Future of Software: Anytime, Anywhere, Connected to Everything

August 14, 2013 by Craig Vodnik.

Predictions about the future of software design, implementation, selling and use are always limited by how we use technology today. But at some point in the future, our current technologies will be as obsolete as a Walkman. As software developers, and as vendors and partners of digital product companies, what trends should we be aware of  in order to participate in the future of software?

The Future: 20 Years Ago

It would be good to start by seeing how the future of software and hardware was envisioned in the past and where we stand today. For example, this series of advertisements from AT&T 20 years ago anticipated many of the advanced hardware and digital programs we now interact with on a daily basis.

In these commercials we see people using:

  • E-books
  • GPS maps
  • Electronic toll collection
  • Video conferencing
  • On demand entertainment
  • Virtual classrooms
  • Internet connected tablets
  • Voice recognition

What is also clear from watching this video many years after it was made is that the future brings disruption in its wake. Many of the design principles and hardware devices seen in the commercial might have been bleeding edge twenty years ago, but are hardly used today like connected faxes and video public payphones.

And while AT&T definitely anticipated touchscreens controlled by directly by fingers, these commercial do not anticipate a heavy use of wearable computers or gesture control.

The Future: Today

From today’s perspective, the future of software is driven by tablets, smartphones and wearable computers connected by an Internet of Things and controlled by voice and gesture. The following video from Corning anticipates the future of software based on the way we currently use technology and what trends we see growing. This video dovetails nicely with the AT&T commercial, showing a world where computing and information technology is used anytime, anywhere, connected to everything.

What is the common thread amongst these innovative hardware platforms from the previous computing paradigm of desktops, laptops and notebooks? Interaction has changed. Always-on connection isn’t quite there yet, but we do have many interconnected devices. In the future, the trend we see is that computing will no longer be driven by keyboard , or even touch and swipe, but dominated by gesture and voice control.

Thinking about the future of hardware platforms led Corning to make a video where they take the tablet and phone platforms and place them in more places, like wearable devices, in the kitchen, in the car, and at school.

What will that lead to? Just a few years ago, e-commerce was revolutionized by the introduction of connected mobile devices to the mass market. Keyboard and mouse is slowly being displaced by touch and swipe interactions. Not the death of the keyboard or touchscreens because these devices still have a place in society, but interaction is moving more from keyboards and touch screens towards motion sensing and voice command. Think Xbox Kinect, but for more than games; think Siri, but better.

Instead of gaming, we will use the technology for shopping at home. E-commerce will evolve from a visit to a webpage with product information and a checkout button into a fully immersive experience. Keyboards and touch interactions will slowly evolve into gestures and voice commands. Best Buy is already developing the software to project a virtual store into your living room. The shopper can browse aisles and purchase products by motion control.

Nuance, the voice recognition technology leader is also paving the way for the future of software. While voice recognition has predominately been used for dictation purposes, it will move into the biometric space and become an important feature of security programs.

The Future: What’s in store?

What’s the point of all of this discussion? As we’ve said time and time again, software developers shouldn’t just take their product and port it to a new hardware platform. Companies will really need to think how about the best ways to interact with new platforms and incorporate that feature/function appropriately within your product.

Let’s say you sell a PDF editing software for $100 per license. You cannot then sell it for $0.99 on a phone. First, it’s impractical to use on a phone and secondly, the revenue from that sale is not worth the cost of developing and maintaining a business for it. Which is why, in the end, we don’t think that PCs are going anywhere. People in both the home and the office will need PCs for the foreseeable future.

But the foreseeable future also brings with it the next generation of computing which is based on wearable technology controlled by voice and gestures. Depending on how well the technology evolves, these devices may replace PCs and smartphones. But that future where you can create documents and complex design projects using only voice and gesture is still a long way off.

In an upcoming post we will outline some of the e-commerce trends we see emerging in the future of software. The main thing is not to be afraid. Look into the future with eyes open instead of relying on false hopes to help you navigate technological innovation and new business models.

Keystone: The evolution of technology often disrupts the market, defeating traditional businesses and paving the way for new organizations to succeed by capitalizing on new technology. The market is changing and success will depend on changing with it.

Do you agree with our assessment of the future of the market? Are we already there? Let us know what you think in the comments section below.

Elan Sherbill contributed to this post.

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