A story on GigaOM today profiled Simple.tv, essentially a mobile-enabling DVR for those who don’t want to be tied to their physical TV recording device. A quick view of their video shows the real genius that this device brings.
It uses a commodity signal (antenna or basic digital cable), commodity hardware as storage, commodity wireless and Internet for transport, and commodity screens for presentation (ipad, laptop, Roku). This small, simple box is the substitute for buying anything proprietary, bulky or expensive.
Consider Apple TV and its ability to give Apple everything they need to compete in the entertainment market without taking a big risk with the complicated supply chain of a large-screen device that is highly commoditized. Having the screen isn’t the key at all. Having control of the screen is key and Apple can provide that with their phone or their iPad very easily.
This is a direction that can’t be ignored. We’re moving very rapidly to a software-enabled world that makes the hardware less and less important. The same goes for the enterprise. As data explodes, the need to store and process can’t keep up at the hardware level. The secret has become to manage data and processing virtually through software applications that scale horizontally on whatever hardware is available. This is a far more efficient than chasing ever-increasing storage and computing requirements on larger and larger physical assets.
The highest value is found in the logic layer, the ‘what’…the way things are calculated, decided and directed, making the ‘how’ of processing not important. Cloud computing takes this even further by making the ‘where’ not important.
We can now virtualize nearly every aspect of computing, from the computer (a virtual machine), to the memory, storage, data, and network. We’re gradually but surely lessening our reliance on the physical things that require up-front investment, space, cooling, maintenance and eventually become obsolete and must be replaced. We’re breaking the cycle of dependence on the physical and are instead investing more in the logical that costs less and breaks the cycle of obsolescence.
Think about how far we’ve come from the days of “Big Iron“, where the greatest computing advances of that time were replaced fairly quickly by the Windows and Unix-based server farm. Ever since that time, the march has continued away from large, fixed, physical assets and toward the flexibility of virtual software sitting on commodity hardware.
From the failure of Blackberry to the advent of video software that replaces expensive cameras and their ‘locked in board and chip sets, and digital photography over film, there is a trend that is enormously important to follow. We’re in a commoditized hardware and ‘virtualizing software’ world. Anything seems possible.