This week marks the release of Windows 7. Some of the critical reception of this operating system has let me to consider that the saleability of operating systems as big commercial commodities may come to an end. Microsoft, due to various reasons, is losing its market dominance. It also seems that, with the disappointment of Vista (and other notable Windows operating systems between Windows 95 and XP); we will enter different market and consumer conditions, which do not bank on the great release of a new operating system.
It is a far cry to maintain that the open source movement will fill in much of the void left by Microsoft’s disenchanted consumers, but one possible contribution towards the downfall of the importance of the CPU is the changing nature of our computer use. Perhaps it may be more useful, for instance, to not focus on the CPU and other aspects of the hardware but towards the degree in which a user is integrated into a wider network, namely, the internet.
A lot of the functionality of software can be outsourced to external servers and online programmes. Music and radio can be streamed; documents and databases can be dealt with online; even the managing of our personal affairs need not be centred on a single computer unit. There are lots of benefits for this; greater communcation with others and greater accessibility, we rely less, it may seem, on the hardware of a computer terminal, than the usernames and passwords we use.
What happens when the internet shuts down? An analogous thought came to me when watching the recently released film ‘Surrogate’; where humanity, through the introduction of neurologically-controlled robotic shells, had radically changed their social and economic activities. Crime had almost eradicated and sexual/gender boundaries had blurred so much that no one really cared about them. Without to spoil the end, consider that if we become too dependent on something, we may, without it, forget other kinds of functionality. To adopt a new approach is to put away another: who for instance, still uses shorthand?