The Personal Computer today is relatively cheap because so many people have them. Imagine if there were only 5 computers in the world. Each of those computers would be very expensive. A specialised device for which the manufacturer would be justified in charging such a high price for as they have such a small market.
Today, many Internet sites are built on low cost Intel systems and Open Source software stacks such as LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP). Anybody with a home computer can run the same software to build their own sites or even contribute to it’s development. If it’s just a web site they want to build then they can use a low cost hosting provider or use a ready made service such as WordPress so they can easily engage in the conversation without having the trouble of managing a server. How much would the online services cost if the hardware were specialised. The hardware that can currently be low cost because so many people use it that the manufacturers can afford to build mass production plants.
Now move forward to a time when the consumer uses a device that is light, low powered and small. It doesn’t need the power of the old PC, that’s all in the cloud. Just what we all want. So what happens when the consumer stops buying the PC hardware that uses the same components as the devices in the cloud? Logically the cost of the server hardware in the cloud starts to increase as the market shrinks. Maybe we begin to see an increase in the cost of the services. Then what happens when the developers of the Open Source stack can no longer afford to buy the hardware on which they used to develop the software. The Internet runs on the contribution these people make in both their time and systems.
They could develop on the new light devices, but the software would still have to be ported to the server platforms. This also assumes that the device manufacturer has not locked it down so that it becomes a just a chunk of metal if you try to unlock it.
We need to move forward to the light devices, but somehow we also need to retain that common platform and the ability for the whole community to be able to contribute if they wish. This is not just about the benefit to the consumer, this is needed to avoid the business market stagnating.
How do you think the future will turn out? Do you think this could represent a threat to the user contribution model?