Centripetal & Centrifugal Forces, end of Wintel

In one recent Economist article the discussion was the end of Wintel (Windows+Intel) and I liked the start of the article – “They were the Macbeths of information technology (IT): a wicked couple who seized power and abused it in bloody and avaricious ways.”

In the article, I liked the new trends captured as both centripetal and centrifugal forces. Back to high school physics. Centripetal forces are those that push things to a central core – this is to symbolize the push of computing power into data centers (huge warehouses full of servers). Centrifugal forces are those that push things out with great force – this is to symbolize the rapid proliferation of mobile devices, businesses that Microsoft and Intel do no dominate. If you imagine that the PC (Personal Computer, lots of little) era never happened, then this was more or less how computing looked during the good old days with one big difference and that is the absence of the Internet as a key oxygen for inexpensive communication. Since then, two things changed the landscape – physics (computing power) and bandwidth (cheaper and faster).

With the Wintel duopoly declining rapidly in this new era, we see that Apple is the new leader in mobile device with its enormously successful iPhone. Amazon has emerged as the  pioneer in cloud computing with its AWS (Amazon Web Services) components such as EC2, S3, etc. Google is showing great leadership in cloud computing via its Google Applications. The need for your C disk seems so antiquated now! Given such new forces, both Microsoft and Intel are moving in separate directions.

Here is how the article concludes – “As the Wintel pair splits, computing will start to look different. Instead of being dominated by two monopolists, the market will be fought over by eight or nine more or less vertically integrated giants. Oracle, Cisco, and IBM will vie for corporate customers; Apple and Google will scramble for individuals. IT, like the world, is becoming multipolar.”

There was vertical integration (provide the entire stack) 3 decades ago – IBM, DEC, Univac,. . Then came the “democratization” or horizontal structure (many players in each layer).

Now we are back to the future again!


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