The waves emanating from the recent earthquake in Japan travelled the Pacific almost unnoticed until they hit coasts. The wavelength is so long and the speed of travel is so great that they appear out of nowhere on the shallows of coasts and deliver energy that can no longer hide.
There are waves in IT as well. The first computers were handcrafted, huge and expensive. They became the mainframes of IT. The mainframe subsided and was largely replaced by the personal computer, a machine of some power at arm’s length. Now networks are so strong that we no longer need the power at arm’s length and mobile and other small devices have become magnificent.
Gens see the emergence of a “third platform” in the explosion of mobile devices supported by services from the cloud. According to IDC forecasts, shipments of non-PC app-capable devices will reach approximately 400 million in 2011, which is about the same as the number of PCs that will ship.
“If you know where the developers are going, you know where the market is going,” says Gens. And the developers are going mobile. By the end of 2011, there will be 1.3 million apps available for the various mobile operating systems such as iOS and Android. That’s in comparison to only 50,000 – 75,000 total for PCs. Even if only 100,000 of these will be useful in the enterprise, that’s more mobile apps that PC-based apps — this year — according to IDC.
Not only is this third wave about mobility. It is also about small and cheap. We see ARM taking huge share from x86 this year and by the end of 2011, ARM will have a major place even in the normal PC. These huge numbers of apps for mobile devices can easily be ported on ARM to non-mobile devices, greatly increasing the energy released by the arrival of the wave. The seawall is being battered, undercut, breached, overflowed and bypassed all at the same time. Wintel can do little but take measures to slow down the rate of change or to preserve some niches. They cannot stop it.
Just as the netbooks gave momentum to the adoption of GNU/Linux, this third wave of IT is a natural fit for Android/Linux and GNU/Linux. Linux has run major distros on ARM for years. There is no shortage of applications, CPUs or features to deny Linux its due.