The Many Screens of Our Digital Lives

on June 27, 2011
Reading Time: 2 minutes

A few months back, my friend Harry MaCraken of Technoligizer wrote a piece entitled “Hey, they are all just screens.” in which he echoed something I have been writing about for the last five years in many of my PC Mag columns. It is a good read and I suggest you take alook at what Harry says here, but in essence, both of us are identifying a rather important trend that will drive the next generation of personal computing.

If you look closely at our smartphones, tablets, laptops and even Internet connected TV’s, they represent different screens that become gateways to local as well as cloud based apps, content and information. Below is a slide I use to actually explain this.( In it you see out on the periphery are a whole host of “screens” like the normal one’s we have today in our smartphones, Internet TV’s, tablets and PC’s as well as new ones that are emerging such as screens in our cars, refrigerators and even in our appliances.

All of these screens are just gateways to the next layer, which I list as apps and services. And sitting at the center is the cloud, which hosts these apps and services. From an industry standpoint this slide really represents the topology of the way we should view this trend. Each screen now has intelligence thanks to an OS, smart UI and connections to apps, services and eventually the cloud. But if you look long and hard at this diagram, you can easily see that we are in the early stages of understanding that these devices are just “screens” and that we are in dire need of creating next generation standards that let all of these screens work together and interact with each other seamlessly.

Today, each has their own OS and UI and in some cases proprietary architectures that helps them differentiate. While this heterogeneous approach is admirable, the reality is that we ultimately need to create a level of commonality across all devices in order for all of these screens to deliver on their stated promise of giving us the applications, content and services we want and need on demand.

While apps tied to individual operating systems work today, as bandwidth increases and devices become more powerful and battery efficiency goes up, the common denominator between all of these devices needs to be the Web browser and more specifically, these same apps delivered in Web App forms via HTML 5 and future versions of HTML standards that deliver cross device functionality.

This needs to be the goal of those working on devices, standards and cloud based services and infrastructure. If they can grasp this idea that all of these devices just represent screens that tap into these services and the cloud and that ultimately all of these screens need to work together and talk to each other seamlessly, the faster we will see the promise of the Internet and the cloud fulfilled.