The next thing that will emerge is an architecture that allows the application developer to think of the cloud plus client architecturally as a single thing. In a sense, it is like client/sever computing in the enterprise.
What the world is searching for now is the right combination of underlying technologies and some killer apps that will demonstrate that the capabilities of this integrated end-to-end view of the cloud plus client will enable things that the world hasn't seen yet.
What technologies will drive this?
The technologies come at two levels. What are the underlying shifts in the lower-level platform technologies that will allow that to happen? And what are the things that might change the user's experience in some fundamental way?
There are two big things that form the nucleus of those two big changes. The microprocessor itself is going to change to this heterogeneous, many-core capability over the next four or five years. To get performance, you're going to have to write parallel applications, and if it's cloud plus client, you're going to have to write distributed parallel applications. Those have historically been viewed as hard problems, but they will have to become de rigueur in the future.
The second thing is that the technologies of man-machine interaction are evolving and will be aided by the quantum change in computational capabilities, [so] that for the first time, client devices will be able to implement natural, more humanistic ways of dealing with people. We call that next era the natural user interface. Think of it as the successor to the graphical user interface. And yet you have to figure out, what are the killer apps?
In the era of client plus the cloud, what will be the role of Windows?
How relevant was Windows when you thought the world was DOS? The answer is it became pretty relevant. That's the way I think about this problem now.
We're going to move to a new platform with new models of human interaction solving new problems at a higher level of abstraction. The operating system will be the thing that creates the mapping between the physics of the computing environment and our ability to write these applications and portray them for people.
You may not have the same direct association of the operating system as a part of the application. This doesn't mean you won't have clients in screens. That correlation remains. I'm describing a world where there's no less of a requirement for controlling complex hardware that arguably will get even more complicated. But the boundary between what the user associates as the app, what part lives in the cloud, what part lives on the device in their hand -- those boundaries will be blurred.
There will be a new class of apps, and I think that those will be as different as the difference when we moved from the command-line interface to the Windows model. That's the way I see the future.
This is the print version of an extended interview with Craig Mundie with videos that ran first on Computerworld.com.