This entry summarizes major topics that drive the computer and consumer electronics industries. It is intended for newcomers to the field who want a brief summary of current topics as well as relevant history.
The "social" buzzword is at the top of the list. Facebook, Twitter and other social sites allow everyone to stay in touch. Social networking has changed the world of politics and human interaction. Every Web site and software application has social-related buttons that let people share what they see, hear or watch with friends, family and colleagues.
However, there is a downside to posting thoughts, feelings, images and videos on the Internet. They might remain online forever. In addition, social sites, as well as search engines, know more about you than you may wish. They use that information to target ads, spot trends, and they sell it to other organizations. New social sites such as Omlet buck the trend and allow users to retain control over what they post. Snapchat, which makes images disappear after a short time, is another attempt at keeping private information from spreading. See Facebook
Smartphones - Truly Personal
One year after the introduction of the iPhone, Apple introduced the App Store in the summer of 2008 and revolutionized the smartphone industry forever. No device has become more useful and more personal than the smartphone with its plethora of software applications.
Google followed with its Android platform. Due to Android's embrace of multiple carriers and hardware vendors (iPhone was only AT&T at the onset) and ever increasing screen sizes, Android became the #1 smartphone vendor worldwide by a huge margin. BlackBerry users were given new models to choose from (see BlackBerry 10
), while Windows Phone gains ground slowly. See iPhone
, Windows Phone
Web 2.0 turned the Internet into a global computing platform for publishing information and running applications. "User-generated content" is a highly touted aspect of Web 2.0, in which anyone can publish anything in a blog, social networking site or wiki. See user-generated content
and social networking site
As applications coming from the Web increasingly have the performance, look and feel of traditional applications that previously had to be installed in the user's computer, Web 2.0 also implies running more applications from the Internet. See Web 2.0
and cloud computing
Increasingly mainstream, cloud computing refers to using third-party Internet providers to host an organizations Web sites and services, as well as the business software it uses. See cloud computing
For better or worse, we are immersed in wireless communications. AM, FM, TV, satellite, GPS, Wi-Fi and cellular signals radiate everywhere. Do you use a wireless headset? Add Bluetooth to the mix.
With a home wireless router and Wi-Fi hotspot, music and video signals are bouncing around the house as well. See wireless LAN
, Wi-Fi hotspot
, cellular generations
and wireless glossary
Web services links two parties together over the Web such as buyers and sellers or seekers of information and the information itself. They use Web protocols to provide the transport mechanism so that requests can be made and answers retrieved. However, what gives Web services huge potential on the public Internet is the UDDI system, which is used to register a service so that any inquiring party can automatically discover it.
Web Services uses the XML markup language for defining the text and data structures that are exchanged. However, the real hard work is agreeing upon the description of the data they plan to pass back and forth to each other. See Web services
Nothing in the computer/communications industries ever came onto the scene with more momentum than the World Wide Web. The Web's hyperlink, an address that points to another Web page on the same server or on any server in the world, interlinked planet earth like nothing before it.
As the Web embraced e-commerce, every company rethought its strategies for sales and customer relations. Practically every software product was affected, and every application was reworked to deal with the Internet in some manner. Now that the Internet is available on billions of smartphones and tablets, access to Web-based content is even more ubiquitous. With video streaming, video calling and voice over IP (VoIP), the Internet has become the global communications backbone. Myriad opportunities arise from the fact that one can look at and operate anything from anywhere. See Internet
, World Wide Web
, cable Internet
and IP on Everything
Client and Server
Throughout the 1990s, new information systems were developed for Windows-based PCs connected by local area networks (LANs) rather than the central computer architecture of mainframes and minicomputers. Although mainframes still perform an enormous amount of daily processing in organizations, the trend in the late 1980s and early 1990s was to migrate old systems and develop new ones to client/server architectures.
Client workstations were mostly Windows-based PCs, and the servers were PCs running a version of Windows, Unix and eventually Linux. A major incentive for downsizing from mainframes was the wide availability of applications and sources for PC hardware. (see client/server
Along came the Web, and the client part of client/server became the Web browser, which provides a platform-independent, universal interface for accessing data and running applications. As mobile devices became ubiquitous, the client became the smartphone and tablet. No matter which architecture, there is always a client and server relationship. In addition, with so many operations performed in Internet datacenters (the cloud), centralized architecture is alive and well.
Networking is the lifeblood of an organization's high-tech infrastructure. Local applications combined with Internet applications and services continue to increase traffic and place heavy demands on the network. In addition, tying networks together when companies expand or merge is a daunting task for network administrators and IT managers. Starting in the mid-1990s, three networking trends took place: #1 - replacing Ethernet hubs with switches, #2 - developing higher-speed backbones and #3 - switching to TCP/IP as the standard communications protocol.
Ethernet switches increase capacity by giving each pair of users the total bandwidth. They also allow for virtual LANs, which make network administration simpler. Network backbones are being upgraded to 10 Gigabit Ethernet. TCP/IP, the protocol of the Internet, became the standard transport method for local area networks (LANs). See enterprise networking
Groupware and Collaboration
Groupware lets users share and collaborate. The pioneering software was Lotus Notes, GroupWise and Microsoft Exchange, which included e-mail and tools such as document sharing and group calendaring and scheduling.
The Internet brought groupware into focus. Fueled by the ease with which HTML pages can be created and shared, organizations routinely publish millions of Web pages on their internal Web sites (intranets) with data extracted from corporate databases. Groupware evolved into Web 2.0 tools such as the wiki, which lets anyone edit what someone else writes. A collaboration component is now available in almost every application used to create documents, enabling two or more people to write, draw and comment together in real time on a project.
As collaborative data grow, problems surface. What happens when documents are distributed to remote servers? Which ones are the latest? Who keeps them up-to-date? What starts out as a simple method of electronically publishing internal documents winds up becoming a strategic information system requiring the same care and attention as the data processing systems deployed for decades. See groupware
and collaborative browsing
The price of hardware continues to plummet. Each year, we get more computer per dollar than we did the year before. A full-blown Windows PC can be purchased for under $1,000 in 2014 U.S. dollars and entry-level machines for under $500. Technology seems to be a bargain. However, hardware costs are misleading, because requirements continue to increase as rapidly as costs decrease.
In almost every company, a user is attached to an internal network that is ever expanding. More Internet usage requires faster connections. The general complexity of networking means more inhouse expertise or third-party consulting. Although there is a vast amount of off-the-shelf software for myriad requirements, even the smallest organizations have special needs. Custom programming ranges from $75 to $150 an hour, and consultants cost $150 to $300 an hour. Add up a few weeks of third-party people time, and the cost of a PC looks like chump change.
Half the Equation
This adage has been used in the computer field for decades but tells only one side of the story. Hardware may be cheap but custom programming and consulting are not.
End of hot topics.