Comments: #2 Past Projections of Future User Interfaces

David may be shy, but he is also highly perceptive.

I have been happy with a few changes we had envisioned. We showed a user using a web browser, something that did not yet exist when we conceived it (although we had played with prototypes of such at Apple and Sun). Indeed the web arrived faster than we expected.

Sun users do have the capability of having a single user space, accessible from around the world. This space is not populated by a million objects, nor is the network bandwidth available to support the kinds of navigation we envisioned. The public is being sold a bill of goods with today's so-called "wide bandwidth" connections. The large desktop we envisioned for Starfire could absorb as much as one terabyte per second of information while still delivering useful information to the user..

Let me address several points directly:

• Displays continue to lag hopelessly behind all other technologies. If memory were tracking display progress, we'd be using 4K memory chips right now, up from the 1K of the 1960s. I still expect we will hit the threshold where displays have sufficient density and high enough yields that we can begin to add scanning and other capabilities. Unfortunately, it will be a while.

• High-presence video conferencing is needed and could save companies millions in travel expenses. The tiny networks of today are holding it back. What we showed, by the way, was not holographic. It was a flat image on a curved surface. It could be accomplished quite handily with the new high-speed Internet currently being developed.

• Large screen compatibility has gone up tremendously. Today, unlike 12 years ago, when we made the film, you have a reasonable chance of connecting your laptop in 15 minutes or less. 12 years ago, there was less than a 50/50 chance it would happen at all.

• David is absolutely correct that the big players have used the last decade to cement their positions, to the detriment of their customers. Both the web and Linux have helped put the fear of God in them, but, today, Microsoft Office continues to be Microsoft Suite of Fractured, Disconnected Programs Developed at Different Times with No Admission to Outsiders, and it and all the other traditional applications likely will remain so for the foreseeable future. Apple's Open Doc, unfortunately, was almost ten years too late. By the time they decided to do this project I'd been pushing since the mid-'80s, the company's market share and influence had waned.


Posted by Bruce Tognazzini at December 29, 2003 1:43 AM
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