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Why the 21st century will be remembered as the ‘Software Century’

by Greg Twemlow

The 20th century could be aptly named “the device century.” From the early 1900s onward life changed quickly and dramatically thanks to the building of a network, the electricity network (EN).

That network facilitated all manner of dramatic changes to society and enabled all kinds of useful devices to be developed, not least of which was the computer. The establishment of the EN created a market, an appetite for things to attach to the network.

So, if the 20th century was all about the electricity network and the devices that attached to that network, then surely the 21st century is all about the Data Network (DN) and the software that runs on that network – making this “The Software Century.”

We are experiencing the same opportunities that our forebears experienced in the early 20th century. Our 21st century enabling network provides a platform for amazing changes to our society and even more amazing business opportunities.

The DN has been enabled by the Electricity Network (EN) and now The Cloud is adding tremendous value to the DN. What we are calling The Cloud today is, in essence, functionality available on the DN. The Cloud is software (functionality) that sits directly on the Data Network and all of that functionality is instantly accessible globally.

The Cloud is giving the DN increasing capabilities and is able to deliver knowledge and insight to whoever has access, and these days that means over 2.5 billion people. That adds up to over two billion people directly empowered by the most amazing enabling technology the world has ever created.

The New 80/20 Pareto for Application Developers

Functionality of just about any application you care to nominate is now about 80% generic and 20% specific. Think about the functionality you need for a new application. Identity, account protection, product showcase, shopping cart, subscription management, email marketing, support, customer service, data analytics, management Dashboard, etc. are ll functional components now available on a subscription basis from the Cloud.

Now analyse your applications and think about the percentage of your budget that is allocated to the key functions of the app. Are you spending precious developer resources on the 80% of functionality you can simply plug in from The Cloud, or on the 20% that gives you your competitive edge?

If you are a company that develops applications, it is now very important to reassess how your resources are utilized. There is just no point at all putting resources and dollars into the 80% of functionality that you can subscribe to. It is however vital that you put your talented resources into the 20% that is your company’s “special sauce.” (We’re talking your own recipe for success here)

The exception to this would be to only put resources into the 80% of functionality available via subscription if you can see that you can dramatically improve that functionality and create new revenue for your business.

Evolving Functionality

The major piece of the puzzle that is being incorporated into The Cloud is the functionality to rapidly gain insights into the enormous data repositories and the huge volume of transactions moving across the network. This piece of the puzzle is what we today call “Big Data.” Watch out for Big Data subscription services that will enable all application owners to enjoy amazing insights into the behaviour of their users.

A final piece of Cloud functionality that will then be added is Artificial Intelligence; the means for the DN to use the insights from Big Data to make decisions autonomously based on a clear base of rules (remember Isaac Asimov’s three rules of robotics).

Big Data apps have the capability to glean meaning and trends from the petabytes of data that flow across the DN every hour and feed that analysis into Artificial Intelligence systems that are empowered to take action. Ultimately Artificial Intelligence functionality will be available on a subscription basis too.

In Australia, and many other countries, the speed of the DN is being dramatically improved, which will only increase the volume and value of the information being carried and give even greater importance to the use of Big Data.

The 21st Century Repeating the 20th Century Repeating the 19th Century

Historians will no doubt point to other enabling networks in previous centuries that created incredible business opportunities. Think about the rail network of the 19th century and the shipping network of the 18th century. I imagine if we studied the business models of those prior centuries we may well glean a few insights into how we might make the best use of our century’s enabling network.

So, if this is the Software Century, I wonder what the network enabler of the 22nd century will be. Do the Anthillians have an answer to that question, or speculation at the least? Perhaps the DN goes inter-galactic?

Greg Twemlow has led diverse operations starting with little more than an innovative idea to grow to achieve sustainable commercial reality. Connect with Greg at http://www.linkedin.com/in/gregtwemlow

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