So here we are, after 150 issues of PC Pro, spanning over 13 years. Back then, Window 95 had just been released, and we’d seen a major shift in the desktop from 16-bit to 32-bit computing. Getting away from 16-bit was a huge leap – suddenly, we had proper memory management, and all the madness of the Windows 3.x memory map was gone. For those of us on NT4, we had a highly powerful and very usable operating system with truly advanced capabilities.


It was a fun time – the internet was yet to be explored by most people, and websites were in their infancy. Those of us who’d attempted to build a website revelled in the basic nature of the mark-up code – building commerce websites was but a dream. There was lots of innovation and development.

Could we have foreseen the pace of change that would follow? The internet and web boom, the rise of e-commerce, the browser wars and all that jazz? Perhaps. Some were predictable, others weren’t. So, for a bit of fun, where will we be in issue 300? Will there indeed even be an issue 300 of PC Pro, or will paper printing be so passé and old-fashioned?

The problem with predictions is they’ll always come back to haunt you. But yes, I think there will be an issue 300 of PC Pro. Reading from the web is no easier today than 150 issues ago, and most of the onscreen reading formats have had limited success. There’s no doubt that any publication in ten years’ time will be part paper, part electronic, though, and getting that balance will test the best industry minds.

Where does the operating system go? Microsoft is hoping we’ll climb aboard the good ship Vista and take its forthcoming Longhorn server platform to heart too. After that, things become hazy. How many features will become part of the “Office system” rather than “operating system”? The rumoured Live 2 platform, delivering a range of applications and tools to end users over the internet, is still shrouded in mystery if only because no-one at Microsoft is prepared to talk about it. But it’s where all the work is happening under the leadership of Ray Ozzie. Will these Live 2 things be applications as we know them, or a new sort of online/offline digital soup, where functionality depends on how much of it you have cached on your local machine?

With regard to traditional applications, I fear we’re in for a long period of apparent stagnation. Despite significant and quite massive changes under the bonnet, the applications we use today will largely stay the same. And, yes, that means Excel will head off towards its 30th birthday. It might be delivered as a set of web parts or components over the internet into a rich client framework, but the benefit of this will be for the vendor, not us. Indeed, most of the application changes I expect to see will be tighter and more granular control of users’ licensing. The money is, and always will be, in the provision of application services. Do you really care whether that graphing engine is running locally on your machine, or whether it’s provided from a web service “somewhere out there”?

But what more can the likes of Microsoft add to its OS and application suite? Well, once Office licensing has reached saturation point, the only route forward will be to add in yet more items. You might not think this possible, but Microsoft has only just started. Look to its current middleware applications suites, which cover CRM (customer relationship management), order processing, accounts and so forth – for the new decade, such capabilities will be seen to be part of the base “working package” of a business desktop. After all, what sort of business desktop will be able to function without even basic access to such technologies? It’s the next logical progression. And by doing so, Microsoft will hope to keep the competitors at bay and retain control of the core business computing desktop marketplace.

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