The following op-ed by Harvard Law School Professor Jonathan Zittrain appeared in the Nov. 30 edition of the Technology Review. [Click here for audio.]
In addition to his HLS professorship, Zittrain is faculty co-director of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University. He is also a professor of law at the Harvard Kennedy School, and professor of computer science at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.
The PC is dead. Rising numbers of mobile, lightweight, cloud-centric devices don’t merely represent a change in form factor. Rather, we’re seeing an unprecedented shift of power from end users and software developers on the one hand, to operating system vendors on the other—and even those who keep their PCs are being swept along. This is a little for the better, and much for the worse.
The transformation is one from product to service. The platforms we used to purchase every few years—like operating systems—have become ongoing relationships with vendors, both for end users and software developers. I wrote about this impending shift, driven by a desire for better security and more convenience, in my 2008 book The Future of the Internet—and How to Stop It.