Where does the computing world go? I’m not talking just about Free Software, but about the whole industry. Even Microsoft is in trouble here.
What more can we do with computers? What will computers do five years from now that they can’t do today?
Writing documents and university papers can’t get much better than MS-Office, OpenOffice, TeX and DocBook. Each of them caters rather well to their respective markets (except some interoperability issues, which are really rather minor if you put the bizness bullshit aside.)
Music, Movies, Animation? You can’t improve this field much more in the home market, and the high-end market of professional artists and studios is rather narrow. (Although ideas expressed in Lessig’s Free Culture can make it wider …)
Business v1.0 software – databases, billing, CRM, ERP? It is a market of reliability, not innovation.
Websites, communications and social networks? True innovation in that area hit a glass wall long ago, if you ask me. Some websites make up nicer AJAX tricks, but that’s about it.
So i thought that the really innovative thing that can useful on a major scale may lie in the field of Linguistics (disclaimer: I am studying for a B.A. in Linguistics). Speech recognition, text-to-speech and automated translation – all of them are related to Linguistics; none of them can be done right without proper scientific Linguistic preparation.
Microsoft puts “improved” speech recognition into every version of MS-Office, but it is very far from doing it right. Xerox and IBM tried something in their respective (and respected) research labs, but it didn’t see the light of day (at least yet). Google are rumored to be doing something with statistics-based automated translation.
But no-one has anything finalized.
The first one who does it right will rule the whole market for years to come. Of the current players, Google seems to have the best chances to succeed, but it can also be a startup company created by an anonymous undergraduate Liberal Arts student in India, Nigeria or Ukraine. Or Israel?
(Originally published in Bug #1.)