Whence the Next Generation?

April 18, 2005

Whence the Next Generation?

Whence the Next Generation?

by Carol Baroudi, Partner

In the long-term game of “Conquer the World Market,” intelligent vendors, seeking to train or indoctrinate future generations, have been supplying schools with IT equipment and software for free or at deep discounts for decades. Hardware vendors know by now that they can’t sell hardware without software applications.

So where will new applications come from? Why the young software developers of course.

And which platforms will they use? Whatever they know best, whatever they have access to.

With the amazingly quick deployment of the Internet, the course of software applications development changed forever. The Internet pushed the personal computer into every crevice of contemporary life – into the workplace, of course, into the schools, and into the home. With the convergence of IT and entertainment, the personal computer – in its many emerging instantiations – has secured its future in the home, in the car, and ultimately on each and every person.

The Internet was a boon to Microsoft Corporation as it pushed the popular PC into the hands of more and more people. With ready support for developers, Windows became the initial platform of choice for a younger generation of developers. And then came Linux and open source. Beginning at the university level, but quickly penetrating generations of younger teens, the economics of Linux offered a strong value proposition in the impecunious world of education. So now the race is on. Both Microsoft and IBM are cultivating emerging markets around the globe – in India, China, Africa, Latin America. Which computer platforms, tools, and languages will the next generation embrace?

One point of view says that Linux and Open Source are bound to prevail – dramatically reducing the economic barriers to entry, boosting the availability of software and ease of access, and creating a global community that works to further the cause. It is a very compelling argument.

But the fat lady has not begun to sing. Emerging markets are not limited to remote geographies. Technology is changing the very fabric of our societies – and technology know-how has been creating economic opportunity to those “in the know” for decades. While China and India are producing record numbers of PhDs, in the US Microsoft has been providing aids for teachers and students in middle schools and high schools, and has a high school internship program almost 15 years old.

There’s a lot more to consuming technology products than their simple development. Sales and distribution, partnerships, synergies, creating coherent, specific industry solutions – all these elements make our technology world go round. The Open Source momentum is gaining rapid adoption and changing the technology terrain, but Microsoft’s cash on hand is allowing it to seed new generations and grow new Microsoft loyalists through its philanthropy as well as through its penetration of the entertainment market and personal user markets. The technologists of the next decade are also the consumers of the next decade, and consumers of the next decade have been born “connected”.

However we slice it, the next generation is a cyber generation and the fight for the hearts and minds of next generation has barely begun. Stay tuned. It will prove interesting.


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