I wrote The Real Internet of Things to answer the question of where all this consumer tech was eventually going to lead us. I think I mostly captured it there, but wanted to summarize here.
I’m not sure where Microsoft is in this, and neither is anyone else.
Right now we basically have Apple and Google fighting for supremacy in the most important domain, which is the human operating system. Right now that means mobile, because mobile devices are the closest thing we have to being part of you. This is why Facebook and Amazon are outsiders to some degree—they don’t have a mobile OS. But Amazon is so scrappy that they are forcing their way in via the home with Alexa.
The way I’d say this in kind of an Appley way, is that all these companies are fighting to become your lifeOS.
Now a lot of people in various product marketing teams and in the media talk around this point. Obviously everyone is trying to help manage your life in various ways. Obviously everyone is offering calendar, search, voice activation, home automation, etc.
But I feel like nobody is just coming out and saying what the end-goal is, which is life management.
And what are our lives made up of? Broadly, it’s work and personal. But even that line is too deep in the details to see the longterm goal here.
All these platforms are fighting to be the single source of truth for your life. And not in a bad way, like many in InfoSec think. It’s just the ultimate business goal in terms of customer satisfaction.
Managing multiple vendors is a mess. Multiple logins. Multiple accounts. Outlook for this, using Microsoft. Android for this, using Google credentials. Apple for this, using iCloud. Smarthome this. Smart car that.
In 2030 or so, people will have chosen a single lifeOS to use, and who knows how many there will be, but let’s say three good ones and 10 more fighting to be in the top three.
Ultimately, all this will end up on your Life Dashboard.
When you wake up, you’ll be greeted by your personal assistant. It will know your entire schedule, where you need to be, when, and it’ll be working every moment to optimize your day.
If you work in an office, you’ll be driven there by a vehicle that was ordered for you. At work you won’t have to log in to much because most auth will be composite authentication using many factors that your lifeOS has been reading the whole time you’ve been awake.
It knows how to get your work stuff, your work emails, internal documents, etc. It knows how to contact your colleagues. How to do voice or video conferences with them, send messages of various types, etc.
The key point here is seamless. Management of all this is done by your lifeOS in conjunction with the security subsystems at work—which of course are compatible with your choice of operating system.
When your husband or wife calls, your assistant tells you, or sends them to leave a message if it sees you’re busy. If your husband can update your calendar, when he adds something it’ll show in your work calendar as well because it’ll mostly be contexts that you see, with multiple feeds coming in from different sources.
Key features here are single interfaces (mostly your digital assistant), integration of the various parts of your life, and extremely low friction. Browsing websites, seeing your personal data on those sites, making purchases—all this will be handled transparently by your operating system’s authentication, which will happen continuously using a composite of factors.
Again, all these individual pieces (other than the continuous and seamless authentication) are obvious. The part that’s not obvious—and that I think companies are doing a bad job of talking about—is the end goal of complete unification of the technology in our lives.
Let’s look at what we’re talking about.
- Home automation (auto-detection, customization of lighting, music)
- Entertainment (a single interface to all content that follows you)
- Smart car (customizations follow you whether its your car or a service)
- Work calendar, email, collaboration, documents
- Home calendar, email, collaboration, photos, documents
- Voice interfaces to tech, via mobile or ambient microphones
Basically every successful product we see out there right now in the consumer space is a disjointed feature of this unified ecosystem that’s coming, but for some reason none of the big companies (Apple, Google, Amazon) have explicitly talked about the larger picture.
Perhaps they think it’s too far away, and they don’t want to sell a grand vision while the reality is still immature and fragmented. That makes sense to me, but I still think we need some leadership around what’s possible and what we’re all ultimately working towards.
- Saša Zdjelar and I have been talking for years about what this will look like.