Just listened to a video presentation from Jonathan Zittrain at Web 2.0 Expo. Jonathan holds the Chair in Internet Governance and Regulation at Oxford University and is a principal of the Oxford Internet Institute. He just wrote a book called “The Future of the Internet–And How to Stop It “
Zittrain suspects we’re getting close to the end of thirty years of “free” development around computers and the Internet. He sees the rise of “tethered appliances” like IPods, iPhones, Xboxes, and TiVos as “the first wave of Internet-centered products that can’t be easily modified by anyone except their vendors or selected partners.” He also sees the rise of “platforms” (Google, Facebook, etc.) as centralized points that could potentially be disruptive to innovation. Finally, for him, things in the cloud (he gave Gmail as an example) are also a potential threat as users don’t control the information the way they use to when it was resident on their desktop.
What it means: I see those trends as well but I don’t think they’re new. It’s always been extremely profitable to build networks and closed systems. So, it’s not surprising to see a lot of companies going at it today. The second trend that Zittrain might be discounting is the rise of open source hardware. Organizations like BugLabs and OpenMoko are trying to crack that nut and keep hardware as open as possible.