The future of software? The integration of everything

The future of software? The integration of everything

What you see in sci-fi movies are programs that work both as operational system and an application for everything. This vision is slowly turning reality.

The 2013 Spike Jonze movie Her takes place in a not so distant future when a break-through operational system is launched. The program constantly improves itself and is fascinated by human emotions which it tries to conceive. It speakes in the teasing voice of Scarlett Johannson, thus unsurprisingly Theodore (Joaquín Phoenix) falls in love with his personal exemplar called Samantha.

The OS is omnipresent in Theodore's life – no matter which device he uses, it's Samantha's contralto coming out of it. The OS runs on Theodore's desktop computer at work, in his phone or in the user interface of his apartment. Samantha can be dictated an e-mail, she organizes Theodore's calendar or plays music … the program does whatever the user asks.

You can see similar computer programs in most sci-fi movies and literature. The one on space ship Enterprise both navigates through space and makes coffee, and Holly of Red Dwarf is even being sarcastic. Anyway you can't see no deleting old files and downloading applications. The program handles all possible situations that we need a myriad of single-purpose applications for.

This seems to be the opposite vision of today's inflation of simple apps with a narrowly defined functionality. Yet developers already work on bringing different functions together: the next generation of operational systems won't have a mobile and desktop variant, but will run on all devices. Another pioneer in this respect is Common Tongue that combines calendar, communication and project management tools – because why using an individual program for each functionality?

Common Tongue is very user-friendly because it allows to switch between different forms of visualization. This will be a crucial element of the future's supersoftware. If it has to manage a great variety of tasks it's interface will have to be sufficiently flexible. Obviously you need different buttons to write an e-mail than to play music. A universal software will allow the user to choose his or her personal way how to operate it just like Common Tongue does today.

The internet of things is a big trend today, thus the same operational system will probably run not only on your tablet and phone, but also on your fridge or car. After all, why buying an OS for every single device if you can run one copy on all of them? You'll buy one license as software as a service (SaaS) and download it onto anything that's connected to the internet. Of course you'll need to be constantly online to use the full range of such program.

The individual functionality won't come as an extra application, but rather in the form of a plug-in. The OS of the future will download automatically if the user chooses the respective function or switches on the device. Such program will grow organically with the needs of its user and constantly adapt itself. Just like Samantha in Jonze's movie.

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