Is Windows near the end of its run?

Windows Vista and Office 2007, according to industry analysts, may be the last time Microsoft can really cash in on these lucrative personal computer products, as software is increasingly distributed, developed and used on the Internet.

Interesting article in this morning’s New York Times titled Is Windows Near End of its Run? It features an interview with Microsoft CEO Steve Balmer in which he comments on what he sees is the future of the company.

The most interesting part of the interview for me comes at the end where Balmer is commenting on the importance of community as being one of the key change drivers in the future:

I think one pervasive change is the increasing importance of community. That will come in different forms, with different age groups of people and it will change as the technology evolves. But the notion of multiple people interacting on things ??? that will forever continue. That???s different today, and we???re going to see those differences build. You see it in a variety of ways now, in social networking sites, in the way people collaborate at work, and in ad hoc collaboration over the Internet. You see it in things like Xbox Live, the way we let people come together and have community entertainment experiences. And you???ll see that in TV and video. It???s not like the future of entertainment has been determined. But it???s a big deal.

I’d have to agree – although it’s not going to be as easy as it sounds, as there’s an emerging tension appearing in the discussions about community around what I’d call the issue of ‘ownership’ – who decides a community is a community, who runs it, whomakes the rules, who can join, how do you ‘unjoin’ etc? The tension exists between those who see communites as an entity that can be formed, managed and controlled, and those who regard communities in a more ‘ecological’ way. I’ve found Stephen Downes paper on Learning Networks and Connective Knowledge useful in this regard. He proposes that “the learning of knowledge is distributive, that is, not located in any given place (and therefore not ‘transferred’ or ‘transacted’ per se) but rather consists of the network of connections formed from experience and interactions with a knowing community. . The distinction here is that it’s not the community per se that’s important, but the network that enables the ecology of a community to operate.

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