While this next part of our story steers off of the data center path for a little bit, it’s an important part of setting the context for the future of the way things would come to be consumed within IT. As we read in the mainframe beginnings, the centralized model was the one and only solution at the dawn of computing. Distributed computing began to rise in popularity which would trigger a shift towards the wide use of client/server application architectures. Suddenly, the desktop became much more important.
The Rise of the Desktop Era
Corporate desktops running Microsoft Windows were commonplace throughout the end of the 90s. We saw the shift where the price of desktop hardware became lower by the month, and the speed and velocity of growth in desktop applications and client/server architecture was seemingly unstoppable. It was like Distributed Systems Gone Wild.
The traditional enterprise desktop was where much of the productivity applications were being written for. Microsoft Office was about to unseat Lotus SmartSuite and others, and to lay the foundation for what would become a future that even Bill Gates himself may not have realized could have been achieved within the coming decade.
Over in the marketing department, you often found a group of Apple systems which were prevalent in the graphics industry. No matter what the Windows world tried to do, it just seemed that the multimedia environment was dominated by the Macintosh and Apple systems across the board. Having worked in a large financial services organization, surrounded by suits and ties on a daily basis, it was always fun to walk by the marketing and print team who were notably dressed casual and sporting tattoos and multicolored hairstyles. It was an interesting clash of two worlds.
Macworld 1997 Boston: Where Worlds Collide
In 1997, something very interesting happened. The very diverse camps of the Microsoft “business-oriented” crowd, and the creative teams who were firmly implanted in the Apple ecosystem, suddenly found themselves facing a very interesting view at Macworld.
The crowd both cheered and jeered as they saw the oversized screen filled with the smiling face of Bill Gates, and a diminutive Steve Jobs below on the stage. A partnership was born with Microsoft and Apple before the very eyes of the Macworld audience.
The announcement to embrace Microsoft Office and Microsoft productivity tools on the Apple desktops was something that seemed out of place to both camps, especially in light of how separated the roles were of the Mac and Windows feature sets were at the time. Little did they know how important this partnership would come to be over time.
Looking back now, you can hardly imagine a time where MacBooks didn’t fill the desks of classrooms everywhere, yet they are commonplace today. The enterprise desktop world is still largely dominated by Windows operating systems, and on the server side, the Windows platforms also play strong roles in delivering today’s client/server applications and much more.
Building Toward Something Bigger
This was another significant milestone in the journey towards what would change the face of computing, in and out of the corporate environment. As commoditization began to drive the price down, and the pace of innovation up, the availability and power of desktop computing began to create a new way to solve some of the business challenges that faced us.
This also meant that the paradigm shift towards client-side processing was fundamentally changing the way that we would build our applications. The reason was that the price and power of client-side processing was able to outperform the centralized computing model. This price and power shift also created challenges that we had not seen before. The need to process locally, then store centrally, flew in the face of tradition.
Demands of the business forced the shift to solve a problem of creating and processing more data. This was the start of something new, whether good or bad, right or wrong, it was changing the computing industry before our very eyes.