software has become hardware?

January 5, 2011

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In recent years software and hardware have, if you will, switched identities in terms of what determines a successful product in their individual markets. Five years ago, even two years ago, when we thought of software, programs like Microsoft Office or Photoshop sprung to mind. Those were (and still are to a large extent) software behemoths, do-all applications which combine many services into one package. Two years ago when we thought of hardware, gadgets like iPods, phones, cameras  and laptops were foremost in our minds: single purpose items which either played music, made calls, took photos or browsed the web – rarely combining any of those things. Today, the most successful software programs are ‘apps’, usually single purpose applications which do one thing very well, and not much else. Programs like Office or Photoshop are slowly being replaced by newer, more refined alternatives, or are themselves changing (Photoshop.com, or Office Web Apps for example). Hardware has morphed into do-all gadgets like the iPhone or iPad, which combine a huge range of functionality into one device. The two, once entirely separate categories of product, have literally switched their identities: Software has become the single purpose service, and hardware the multipurpose, do-all gadget.

This obviously isn’t anything groundbreaking, just an interesting phenomenon.

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