Inventing the Future with Structured Planning
Systems Design Methodology for Software Products
Version 2.1, June 6, 1995
3. VISION AND PROGNOSTICATION
3.1 Emerging Hardware Technologies
A world of ubiquitous media and nomadic computing.
Visionaries like the researchers at Xerox PARC and MIT's Media Lab
predict a world of ubiquitous media and nomadic computing, where the
distinctions among enterprise computing systems, client-server systems,
desktops, PCs, personal digital assistants, pads and boards, and even
home electronics will blur. While the types of information sought by
users of these devices may differ in content, there is no fundamental
difference in the requirements of accessing and manipulating that
information at home or at work.
3.2 The Software Response
How will software adapt to the evolution in hardware? Clearly there
will be an increasing demand for modular and configurable
functionality. For example, consider a state-of-the-art personal
digital assistant (PDA) or palmtop. It fits in a shirt pocket, has a
full color 80-character-wide color display, an ASCII keyboard with
escapes to international characters, built-in tools like memo pads and
telephone books, and rudimentary text editing and search functions.
Some even connect to PCs for downloading data. These are rapidly
becoming mini-PCs and the palmtop workstation is not hard to imagine.
What they typically do not have is good software: a rich command set
for text formatting, graphical display tools, internet connections,
searching with regular expressions, and so forth
"I'm a peripheral visionary. I see the future but way off to the
The original UNIX model where the OS was split up
into a small kernel (just another little C program), a choice of
configurable user interface "shells", and a host of extendible and
connectable user programs suggests an operating paradigm for the new
computing media. The technical community and industry insiders know
that object-oriented programming, linking and embedding (done right) is part of the answer. Entire application suites could come on
credit-card-sized media ready to plug and play. The big questions
are: What are the appropriate objects and relationships? What is the
appropriate system? As computing devices "deconstruct" and become
ubiquitous, the user community will be in a constant state of novice
naivet; hence the use of those devices must be instinctive and natural
3.3 Pursuing the Future
Spurred on by rapid and ongoing advances in the basic technology and
fierce competition, there is no shortage of forward thinking in the
software industry. Major software companies have in-house strategic
planning efforts and liaisons with the research and educational
communities as a window into the future. Engineers produce a constant
stream of better technology like visual programming, multi-threading,
more device and platform support, and advanced engineering processes.
The best companies are paying closer attention to the user interface
(where the rubber hits the road) and discovering the power of up-front
design for corporate strategy.
In order for these efforts to be successful they have to be based on
the collective design insights of all the experts - foremost the users
themselves. Furthermore, those insights must be stated in a way that
they can be correlated with one another and translated into real
directives for real products that can be acted upon by engineering.