The Windowing Graphical User Interface
Naturally if you ask most people about the biggest recent advance in the history of desktop computing, most of them would say that the windowing graphical user interface is it. While the GUI is definately a significant leap from the textual interface used in all Unix variants, I am somewhat dismayed by the lack of progression in interface technology.
It seems that the pioneers of these technologies can only think in Windows. It would be interesting if Apple and Microsoft, instead of focusing on improving their GUIs, were doing work in earnest to come up with another method of communicating with computers. Naturally, artificial intelligence and excellent speech recognition come to mind. With the incredible number crunching performance of current desktop computers, there is no reason for there to be no decent speech-to-text conversion software. Dragon is really good, but as far as controlling the OS, browsing, and writing software, it is far from ideal. For example, the computer should be smart enough that when developing in Dreamweaver I could say cffile tag. It should then put cffile tags with the cursor inside of the right less than symbol for me to add attributes. If the next command that I spoke was not an attribute of that tag, then the cursor should jump between the tags and begin copying in text. These things should be built into the operating system as APIs. But perhaps I shouldn't be looking to Apple and Microsoft to do these things. Maybe they are too focused on directly competing and keeping up with each other to really innovate. Maybe the open source community can come up with something to knock them off.
I definately don't see the GUI taking a dive anytime soon, but for devices like cell-phones, there isn't a much better method of controlling them than talking to them. I should be able to have it read-off my incoming SMS messages, and I should be able to dictate a response back to the phone. Intel has some pretty powerful mobile processors debuting, and they could easily handle this sort of rudimentary voice recognition software. I should be able to browse the web from my phone where it could read off the contents of the pages that I found while I am driving or whatever. It only makes sense.
As far as search goes this makes URLs and DNS somewhat unnecessary. Obviously you should be able to say triple-w dot whatever dot com and have your computer browse there, but who would actually do that. Wouldn't you just go into Google and say blah dot com, or more likely blah? This has been something that has come up several times in blogs and in discussion boards. More and more Google is becoming the primary way people find websites. This is good in that accessing information is more straightforward for most people. It is bad in that all pages can not appear on Google. Google seems to realize this, and that is why the blogsearch site has been launched, to give more people a chance to be found. Without DNS, and without having to know the web address of the site you want, a combination of voice and Google's search technology can make files on a computer available through the voice browser as well as any assets on the world wide web. Wouldn't it be great to just, as you are walking out to work say as an afterthought, “I want for you to find the best price on this movie, download it, and forward it to my television.” When you get home from work, you could just say to your television, “start a movie.” That is where we need to be going. Having all computing centralized around having multiple desktop machines in a home is a dead end. Devices and home servers are the future, and the graphical user interface is not the interface for this future.