The democratisation of computing power

Computing, and software, increasing drives everything we do – it controls the cars we drive, the money we spend, the houses we live in, the stuff we watch on screens, the planes we fly in. To say computing is universally adopted is a massive understatement, it runs simply everything.

The growth and change in computing is awesome, especially when you consider most people didn’t use them until 30 years ago – and mostly that was to play computer games at home. Prior to the explosion of micro-processors, computers were housed in a secure rooms and tended by a team of white-coated engineers.

The democratisation of computing started with Bill Gates in the 80s, building business-focussed machines processing business-critical information. Some 30 years later, the majority of the world now has access to the majority of the information in world – simply by slipping that slim device out of your pocket.

This development was made possible by the convergence of a myriad of technologies and the evolution of the platforms available, and we can see the progression by looking around us. Anyone over the age of 40 (that’s most of us) will have witnessed first-hand this technological explosion.


Created in the 80s and 90s. Big, bulky and noisy, only used today by “pro-users”, gamers and late adopters. Has a biggish screen, runs some apps, connects to the internet. Lives on your desk. Pretty much unchanged for 30 years. Marking time before it becomes so niche as to become irrelevant.


Became affordable in the noughties. Kinda portable with a decent-sized screen, runs some apps, connects to the internet over fixed Wi-Fi at home, cafes, hotels and trains. Mostly needs model-specific charging. Lovely keyboards, supplanted desktops and fit easily in your backpack. Despite no major innovation for last 20 years, they remain the darling of the nomad-set and techno-geeks (check out the sticker collection, guys!).


The productivity device of the last decade, runs lots of apps and connects to the world everywhere with a small to medium-sized screen. Last all day and easy to keep powered up. Most have GPS and cameras and will fit in a slim portfolio. Cheap ones are awful, but expensive ones can do almost everything a laptop can do and more. But, most folks don’t need an additional “bigger phone” device so fast becoming the preserve of the executive-set.


Cheap, ubiquitous, connect any and everywhere. Run everything, have GPS, great cameras, music, device-to-device sharing, messaging, chat, notifications, contactless payment. They can control your life, wake you up, switch your lights, heating and security cameras. Live in your pocket with great battery life and easy charging. They also make calls, occasionally.

Voice assistants:

The kid on the block, very cheap, and directly accesses the power of the cloud (i.e. everything). From simple control systems to interactive human discussions, the voice assistant is the next generation of self-learning home-based computing platforms. Dispensing with archaic inventions such as keyboards and screen, the purity of human-like conversation converted to computing power is tantalisingly close.

As we move closer to the next decade, we have to face the reality that discrete platforms are largely dead. What counts now is synergy across all platform via a greater intelligence – think AI, shared knowledge, self-learning and big-data. Platforms will exist everywhere and in every device we own, our individual choice of platform will be based on location, context and needs.