So far I’ve looked at devices with which we’ll interact with information in 2020. Now I’m changing gears to look at the backend.
Fry’s is selling Terabyte hard drives for $69.99 this week. A Terabyte is, give or take, a billion pages of text, or a million books. An entire library. Or a month’s worth of video. At the current rate, give or take, we’ll get a factor of at least 100 ($0.69 per Terabyte) by 2020; chances are it will be all solid state memory instead of spinning disks, but I don’t care too much about this distinction in this blog. I do care that we will also get substantially higher communication bandwidth and better broadband coverage by 2020, which can be used to instantly access more storage in the cloud. Note that much of the need for storage on client-side devices is driven by a lack of good high-speed connectivity: if I can easily get at my iTunes collection over a network, there is not need to carry a copy of it in my pocket, a major driver for client-side storage needs today.
Together, this means that by 2020 we’ll essentially have unlimited storage capacity for free on our personal devices for any foreseeable application. I’ve been attempting to come up with applications that require multi-terabyte storage on a client-side device, and have come up with basically nothing. Visual input is the highest-bandwidth input channel to humans, and there is no way even a single terabyte is insufficient as a cache to a high-speed communications link for video. Sensors on devices are unlikely to produce higher-bandwidth data either.
If we go into the realm of the very speculative, we could think of some wearable health monitoring systems (like “portable MRIs”) that could possibly produce higher data rates, but for a variety of reasons I think those are unlikely by 2020.
So the price points for client-side storage will gradually approach zero because there’s no need for higher-priced storage on the client. One lesson to draw: you won’t get rich as a vendor of client-side storage in 2020.
P.S. as usual, please tell me that I’m wrong if I am!