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In 2019, The International Future Computing Association (TIFCA) committed to helping enable the Client-to-Cloud Revolution – the journey to the next era of computing. It’s nearing a year since its last ecosystem summit, and I wanted to take some time to share an update on our progress, a key lesson learned along the way, and what we are doing next.
TIFCA wants to help enable two simultaneous shifts in the compute and content creation fields.
First, we see a future of three compute models:
- Localized compute where our devices are nearly 100% self-reliant – this is the norm for today through PC, console, and mobile devices.The thinking is that even though they all work with the cloud, much of the heavy lifting can be done locally. Good examples are games that use cloud support for multiplayer scorekeeping and interaction, or for when our calendars and apps get populated by distant service providers.
- Compute that is 100% supported from the cloud – think cloud gaming, streaming, web-based content, etc.
- A true hybrid client-cloud system where our local compute devices share in the processing responsibility with the cloud. In other words, our local devices will work according to their intrinsic abilities, and get further enhanced by cloud-based processing.
All three of these models would co-exist in the ecosystem according to what works best for a given content scenario, what that content is running on, and the available access to the Internet and its cloud resources.
The second element of this next era of computing has to do with content and application creation. We think it will be very challenging for content developers to support most if not all of these compute models and platforms at the same time, and we want to contribute to making this ecosystem more practical for all involved.
A potential solution is to make it possible for a single version of software to run on multiple compute devices at a time, and still take advantage of the unique attributes and benefits of the equipment the user is running. For example, if they are running on an advanced PC, the experience and how that experience works should be different from the same software running on a tablet or a set-top box. However, the content developer should only be required to create a single version of software to make this possible. We call this Create Once, Reach All (CORA), or Project CORA in TIFCA circles.
This vision will only be possible if we expand the abilities of the tools we have today, and create new methodologies for creating content.
Over the course of months, TIFCA mapped out preliminary architecture and decision trees for how such a model could work for content developers, tools, the hardware ecosystem, current standards, and more – and we continue to have enriching conversations around this.
As we progressed through the complexities of the ecosystem, it reaffirmed our belief that this vision is much bigger than TIFCA alone. Its success would require an expansion of existing standards, and the creation of something completely new for the industry at large.
To help verify this further, TIFCA’s executive invited some trusted experts to our meetings to better understand what content developers are going through today. What we learned supported our direction, and it became clear that we needed more far-reaching input to help fill our understanding of the ecosystems so that we could plan and build effectively.
The solution was to do a cross-market study from three perspectives:
- Software engineers and programmers (coders).
- Content Creators / Visionaries (artists)
- Hardware ecosystems (devices, IHVs, etc.)
The software engineers and content creators are part of the same group; just two very different perspectives between those that code and those that are more on the artistic and vision side that use creativity tools (e.g. graphics tools, design tools, etc.). The hardware ecosystems represent the client-cloud devices, independent hardware vendors, components, and so on. There is a fourth group which we call “infrastructure” – they represent broadband, 5G, distribution and deployment, etc. We will address this group on a different schedule from the rest.
Originally, all we wanted to understand were the challenges developers and hardware ecosystems are going through to enable cross-platform support – and this proved to be more complicated than anticipated!
A repeated theme from meeting to meeting was debate on what is meant by “cross-platform”. Are we talking about the PC, smartphone, or console we are running our content on? Is it the choice of head mounted display or augmented reality glasses? Are we talking about the game engine? Is it a specific standard or set of standards?
The group was stuck in the mud because it grew too difficult to ask the right questions – let alone find the right answers! Then it hit us. We were experiencing the confusion and disarray that the compute ecosystems are struggling with right now, and the questions we are trying answer were hiding in plain sight.
Is it possible that the perspectives from one group to the next is further apart than we ever imagined? If so, what opportunities and resources are being lost? Is there an opportunity to bring these viewpoints closer together, and what would be gained by that?
This immediately struck a chord, things quickly took shape, and the study was updated with these goals:
- Learn what cross-platform means for different members of the ecosystem.
- Determine what content developers and hardware ecosystems are doing today and why.
- Identify gaps between what is being done and what could be done for end-users and end-user experiences.
- Discover potential for making things easier and more effective for content and hardware ecosystems.
We are pursuing the study in three phases:
Phase one is availability of the questionnaires. TIFCA has partnered with industry leading organizations like The Khronos Group, Jon Peddie Research, M2 Insights, the International Game Developers Association, and more, and the survey is live at tifca.com. Respondents need only complete one questionnaire according to their type of expertise. We estimate the whole process will take about seven to ten minutes.
The second phase is we are going to reveal the findings at the virtual International Future Computing Summit on November 20, 2020. Everyone who completes the questionnaire by October 1, 2020 qualifies for a free ticket to the summit while supplies last – we want what is learned to be shared.
The third phase is a more formal report which we will develop in TIFCA and make publicly available in the new year.
We are very excited to get diverse ecosystem perspective on what it means to build cross-platform in today’s day and age and the challenges you go through to make that happen. All opinions matter, and we look forward to your participation in shaping our ecosystem’s future.
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