With a lot of still fresh experience coming from starting an office from scratch and acknowledging the importance technology holds for any business operation, here are some educated predictions about our profession’s post-pandemic technological future:
1. The Death of Desktop Workstations
For businesses, the high-powered desktop workstations that architects and other creatives have long relied on will die an earlier death than expected, as mobile hardware is fully up to the task and the “place of business” is clearly now everywhere.
2. ARM Chips vs. the Intel Monopoly
Due to their low power consumption and extremely high performance, the reduced instruction set ARM-based Apple M1 and upcoming M1X chip will accelerate the shift of laptops away from the Intel CPU monopoly already hastened by AMD’s Ryzen chip and the success of ARM on Chromebooks. I wouldn’t be shocked if Microsoft releases their own Windows for Mac virtual machine product as it will be a win/win for both companies.
3. VPN is so 20th Century
Before all workstation-level computing power moves to the cloud (which I am not a proponent of) I expect market forces will bring rise to secure, but faster third-party connectivity alternatives to the VPN standards that will address the demands of high-bandwidth software like Revit, Final Cut Pro X, and some of the Adobe CC Suite for home to office connections. Current remote desktop software works surprisingly well, however the cost and energy resources required to support two computers per staff member will be deal breakers long term.
4. The Robot Employee You Didn’t Know You Wanted
Companies like Microsoft, Adobe, and Autodesk rely on their near-monopoly status to enforce a take-it-or leave it approach and now require perpetual subscriptions on essentially mature software. Currently taking the automotive business by storm, first principles engineering a la Tesla, will eventually gain a foothold in the kludgy world of legacy apps. Perhaps led by frustrated founders and small businesses owners like me, there will be a trend toward elegant, streamlined alternatives you buy once, that won’t collapse from the weight of continually adding minor features as a justification for perceived added value.
5. Small Business IT
For server hardware, small business could trend one of two ways: a movement toward hybrid hardware/software appliances that lessen the need for in-house IT expertise or a movement to more user-friendly cloud-based servers. The major software companies love the latter as part and parcel with the notion of software as a subscription. As a matter of taste, piling on more monthly subscription costs, required for the latter, is pretty loathsome.
6. Virtual Reality/Augmented Reality
Mark my words, virtual reality and augmented reality will become the normal method of presenting architectural building designs. Synchronis has done this exclusively since its founding and the current pandemic only reinforces there is absolutely no going back.
7. To Boldly Go…
Automation and machine learning will continue to reduce the ratio of staff to revenue. In this regard, subscription-based fees for software focusing on these sophisticated feature sets are likely inevitable and here to stay, until we reach a point when money itself will have to be rethought, the result of surplus human labor combined with exponential increases in machine productivity and developments in sustainable power generation, including nuclear fusion energy. If we can successfully stave off dystopia, a Star Trek civilization is coming sooner than we think.