It was a relatively short time ago that computers were produced in the dozens, cost millions of dollars, and were run by the phone company, the government, and a few very big businesses. The most technological thing that a small business had was a cash register.
In an office environment like a law firm or an accounting firm, there were typists, and a copy machine, and the only cloud application was the connection to AT&Ts big computer (the phone). In some cases professionals had specialized tools -- I for example had my HP12C programmable calculator. I never programmed it to do anything though. Amazingly, HP still sells that very calculator - 30 years later.
Then came the PC and voicemail and email and mobile phones and well, we all became computer operators plus whatever our jobs had been before that. Now we spend so much time staring at the screen that we feel like computer operators all of the time -- so it is no wonder that we sometimes forget that we have actual jobs to do. Facebook even relieves us from having to pull away from the computer to waste time at the water cooler.
We have become much more productive despite the time we have to spend getting our machines to work for us. Since the introduction of the PC, GDP per capita in the US has grown from $27,000 to $47,000 per year. And that is the average for the entire country.
Keep in mind that workers that use PCs have done much better than the rest of the population, so the productivity has more than doubled for PC users. Advances in technology drive our economy and our ever improving quality of life. This is an easy argument to make when you consider that penecilin was an advancement in technology. A bit harder in the context of nuclear weapons.
These advances in technology have provided for us so much extra time and money that we don't know what to do with it all. Most of us have more than one computer plus a phone with computer like computing power plus maybe a tablet too.
There are two types of advances in technology: incremental things and game changers. New computing capacity that reduces the time to run a report from a giant database is incremental. New sensors that report every person's location, everything they purchase, and many of the things that they think and say into a giant database is a game changer.
The incremental things we get from technology are gains in efficiency that make one business more productive than another. Game changers are new capabilities that just could not be done before and that completely change the business environment.
As the cost of compute cycles comes down the incremental functions will blend into the background and deliver less and less profit to their makers -- so look out HP and Dell. Game changers will become the whole game and command more and more of the profits. And as always the pace of change will be accelerating. Very few companies have the will to change their own game. Apple did it with the iPhone and now generates half of their revenues from a product they introduced only 5 years ago. Google did it to the advertising industry -- but it remains to be seen if they can do it to themselves. Microsoft is in the process of trying to change their game with Windows 8. Will they be able to do it?