Web 2.0 – Software Above the Level of a Single Device

“Software Above the Level of a Single Device” is another one of the basic patterns of Web 2.0 identified by O’Reilly in 2004. It stems in part from Dave Stutz’s concept that “useful software written above the level of the single device will command high margins for a long time to come”. Pertaining to open source software developers (as opposed to the old paradigm of proprietary software vendors e.g. Microsoft) and their free open source software.

Tim O’Reilly states, “I have a simple test that I use in my talks to see if my audience of computer industry professionals is thinking with the old paradigm or the new.”How many of you use Linux?” I ask. Depending on the venue, 20-80% of the audience might raise its hands. “How many of you use Google?” Every hand in the room goes up. And the light begins to dawn. Every one of them uses Google‘s massive complex of 100,000 Linux servers, but they were blinded to the answer by a mindset in which “the software you use” is defined as the software running on the computer in front of you. Most of the “killer apps” of the Internet, applications used by hundreds of millions of people, run on Linux or FreeBSD. But the operating system, as formerly defined, is to these applications only a component of a larger system. Their true platform is the Internet.”

We now have Internet television and Internet gaming consoles (X-Box and PS consoles have the ability to access online gaming). Furthermore, the current era of ubiquitous networked computing has extended to networked mobile devices such as smart phones and Apple‘s new iPad. Web 2.0 applications are riding on the mobile device wave/platform. Open source software developers are looking at opportunities to extend Web 2.0 to devices. From discovering new ways users can make contact via their social networks to looking at the next revolution of future trends, and keeping it all really simple for everyone’s benefit.

The following are a few examples of leveraging the power of the web platform:

TiVo is a high definition (HD) digital video recorder (similar to Foxtel), optimised to work with a broadband connection. Features include the ability to download HD content directly from the Internet onto the TiVo hard drive, or store family photos and favourite YouTube clips on the unit.

TiVo HD hits Australia

The release of the HP MediaSmart Expander for TiVo Add-In has made storing content from a TiVo to a computer or Windows Home Server possible. “TiVo DVRs are easily connected to home networks, allowing users to schedule recordings using TiVo’s website, transfer recordings between TiVo units (Multi-Room Viewing) or transfer to and from a home computer (TiVoToGo transfers).  A TiVo can also play music and view photos over the network, and access third-party applications written for TiVo’s Home Media Engine (HME) API.” (Kenny)

Google Latitude on your mobile phone allows you to see your friend’s location on a map or in a list. Plazes is similar to Google Latitude.

Sugarsync and Dropbox are online file storage/backup, share, and sync software applications. What kind of mobile lifestyle will a single smart phone device of the future provide?

Software Above the Level of a Single Device – iTunes

iPod next to iTunes features

iPod next to iTunes features

An example O’Reilly always uses when explaining this pattern is iTunes.

“It seems to me that iTunes highlights the potential of a new application model beyond the web browser, where the personal computer acts as a control and management station for a handheld device, mediating and managing that device’s access both to personal computer data and the internet cloud. Other Apple applications have some characteristics, but it’s in iTunes, where Apple controls all levels of the user experience, that you really see the power of the model. [sic] It’s about managing all of my digital assets, and making them available to me where I want them. And those assets are increasingly ‘above the level of a single device.’”

iTunes, a proprietary digital media player application, is used for organizing and playing music and video files on a Mac or PC, and to add it to an iPod, iPhone, or Apple TV. Wikipedia adds, via the Internet, iTunes can connect to the iTunes Store (“a store that’s always open and just a click away”) to purchase and download music, music videos, television shows (American Idol), applications, iPod games, audiobooks, podcasts, feature length films and movie rentals, iTunes gift cards, and ringtones for the iPhone. iTunes is also available in a number of different languages .

iTunes store

Apple is also delivering iTunesU – university lectures for Cambridge, Oxford, East Tennessee State, and Open University. For example, Joseph Stiglitz, an Oxford University economics lecturer was reportedly at the top of a global iTunes educational chart for a lecture about the credit crunch. In its first week, the Oxford iTunes service had 60,000 downloads.

In a nutshell, the desktop PC is no longer the only access device for Internet applications, and applications that are limited to a single device are less valuable than those that connected and mobile. The aim is to produce efficient, design usable, attractive interface Web 2.0 applications for Internet services across all platforms, and push the limits of the technology.

More to follow… please stay tuned


Coughlan , S. (2008). Oxford lecture tops iTunes chart. Retrieved April 25, 2010, from http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/education/7676047.stm
Dropbox – http://www.dropbox.com/
Google Latitude – Retrieved April 24, 2010, from http://www.google.com/mobile/latitude/
iTunes Store – Retrieved April 25, 2010, from http://www.apple.com/itunes/
Kenny, C. (2010). TiVo Storage and Windows Home Server. Retrieved April 24, 2010, from http://homeservershow.com/tivo-storage-and-windows-home-server.html
Kidman, A. (2009). Tivo Genie Lets You Schedule Recording Remotely. Retrieved April 24, 2010, from http://www.lifehacker.com.au/2009/12/tivo-genie-lets-you-schedule-recordings-remotely/
O’Reilly, T. (2005). What Is Web 2.0. Retrieved April 24, 2010, from http://oreilly.com/web2/archive/what-is-web-20.html
O’Reilly, T. (2004). Open Source Paradigm Shift. Retrieved April 24, 2010, from http://tim.oreilly.com/articles/paradigmshift_0504.html#swcommond
O’Reilly, T. (2007). Software Above the Level of a Single Device. Retrieved April 25, 2010, from http://radar.oreilly.com/archives/2007/11/software-above-the-level-of-a.html
Plazes – Retrieved April 24, 2010, from http://plazes.com/
Stutz, D. (2003). Advice to Microsoft regarding commodity software.  Retrieved April 24, 2010, from http://www.synthesist.net/writing/onleavingms.html
Sugarsync – Retrieved April 24, 2010, from https://www.sugarsync.com/
TiVo – Retrieved April 24, 2010, from http://www.tivo.com.au
Wikipedia – Retrieved April 24/25, 2010, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/web_2.0, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ITunes, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_source_software and, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_Source_Definition


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2 responses to “Web 2.0 – Software Above the Level of a Single Device

  1. Kelly

    Hi Maureen,

    Interesting topic. Everyday, people spend at least sometime to watch TV. TiVo allows people to watch program and recording them and play back whatever time they want. It is interesting to know it can be connect with other networking devices such as xBox and access to its website as a central platform.

  2. Hello Kelly,
    Thank you for your comment. Yes, TiVo is a fantastic enhancement for television lovers and it includes the added significantly sized disk space. Some think it is pricey (AU$700.00), however, if one thinks about monthly foxtel fees or the additional cost of hiring/renting other similar devices (and in the end you don’t own it), then TiVo is well worth the price.

    By the way, TiVo is not the example chosen to support this Web 2.0 pattern. I’m still looking for that. My apologies, my example is pending … watch this space

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