Tower of Babel?

So I'm walking around in the rain, avoiding getting work done for a while (i.e., taking a break), when I start thinking about Microsoft and how Bill Gates is getting out of the business over the next few years.

What will happen is Microsoft no longer holds a near-monopoly over operating systems?

The more I thought about it, the more I wonder whether there's a big change coming. Apple's Ipod software is shockingly bad--how did such a non-user friendly, high-maintenance software make it out Apple's door? Isn't the whole idea of Apple to be able to do stuff intuitively, and not need to fix it all the dang time?

The Microsoft hegemony could fall through an EU decision to force them to make their code available to other companies.

Other software platforms haven't earned much respect, not even LINUX.

So what comes next? Google? A software platform that you can run on your computer for free, as long as you're willing to put up with the ads and the possibility that everything you store is subject to just flat-out disappear if Google goes down for the day?

Another thing I've noticed is that portable media devices are getting more versatile. Click here (Popular Science) for a look at the new UMPC (Ultra-Mobile PCs). So what we're going to be seeing next, technology-wise, are small, mobile units capable of handling (more or less conveniently) all the functions of a computer, a cell phone, an entertainment center, and a camera all at once. Let's say the US established a national bluetooth network. Everyone, everywhere, with the cash to pull it off, will be connected. Even the census guys are going to be online by 2010.

So where does that go? A plethora of very personalized personal devices? Proprietary software that collapses as soon as you've invested in it? An open-source MS-like OS that nobody can fix?

I really want to mess around with this, which is why I'm writing it down for later...