Olympics 2.0, Miss Bikini and the end of Operating Systems

There’s nothing like a catchy blog title. And some days the inspiration is – well – right there in your face. As we approach the end of the Olympic games, I am quite sure that many employees return to their offices as spoiled consumers of a highly interactive Internet experience. For the first time, we have been able to follow such a major event as the Olympics utilising all the capabilities of advanced, web-based technology. And it is creating a pent-up demand, as it further emphasises the often painful gap between what we already consider as ‘normal’ at home and what corporate IT can supply at work.
Many regions will have their own, excellent best practices (the NBC Olympics site for example), but in my home country – the Netherlands – the official Dutch Television Olympics website has drawn a lot of attention. Not only because people eagerly want to follow our nation’s neck and neck race with China in winning the most medals, but also because the site is an excellent showcase of how Rich Internet Applications and Web 2.0 concepts combine into a truly compelling result. Have a look yourself (I take it the Dutch language is self-explanatory to most of you) and see how many recent, good IT ideas fluently merge into one experience.

It’s all there: integrated video and audio – live streams plus an on-demand archive – and extensive background info linked to it, real-time schedules and results, catchy business graphics, many different blogs, RSS feeds, tagging, Googlified search, video ranking, polls, daily elections (‘Olympic moment of the day’), a fully functional mobile version and news widgets that can be used for personal mashups in iGoogle, FaceBook, NetVibes or the Vista desktop. A wealth of inspiration in many different ways, no matter what your own IT direction may look like.
What is remarkable, is that the entire experience is provided through the browser, enabled in this case by Microsoft’s Silverlight plug-in. This is essentially light-weight technology which is independent of the platform (it runs perfectly fine on my Apple, for example). It puts all the discussion around which is the best operating system in a different light: who cares about an operating system if all you need is a browser to run the most attractive applications we have seen so far? Do we really want to dive deep any more into what Windows 7 should look like? Should we really be surprised that the new version of OS X will contain nothing more than stability and performance improvements? The future of applications is on the Internet and in the browser – we felt it more than ever this summer – and operating systems will be rendered into an Invisible Infostructure.
That said, we yet have to explore the real power of Web 2.0. And tapping into the wisdom of the crowd still releases the good, the bad and the ugly. The tag cloud of the Dutch Olympics site gives an excellent insight in what subjects are most popular on the site, so it helps others to focus on the highlights. ‘Paraguay’ however, appeared to be one of the biggest subjects. It puzzled me first, but then it turned out that one of Paraguay’s female javelin throwers is a former beauty queen and competed multiple times in a Miss Bikini contest.
Clearly a case of multiple talents, some people must have thought.

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