Andreessen has his head in the clouds

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The next great wave in computing will comprise hosted platforms and services, according to Netscape co-founder Marc Andreessen..

Andreessen, who helped to create Mosaic, the first popular web browser, made the comments during an interview with Salesforce.com president Marc Benioff.

The web pioneer suggested that remotely hosted 'cloud computing' platforms will make it simple for developers to form new companies.

Andreessen's current Ning project allows users to create customised social network systems.

"More and more start-ups are basically launching with the assumption that they are going to be purely virtual," he said.

"They have a bunch of laptops to be able to get on the web, and that is all they are doing."

Andreessen pointed out that less funding is needed up front because hosted platforms do not require developers to have large amounts of storage or network hardware.

This makes it easier for new companies to get off the ground, perhaps leading to thousands of new firms and prompting a "seismic shift" in Silicon Valley.

Companies that provide network hardware and infrastructure, such as Sun Microsystems, would have to become the "arms suppliers" that maintain the remote on-demand platforms.

Andreessen does not see his vision wiping out Silicon Valley, because the area's concentration of talent and funding provides an unparalleled environment for start-ups.

But he does foresee cases of developers with similar backgrounds to his being able to steal a bit of the Valley's thunder.

"There are going to be lots of interesting new apps that are going to get built on top of these new platforms," he said.

"Some kid who is 14 in rural Wisconsin or Vietnam, and who has access to a computer, is able to go online and build applications."
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