This year’s Supernova  — a conference on emerging technologies co-sponsored by Wharton and held in San Francisco — asked participants to consider the new “industry ecosystems” and technological innovations that are emerging in response to an increasingly connected world. In this special section, Knowledge at Wharton examines such developments as the potential encroachment of web-based applications on the desktop’s turf and the privacy issues surrounding Internet-based computing; the advent of the “videonet” — the increasing number of websites that are forming an infrastructure to deliver videos created by amateurs and professionals alike; and the growing movement to microformat web information so that users can easily assimilate data in multiple ways. Also included is an interview with Adobe Systems’ chief software architect, Kevin Lynch, about Adobe’s vision for the future of software applications on the web, the desktop, and mobile handheld devices.

This coverage adds to previous Knowledge at Wharton stories leading up to Supernova 2006, including two podcasts with Kevin Werbach, professor of legal studies and business ethics at Wharton and organizer of the Supernova conference, on the subjects of online communities and IBM’s Global Innovation Outlook project.

What’s the Future of Desktop Software — and How Will It Affect Your Privacy?

Twenty years ago, the personal computer began to revolutionize the way we work and play. In recent years, though, the Internet has been the primary source of technological innovation, offering us everything from online auctions to networked research libraries. As web-based applications encroach on the desktop’s turf and a myriad of smart “devices” perform increasingly computer-like functions, will traditional desktop software begin to fade away? According to panelists at the recent Supernova 2006 conference in San Francisco, it’s clear that these technological changes will introduce new challenges for programmers and users alike. Chief among these: balancing the requirement of making an individual’s personal information available everywhere while remaining securely under his or her control.

Kevin Lynch on Adobe’s Plans for a New Generation of Software

Having completed the acquisition of Macromedia in December 2005, Adobe Systems now controls two of the de facto standards for electronic content — the Portable Document Format (PDF) and the Flash SWF format. With its forthcoming technology, code-named “Apollo,” Adobe hopes to lay the foundation for an entirely new category of software applications that provide the same cross-platform capabilities of a web browser, but with a richer set of features — putting the company on a collision course with competitors like Microsoft. At the recent Supernova 2006 conference, Knowledge at Wharton met with Kevin Lynch, Adobe’s chief software architect and senior vice president of its Platform Business Unit, to discuss the company’s vision for the future of software applications on the web, the desktop, and mobile handheld devices.

The Rise of the ‘Videonet’

A couple of years ago, only a handful of Internet sites existed for publishing videos uploaded by users. Today there are more than 225 such sites, providing the infrastructure to deliver videos created by amateurs and professionals alike. What’s next? Are we seeing the dawn of a new medium, a “videonet” that will redefine the media landscape? At the recent Supernova 2006 conference co-hosted by Wharton in San Francisco, a panel of video entrepreneurs and industry experts predicted that virtually every organization marketing to consumers — from TV stations and sports teams to soft drink and detergent makers — will rapidly develop a video presence on the Internet. And it may not stop there. If video publishing grows at rate similar to that of websites and blogs in recent years, what does it mean for traditional broadcasters, businesses, and users alike?

Tantek Çelik and Rohit Khare: The Progress and the Promise of Microformats

‘Microformats’ are simple extensions to standard HTML tags that can allow software to add website-listed events to a personal datebook, aggregate content from different web pages into a comprehensive calendar, or let people “mash up” the content in new ways such as adding events to online maps or other web pages. The microformats movement was officially launched with the unveiling of the website one year ago at Supernova 2005. Since then, tens of millions of website entities have incorporated microformatting. At Supernova 2006, Knowledge at Wharton spoke with two of the leading evangelists for microformats — Tantek Çelik, chief technical officer of Technorati, and Rohit Khare, director of CommerceNet Labs — on how microformats have progressed over the past year and the issues the movement faces going forward.