Thursday, March 06, 2008

The Wireless Movement Toward Cloud Computing...

The Pew Internet & American Life Project released a report yesterday that provides statistical evidence of the rapidly increasing use of cell phones for non-voice data applications. In plain English, this means that a greater percentage of Americans are using their cell phones for accessing the internet, sharing pictures and videos, checking email, and many other things besides actually talking to another human being. Perhaps this doesn't come as a huge surprise to many of you, but something else in the study might - the fact that, in certain demographic groups, the people who are primarily using cell phones for non-voice data applications are the same ones who lag in home internet adoption.

Put another way, cell phones and other mobile devices are now being used as the PRIMARY way of connecting to the internet for more and more people.

This is significant for a couple of reasons. First, it signals a coming shift in technological development for web applications. The Pew Study is correct in its assessment that, "with the Federal Communications Commission auctioning spectrum well-suited for high-speed wireless applications, and with some companies beginning to open up handheld devices to application developers, more innovations in wireless access are on the horizon". These innovations ought to grow the market and expand the diversity of products and services available to consumers. And that's a good thing.

Second, it accelerates the rate at which we can expect cloud computing to overtake the traditional desktop model. Cloud computing refers to the idea of software applications and data storage occurring on remote web-accessible servers managed by high-speed networks. For years, prognosticators have touted it as someday replacing the currently predominant method of installing software and saving files on a machine's hard drive. But in the cloud, "computing applications and users' data archives will increasingly be accessible by different devices anytime, anywhere over fast and widely available wireless and wired networks."

This might seem a bit "pie-in-the-sky", but as I've written before, it's actually already more pervasive than most of us incline to believe.

Finally, the move to cloud computing may also support the open Web 2.0 model of shared user-generated content. As Google's Eric Schmidt has written, it "not only puts pressure on companies to develop open standards for wireless devices, it also shifts power to users as they create and share digital content".

So to sum up, the logic is that the adoption of mobile devices as people's primary way of connecting to the internet naturally moves the software and data storage industries in the direction of cloud computing, and, since open standards for wireless devices are necessary for the cloud computing movement to continue its ascent, the market will push for them, ultimately giving people more power over what internet content is available to them.

Almost sounds too easy.


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