Change is in the air
One of the recent trends in technology is the move to the cloud. But what does this mean for people, and why is it happening?
The cloud is something that everyone in the technology space seems to be talking about. Put simply, the cloud is someone else's computers, all clustered together, somewhere, onto which you put all your data and applications and can access from anywhere over the internet.
Businesses are interested since it offers reduced infrastructure costs, easy rollout to distributed sites, low maintenance costs, and so on. But, as a person interested in the experiences of people, that's not why it's interesting to me. For me, the cloud offers a massive step-change in how we experience information, and is also a reflection of the technological society we live in.
Look around you. How many electronic, computer-type devices do you own? Laptop - check. Desktop in the other room - check. iPad or other tablet - maybe. Smartphone - almost certainly. Kindle? Maybe. Let's focus on that.. Great device though it is - in whatever version you have - it's not the hardware that impresses most. It's the fact that you can read a book on the Kindle, and get to, say, page 34. Then you go to work and leave your Kindle at home, and in your lunch hour you decide to carry on reading. You fire up the Kindle app on another device - smartphone, iPad, laptop, it doesn't matter which - and you can continue reading: same book, same page - as if you'd never stopped. And this is, for me, the main benefit of the cloud - it meshes well with the interconnected ecosystem of digital devices that we are tending to accumulate, offering a coherent, connected experience separated from the actual thing we are using to access it.
Apple is moving into the cloud space, with new services designed to offer access to your music, and probably photos and documents and other media no matter which way you want to access them. Amazon already offer cloud services for programmers who want to leverage their massive computing power for their own ends - and Google mail and docs are already well-established.
Of course there are challenges - securing personal data from intrusion; ensuring advertisers don't take over the whole space; working well with intermittent internet access - all are issues that need more work. But the cloud also saves us from our own incompetencies: when was the last time you actually backed up your laptop, for example? if your data is in the cloud, it's always backed up.
So it offers us protection from our laziness, fits well with our fragmented electronic lifestyle, allows us to indulge in a love of gadgets, and gives us a much better, more coherent user experience. The cloud is here to stay.