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June 11, 2010

Pew surveys Experts on the future of cloud computing

Pew Internet surveyed a bunch o’ experts about where will be in The Cloud in 2020. The survey was more intended to elicit verbal responsesthan to come up with reliable numbers, but overall the experts seem to agree that we’ll be computing with a hybrid of desktop and cloud services. That seems a safe bet, especially since given enough bandwidth, all services are local. (Hasn’t distance always been the time it takes to connect?)

Several of the experts push back against the term “cloud,” Gary Bachula because it’s a “bad metaphor for broadening understanding of the concept,” and Susan Crawford because its ubiquity will mean that we “won’t need a word for it.”

Many worry about the power this will put in the hands of the Big Cloud Providers, with Robert Ackland arguing that “we need the cloud to be built using free and open source software.”

Several believe that there will be some prominent act of terrorism or incompetence in The Cloud that will drive people back to their desktops: “Expect a major news event involving a cloud catastrophe security breach or lost data to drive a reversion of these critical resources back to dedicated computing,” says Nathaniel James, or “a huge blow up with errorism,” predicts R. Ray Wang. Most agree it will be “both/and,” not “either/or.”

Many think that we’re not recognizing the depth of the change. For example, Fred Hapgood is among those who predicts the death, transformation, or marginalization of the PC: “By 2020 the computational hardware that we see around us in our daily lives will all be peripherals – tablets, goggles, earphones, keyboards, 3D printers, and the like. The computation driving the peripherals will go on in any of a million different places…” Says Garth Graham: “By 2020, a ‘general-purpose PC’ and a ‘smart phone’ will have converged into a range of general-purpose interactive connection devices, and ‘things’ will have acquired agency by becoming smart. “The PC is just a phase,” says Rebecca MacKinnon.

Some of the commenters point to the global digital divide, although they don’t agree on which side will be most cloud-based. Gary Arlen says that because of the U.S.’s desktop-based infrastructure, we won’t move into the cloud as rapidly as will less-developed nations. Seliti Arata, however, says, “Business models will provide premium services and applications on the cloud for monetization. However most of the world population will continue to use pirated software on their desktops and alternative/free cloud services.”

As for me, I don’t have predictions because the future is too furious. For example, the speed and availability of broadband access in this country is unpredictable and is by itself determinative, not to mention the Internet-seeking asteroid this is currently streaking toward the Earth. It’s safe to say, however, (= here comes something that in 5 years I’ll feel foolish for having said) that we’re going to move more and more into the cloud. The only thing I’d add to The Experts is that this will have network effects like crazy — effects due to the scale of data and social connections being managed under one roofless roof (with, we hope, lots of openness as well as security).

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November 5, 2009

Pew Internet: Staring at screens makes us more social

I’m in an airport, beginning a day of transit that seems to bend time in a Time Zonish way, so I haven’t had time to actually read this Pew Internet report, but my understanding is that it challenges the assumption that mobiles, texting, the Internet, and all the rest make us more isolated. It turns out (apparently), that Internet and cell phone users have larger and more diverse social networks than non-users. Which way the causality runs, I don’t know. But the Pew Internet stuff is invariably interesting, so I thought I’d point it out.

Now, it’s off to the airport gate so that I can circle the globe in the wrong direction, reverse the flow of time, and finally remember where I put that Superman comic in 1958.

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July 25, 2009

The racial divide in Internet devices

A Pew Internet report says that while 56% of Americans have accessed the Internet wirelessly, there’s a stark racial divide in the devices we use. About half of the African-American and English-speaking Hispanic population accesses the Net through cellphones and other handheld devices, but only 28% of white Americans have ever done so.

Three bullet points quoted from the report:

* 48% of Africans Americans have at one time used their mobile device to access the internet for information, emailing, or instant-messaging, half again the national average of 32%.

* 29% of African Americans use the internet on their handheld on an average day, also about half again the national average of 19%.

* Compared with 2007, when 12% of African Americans used the internet on their mobile on the average day, use of the mobile internet is up by 141%.

We can read this in many different ways:

  • Mobiles are helping to end the digital racial divide

  • Mobiles are extending the digital racial divide by providing second-class Net access to African Americans

  • For a far greater percentage of African Americans than white Americans, the Net is less generative and participatory

  • We’d better make sure that the carriers become device independent and Net neutral

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April 16, 2009

Pew study on Net and politics

Pew Internet has a new report out about the role of the Internet in the recent presidential campaign. It confirms that more than half of us went online for info, and many of us were quite active. In fact, here’s one nugget from the report:

Due to demographic differences between the two parties, McCain voters were actually more likely than Obama voters to go online in the first place. However, online Obama supporters were generally more engaged in the online political process than online McCain supporters. Among internet users, Obama voters were more likely to share online political content with others, sign up for updates about the election, donate money to a candidate online, set up political news alerts and sign up online for volunteer activities related to the campaign. Online Obama voters were also out in front when it came to posting their own original political content online–26% of wired Obama voters did this, compared with 15% of online McCain supporters.

Lots of fodder for thought in this survey…

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January 30, 2009

Pew Excellence in Journalism now watching blogs

Pew’s Research Center for Excellence in Journalism has now added a weekly new media report on what the ol’ blogosphere is blathering on about. That’s you and me, sister. Or what most people indexed by Technorati and Icerocket are talking about, anyway. For example, we seem to have focused a lot on Obama’s inauguration. (Wasn’t that three months ago? Time doesn’t fly when the Republicans are insisting on their old partisan ways.)

And here’s a hasty conclusion from the first week’s report: We bloggers really need to be reading Global Voices in order to get our gazes up from our American innie navels.

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December 4, 2008

Keeping national broadband useful, usable, and a hotbed of innovation

John Horrigan of Pew Internet & American Life project wonders what their online research says about possible national broadband policies, if we were ever to have one. The essay begins this way:

…America’s middling standing in world rankings on broadband adoption has served as a call to arms for the new administration to develop a national broadband strategy…

The body of research from the Pew Internet Project, dating to 2000, indicates that online Americans might have one more suggestion: Make sure the internet remains a place where users define what it means to be digitally connected.

John points to many-to-many collaboration as the new wave, and refers us to research showing that while 42% of cell phone users use them for something other than making a call, that number is even higher for minority groups. So, a national broadband policy should not only keep the bands open for innovation, but it should cover wireless devices and other devices. And, suggests John, as e-gov services are rolled out, they ought to be held to a very high standard for usability.

Only connect“? Nah. Connect everyone, with whatever devices they want, and with the freedom to go where they want and invent what they want.

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