On June 11, the Pew Internet & American Life Project published another instalment in a series of reports on the Future of the Internet – this one on cloud computing. These reports are based on the experts survey conducted by Pew in December 2009. This is an extremely valuable resource, with links on their Web site to presentations, press mentions and related Pew research. I highly recommend The Future of the Internet to anyone devoted to understanding the miraculous Internet – and to helping others understand it.
In the section beginning on p.13, the report sums up one of the social tensions created by cloud computing as follows:
“Control over actions on the Internet will change with mass adoption of the cloud. When people store their information and applications on their own computers as they have been up till now, a certain amount of choice and control is distributed to the edges of the network. A switch to the cloud places users’ data and tools behind walls owned by others, and the people in control of cloud companies may take action that constricts individual choice and restricts openness and innovation.”
My survey answer is quoted on the following page:
“By 2020 we’ll still be feeling pulled in two directions: wanting the convenience of the cloud and the enhanced privacy, security, and speed of the local. But the local won’t be confined to the desktop and general-purpose PCs. That paradigm will be exploded by ubiquitous computing, IPv6, and the primacy of mobile broadband, which will define the local in terms of our personal space. Cloud computing will become important enough to transfer internet gate-keeping powers from ISPs to firms like Google and Apple. By 2020, Google’s vast array of well-made (and still largely free) products will create walled gardens based on customer consent rather than lock-in. The old- fashioned concepts of the desktop and general-purpose PC will fade away, hastening the demise of Microsoft, which will continue to lose share in growth sectors like mobile broadband. The iPhone and App Store will be the models for another kind of gate- keeping, in the local space – not in the cloud through MobileMe, because Apple’s consumer appeal will remain rooted in its physical products. Apple’s influence over application developers will continue to cross back and forth over the line between opportunity and exploitation.”
[Correction: The report editors have inadvertantly promoted me to “director of communication studies at York University.” A nice thought, but that should read “a course director in communication studies at York University.”]
Meanwhile, back in the City of Decisions…
That would be Ottawa, where on the same day (June 11) The Wire Report’s Karen Fournier published an article entitled “Digital strategy consultation paper leaves ‘little for us to chew on,’ experts say” (requires subscription).
I’m in good company with my skeptical take on the consultation document (which I also discuss in the June issue of Telemanagement: Waiting for Canada’s digital future). Sheridan Scott said “the document’s substance was ‘surprising’ compared to the depth of other countries’ digital strategies.” Marc Garneau asked: “Is there actually some meat on the bones or are we starting from scratch now?”
I made my usual invidious comparison between Canada’s “strategy” and the FCC’s National Broadband Plan. “Ellis also said the document was crafted to please industry, not consumers. Its content, he said, puts too much emphasis on information and communication technologies (ICTs) when it should focus on broadband affordability.”
“My biggest concern with it, and I do think this is a fatal flaw, is that it does absolutely nothing for consumers.”
[Quotes by permission of The Wire Report]
In my next post, I intend to go through more of the latest OECD broadband stats – which show that our embarrassing world standing got even worse as of year-end 2009. And that includes losing our much-vaunted top ranked penetration spot in the G7, to both France and Germany.
Affordability, Mr Minister, affordability.