Recently I’ve come to an Internet epiphany. Don’t worry about the word. I looked it up to make sure I was using it correctly.
I’d always thought as our use of the Internet progressed we’d need beefier hardware (aka more powerful computers) to get the job done. And certainly, that’s what the last few decades have shown us. Better computing experiences followed better hardware.
Recently there have been all sorts of changes to that conventional model. People are computing with devices like BlackBerrys and iPhones. They’re versatile bits of hardware without being all that powerful. Slowly but surely these smartphones have been pawning off the heavy lifting to ‘the cloud.’
Cloud computing means data travels the Internet and gets processed remotely. A Google search takes place in the cloud. My Gmail account lives there. So does the real work that enables the Dragon Dictation app for my iPhone. I downloaded the Siri app this weekend. That doesn’t fly without the cloud either.
This new era of cloud computing is only available because data pipes are fat. In a few years I may look back at the last sentence as a naive observation, but today we’ve got many multiples of what we had a few years ago. Most of us have all the bandwidth we think we need¹.
When bandwidth and cloud computing are heavily involved the power of user hardware becomes less critical. Tablet computing like the iPad or tiny netbooks with weak processors survive because there’s less for them to do to get the job done. Most of the job is accomplished in the cloud.
In light of this Wednesday morning’s announcement from Google becomes strikingly important.
That much bandwidth and speed means cloud computing can lift even more weight while the user hardware becomes less critical.
Telcos and cable companies must be quaking in their boots. Certainly this kind of bandwidth can open up new communication devices and methods for delivering video and audio. Even Google who’s come up with the idea expects “uses we can’t yet imagine.”
Mass media has been turned upside down within the last decade by advances in computing. Which sector will pay the price now?
¹ – In reality bandwidth is like closet space. There’s never enough.