Without access does the cloud exist? Not really.
In 2006, cloud computing entered the collective intelligence in the form of Amazon Web Services. By 2007, over 330,000 developers were registered on the platform. This rapid uptake was an outgrowth of web 1.0 applications (scale) and growth in high-speed, broadband access from 1998-2005 (ubiquity). It became apparent to all that new solutions could be developed and efficiencies improved by collapsing to the core a portion of processing and storage that had developed at the edge during the WinTel revolution. The latter had fundamentally changed the IT landscape between the late 1980s and early 2000s from a mainframe to client server paradigm.
In late 2007 the iPhone was born, just as 3G digital services were introduced by a competitive US wireless industry. In 2009 “smartphone” penetration was 18% of the market. By the 3rd quarter of 2011 that number reached 44%. The way people communicate and consume information is changing dramatically in a very short time.
The smartphone is driving cloud (aka back to the mainframe) adoption for 3 reasons: 1) it is introducing a new computing device to complement, not replace, existing computing devices at home and work; 2) the small screen limits what information can be shown and processed; 3) it is increasing the sociability, velocity and value of information. Information knows no bounds at the edge or core. And we are at the very very early stages of this dramatic new revolution.
Ice Cream Sandwich (just like Windows 2.0 multi-tasking in 1987) heralds a radical new world of information generation and consumption. Growth in processing and computation at the edge will drive the core and vice versa; just as chip advances from Intel fed software bloat on desktops further necessitating faster chips.
But the process can only expand if the networks are there (see page 2) to support that. Unfortunately carriers have responded with data caps and bemoan the lack of new spectrum. Fortunately, a hidden back door exists in the form of WiFi access. And if carriers like AT&T and Verizon don’t watch out, it will become the preferred form of access.
As a recent adopter of Google Music I have become very attuned to that. First, it is truly amazing how seamless content storage and playback has become. Second, I learned how to program my phone to always hunt for a wifi connection. Third, when I do not have access to either the 3G wireless network or WiFi and I want something that is stored online a strange feeling of being disconnected overtakes me; akin to leaving one’s cellphone at home in the morning.
With the smartphone we are getting used to choice and instant gratification. The problem with WiFi is it’s variability and unreliability. Capital and technology is being applied to solve that problem and it will be interesting to see how service providers react to the potential threat (and/or opportunity). Where carriers once imagined walled application gardens there are now fertile iOS and Android fields watered by clouds over which carriers exert little control. Storm clouds loom over their control of and ROI from access networks.