Most of the buzz this year is all about the device (iPad, Galaxy Tab, Android, netbook, MacBook Air) and how it’s used (Facebook, Twitter, “liking,” “poking,” etc.). But I think the infrastructure story — the Cloud story — is more meaningful.
I’m not talking about the business story (how companies, including mine, are gradually moving their data storage and management offsite, and outsourcing their application provision). I’m talking about the individual story: how, for more and more people, access to the data they use in their personal and professional lives has become not only a platform-agnostic affair, but a device-independent one.
- Almost all the information I need to use to conduct my life now lives “on the Internet.” That includes not just email, contacts, and appointments; I’m also talking about documents I produce and share professionally, reference material, entertainment content, etc.
- The few exceptions (e.g., the photos I took last week, which are sitting on the hard drive of my laptop) are, more often than not, a matter of me not taking advantage of existing channels to the Cloud, rather than such channels not existing.
- Google knows everybody. At some point about two years ago — and note that this is after I started my current job — I stopped keeping people’s contact information, because I realized that every new person I met who was 70 or younger could be found on the Internet if I remembered their name. Technically, if I meet them through work, I may not even remember their name, because most people I meet professionally can be found again online with a smart Google search using a few snippets of descriptive information (employer, job title, etc.)
- Google knows everything. By analogy to the preceding: I no longer keep factual or business information around because I “might need it later.” The nature of research has largely changed: now it’s a matter of asking the body of Internet de facto public record for what I need, rather than consulting a formal compilation (directory, etc.) and/or (re-)finding information that I (personally) squirreled away in the past.
I now live in a world in which I can potentially reach for almost any computing device that happens to be at hand (whether it belongs to me or not) and conduct almost any information transaction that I wish. In my daily life I use an iPhone, an iPad, and a MacBook largely interchangeably, choosing one over another based mostly on convenience in the moment and on form factor, rather than on suitability. Sure, at the margins, one device will be “better” than the others for certain transactions or in certain settings; but in the main, they all do most of the same things acceptably well.
And this is the beginning of the transformation, not its end state.
In the context of all this, it’s important to note that I didn’t really have to do anything special to make all this happen. I just lived my life, making choices (e.g., following or not following my employer’s recommendations, buying or not buying devices, signing up or not signing up for online services) as they were presented to me in the course of my ordinary affairs. Sure, I work for a technology company, and I’m an early-ish adopter; but I don’t live on the bleeding edge, and don’t have time to waste on unproven technologies or tactics. I don’t try something new until I’ve seen evidence, from others, that it works. And all this stuff works more or less as advertised.