Random Thoughts – Randocity!

iPad, iPod, iPhone, iConsume

Posted in Apple, cloud computing, computers by commorancy on July 30, 2010

While all of these new Apple devices seem really great on the surface (pun intended), with no effective local storage, the design behind these devices offers no thought on creation or export of created content. However, the design clearly targets consumption of digital goods. Effectively, this is a one-way device for content. That is, content goes in but it doesn’t come back out. The question begs, however, does Apple think that we are only consumers now? We are now relegated to being just a bunch of ravenous money spending consumers? We don’t have brains in our heads or creativity or imagination? We’re just a bunch of finger pushing consumers with portable devices?


If there’s anything that Apple has done in recent years with these one-way devices, it’s to solidify consumerism. That is, to sell us products that are essentially one-way content input devices. Granted, it has a camera so we can take pictures or video. And yes, they may have even managed to get a video editor onto an iPad, but these apps aren’t designed for professional level editing (or even prosumer level editing). Sure, it’s fine for some random party or perhaps even a low quality wedding souvenir, but these consumer-centric devices really don’t offer much for creativity or imagination, let alone software development. It doesn’t even much offer a way to produce a spreadsheet or a word processor document. No, these platforms are almost entirely designed for consumption of digital goods (i.e., books, movies, magazines, music, web content, games, etc).

Lack of Creativity

These devices were designed to consume, not create. Consume, consume, consume and then consume some more. Yes, some creativity apps have popped up, but they’re more game than serious. They’re there to let you play when you’re bored. Even these creativity apps must be consumed before you can use them. As these are really read-only devices (no hard drive, external storage or other ways of getting things out of the device), these creativity apps really aren’t meant to be taken seriously. In other words, these apps are there to placate those who might think these are consumer focused only. In reality, these creative apps are shells of what a real creative app looks like, such as Photoshop, Illustrator, AutoCAD or Maya. Even prosumer apps like Poser and Daz Studio are still leaps and bounds better than anything that’s available on these iConsumer devices.

Computers vs iConsumers

Computers are designed as well rounded devices capable of not only consuming content, but creating it. That is, as a computer owner, you have the choice to both produce and consume content. Granted, there are a lot of people who have no intention of writing music, painting a digital work, developing an application or writing a novel. However, with a computer, you have these choices available. With iConsumer devices, you really don’t. On IOS 4 or even Android, these devices just don’t have enough resources to run these types of full sized apps. So, you won’t find a full Office suite on the Droid or an iPhone. Even something as big as the iPad still doesn’t have a productivity suite that would work in a proper or efficient way. Granted, Android likely supports Google Docs. But, even still, I don’t want to sit around all day pecking in information on a chicklet keyboard of a phone. Give me a solid full sized qwerty keyboard any day for creation.

Cloud Computing, Operating Systems and a step backwards

Apple definitely missed the ball on this one. With a device like the iPad without any local storage, the only way this device could actually create is by using cloud computing services. Unfortunately, Apple offers nothing in cloud computing. The iTunes store is a poor alternative to that. In fact, the iTunes store is just a store. It doesn’t offer online apps like Google Docs, it doesn’t offer any types of web based or cloud based services that the iPad can consume. The sole way to deal with the iPad is through apps that you must download from the store. Yes, there may be ‘an app for that’, but many times there isn’t.

The other difficulties with apps is that they don’t work together on the device. There is no app synergy. For example, NeXTStep (the operating system that gave birth to Mac OS X and later iOS4) was a brilliant design. It offered a system where any app could extend the operating system by adding new controls or features. New apps installed could then consume those controls within its own app framework (sometimes even launching the other app to do so). With iPhone OS (any version), Jobs has taken a huge step backwards in computing. No longer is this extension system available. Apps are just standalone things that don’t interact or interrelate to or with one another. Yes, now multitasking may be back, but they’re still just standalone things. About the extent of interrelation between apps is having one app launch Safari and open a URL. Wow.. so sophisticated.

Notebook and creation tools

Granted, there are a lot of people who’s sole goal is to consume. And yes, it’s probably true that most people only want to consume. The question is, though, do you want to give up the ability to create to only consume? That’s exactly what you give up when you buy into the iPad, iPod or iPhone. When these portable devices can clearly consume and create content equally well and don’t force consumers to make this choice when purchasing a device, then the device will have its true potential. Until then, I see these consumerist devices as easy ways to give your money away. For people who don’t need portable creation tools, that’s fine. For those of us who do, then a full fledge hard drive-equipped notebook is still the only portable device that fills this void.

Cloud Computing Standards

We are not where we need to be. Again, the iPad was a shortsighted rapidly-designed device. It was designed for a small singular purpose, but that purpose wasn’t long term designed. Sure, the OS is upgradeable and perhaps the device may get to that point. Perhaps not. Apple has a bad habit of releasing new devices making the old ones obsolete within months of the previously-new device. So, even if a device is truly capable of reaching its potential, Apple will have tossed it aside for a new hardware device 6-10 months later.

Clearly, cloud computing will need to establish a standard by which all cloud computing devices will operate. That means, the standards will discuss exactly how icons are managed, how apps are installed and how people will interface with the cloud apps. That doesn’t mean that different devices with different input devices can’t be created. The devices can, in fact, all be different. One computer may be keyboard and mouse based, another may be touch surface based. What the cloud standards will accomplish is a standard by which users will interact with the cloud. So, no matter what computer you are using, you will always consume the cloud apps the same way. That also means the cloud apps will always work the same no matter what interface you are using.

We are kind of there now, but the web is fractured. We currently have no idea how to find new sites easily. Searching for new sites is a nightmare. Cloud computing standards would need to reduce the nightmare of search, increase ease of use for consumers and provide standardized ways of dealing with cloud computing services. In other words, the web needs dramatic simplification.

Cloud Computing and the iPad

The iPad is the right device at the wrong time and consumers will eventually see this once a real cloud computing device hits the market. Then, the iPad will be seen as a crude toy by comparison. A true cloud computing device will offer no storage, but have a huge infrastructure of extensible interrelated apps available online. Apps similar to Google Docs, but so many more types all throughout every single app category. From games, to music, to video, to photography, to finance, to everything you can imagine. Yes, a true cloud computing device will be able to consume as freely as it can create. A cloud computing OS will install apps as links to cloud services. That is, an icon will show on the ‘desktop’, but simply launch connectivity right into the cloud.

Nothing says that you need a mouse and keyboard to create content, but you do need professional quality to produce professional content. I liken the apps on the iPad to plastic play money you buy for your kids. Effectively, they’re throw-away toy apps. They’re not there for serious computing. To fully replace the desktop with cloud computing, it will need fully secured full-featured robust content creation and consumption applications. You won’t download apps at all. In fact, you will simply turn your portable computer on and the cloud will do the rest. Of course, you might have to use a login and password and you might be required to pay a monthly fee. But, since people are already paying the $30 a month for 3G service, we’re already getting accustomed to the notion of a monthly service fee. It’s only a matter of time before we are doing all of our computing on someone else’s equipment using a portable device. For listening to music, we’ll need streaming. But, with a solid state cache drive, the device will automatically download the music and listen offline. In fact, that will be necessary. But this is all stuff that must be designed and thought out properly long before any cloud device is released. …something which Apple did not do for the iPad. What they did do, though, is create the perfect digital consumption device. That is, they produced a device that lets them nickel and dime you until your wallet hates you.

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iPad: Reflections of things to come?

Posted in cloud computing by commorancy on February 3, 2010

While many critics are discussing the iPad’s lack of design and originality, I’ve come to another conclusion about this device and its ultimate vision.  Jobs has always been a visionary among computing technologies.  This device may seem unoriginal on the surface, but the one question that must be asked, “Is this device the first salvo to the death of the PC?” As much as you might consider that this is a PC, I believe that this device and its form factor may be the future of thin computing (like it or not).


Some technologists predict that wireless technologies and broadband connections will get to the speed threshold that will render hard drives obsolete.  There is some merit to this argument.  Indeed, once the network speeds exceed hard drive speeds, what then is the need for the hard drive?  So, why keep your data on flaky devices prone to failure?  This is especially true when there’s plenty of cloud storage that can protect your data from loss.

With that in mind, once we unburden the computer from unstable storage technologies (ignoring the ramifications to Western Digital and Seagate), the need for portable always-connected devices like the iPad become amazingly clear.

iPad 1.0

The iPad is still firmly tied to storage technologies, albeit sans hard drive.  Instead, it uses flash storage.  Flash storage is silent and probably longer lasting than unstable mechanical drives.  Flash can be placed into footprints that can make devices very small.  As the size of flash memory increases and their subsequent footprint decreases, this memory offers unprecedented size possibilities.  While the iPad is a clumsy design, one thing is clear… it may yet become the first viable cloud computing device.

Cloud Computing

This is the prediction from technologists that spell doom and gloom to the likes of Microsoft and Apple.  Well, at least doom and gloom to the operating systems we know and love.  With cloud computing, no longer will we have the need for local storage.  Instead, all of our files will exist on servers in the cloud.  Indeed, when broadband technologies get to gigabit speeds, it will far exceed the speed of slow, mechanical, loud and unreliable hard drive technologies.  Flash storage will become the defacto standard for temporary local storage. With always-on computing at every place around the globe at gigabit speeds, there will be no need to for the hard drive.  This means your files will always be online.

We are already heading in that direction rapidly.  With sites like Flickr and Picasa, you can store all of your photos online.  With Last.fm, you can listen to just about any music you want.  With Hulu, you can watch all of the TV that you want.  These are all perfect examples of cloud computing.  With always-on cloud computing, you will eventually have access to anything you need immediately. For example, you want to watch a movie released to the theaters last Friday?  Tune in and you’re watching.

The immediacy of any data you can possibly want will usher in cloud computing and possibly spell death to the PC.

Dumb Terminals

With the release of devices like the iPad and other solid state tablet devices, it’s clear we’re moving towards cloud computing.  We just need our Internet speeds to become much faster.  Data security issues need to be fully addressed, yes.  Were cloud computing to become the defacto standard, and I believe it has a strong chance of that, smaller thinner devices with thin client softwares (lightweight operating systems) may spell the end to the likes of Windows and Mac OS X (at least for consumer devices).  With thin client computing, devices can become very thin, sleek and very fast.  Instead of shuttling around small SD cards from device to device, each consumer device will include a thin client to upload videos and audios directly to the cloud.

The immediacy of such consumer data will also user in a new wave of news reporting.  An earthquake in Haiti?  Cloud computing will ensure images appear on the web immediately by cloud users.

How do the business models work?

That’s dependent on businesses.  With Google positioning itself as being the leader in cloud computing, it has already a substantial leap over other slow barge companies like Microsoft.  Oracle’s Larry Ellison had predicted cloud computing years ago.  While his prediction was years early and no where near ready for primetime, his prediction may actually be coming into reality.

Data Centers

Clearly, the hard drive will never go away entirely.  Cloud computing requires massive data centers with lots of spindles holding data somewhere.  So, the burden of storage will be firmly placed onto companies like Google.  So, while consumer devices become smaller, more compact and offer cloud computing, business’ data centers will still require larger computers with hefty storage systems (the data has to exist somewhere).  So, while thin computer may become commonplace in years to come for consumers, data centers will still be firmly entrenched in larger numbers of computers and the then fastest storage technologies.  So, while Seagate and Western Digital may no longer be household words for consumers, they will still have a huge presence in the back ends that run the clouds.

Where we are now

Our Internet is still far too slow to be of real use in cloud computing today and, thus, not really ready for thin computing yet.  But, as technology progresses, we will see much faster Internet speeds in the future.  This will allow for always-on wireless anywhere computing.  As devices become more portable and connected, it is inevitable that consumer technology become dumber to take advantage of remote storage.  Right now, I see cloud computing as at least 10-20 years out for true viability.  However, I believe that in hindsight, the iPad and iPod touch may be seen as the ‘father’ of thin computing devices.

Local Storage / Death of Windows?

For better or worse, thin client computing is coming. No longer will we need bloated operating systems like Windows. Once the immediacy of cloud storage becomes apparent, users will rapidly see the convenience of being able to get their files anywhere at anytime.  Local storage traps your data in one computer that you only have access to at limited times.  Cloud computing allows you to store your data in omnipresent storage that can be accessed 24/7 from anywhere. More than this, software as a service (SaaS) will ensure apps on the web rather than the need to be installed locally.

Standardized thin client computers will offer throw-away computers.  Computers that, when broken, are simply tossed and you purchase another.  No need to worry, “Oh, I’ve lost all my files”.  Just simply buy a new thin client, login and all your files are immediately there.  This is convenience and hassle-free computing at its simplest.

The iPad may be a considered a failure in our current local computing mentality, but it may actually be the perfect computer to usher in cloud computing.  It just needs to overcome some hurdles like lack of Flash and Silverlight.

There may yet be method to Steve Jobs’ madness.

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