NCLB: No Computer Left Behind
In our national quest for demanding minimum standards be attained by children, I want us to change our focus: NCLB should stand for No Computer Left Behind. You see, I am a bit worried that the technology industry is beginning to participate in the soft bigotry of lower expectations--for my computer.
I sense a growing trend toward a "device" (not a computer as we have traditionally grown to understand them) that contains less hard drive space (if any), fewer programs (if any), and a significantly simplified operating system. The brains of the machine, the storage capacity of the "device," the operating system per se is all dependent on the internet. The development of this operational model is well underway with cool online "applications" like ThinkFree, Google Documents, et.al.
Using these tools you can create documents in your web browser with tools that closely approximate the Microsoft Office suite. You can save the documents online in your free 1 gigabyte of storage space. Advantages abound: access your documents from any computer with access to the internet. Share your documents with anyone with a simple click or two. Allow others around the world to participate in the editing process--even live in a collaborative work session. Print your documents from any computer to the printer at hand.
Aside from the office-style products, there are online podcasting, screencasting, photosharing, photoediting, videosharing, videoediting, file conversion services (to name a few) as well. Shared "television viewing" services are even beginning to appear. Free and very inexpensive server space, like Amazon S3 and Box.net, for data storage is proliferating. But, gradually these free services seem to be moving to a more sustainable business model, which I alluded to in my last post. Could a business model develop that further excludes those who cannot pay "by the document" or "by the gigabyte" thereby deepening the digital divide between the haves and have nots?
If the rumor mill can be trusted, and one never knows!, at MacWorld this week Apple may introduce an internet-dependent "device." The rumor mill is calling it MacbookAir. Whether the rumor is true or not, my expectations for my computer's performance remain the same. I need the greatest possible storage (for digital media), the greatest possible processor speed (for digital media creation and distribution), and massive amounts of fast RAM. When I leave the house, I typically keep working on the road and still want as much computing power as I can get.
I don't want to give up any processing or computing power, any program functionality, or any system functionality to the creeping, crawling, unsecured world wide web. I don't want to dumb down my machine or open it to data-mining. I don't want to have to pay extra so as not to be bombarded with advertisements every time I brighten the screen or save a file to some great server in the sky. I want to minimize any dependancies to something located in the ether of "over the rainbow."
This week Apple announced their new Mac Pro with Quad-Core Intel Xeon “Harpertown” 3.2GHz processors, 1600MHz dual independent frontside buses, 12MB of L2 cache per processor, up to 4 terrabytes of disk space and 32 gigabytes of 256-bit-wide, fully buffered RAM with Error Correction Code (ECC). Now ladies and gentlemen, that's a machine! I'd love to own one so I can run the world! OK, I'll settle for using it to make digital video more efficiently.
Perhaps a market exists for a small internet-dependent "device," especially if it can easily "plug in" to it's own "mother ship" at home as well. I must confess that indeed Apple struck gold with the iPod in a time when all of the nay-sayers were asking, "Who on earth would want to watch a movie on a 1.5 inch screen?!" Well, as it turns out, the answer is: millions of people the world over. And I'm among them.
An internet-dependent device would induce an interesting business model into the technology industry, potentially doing to itself what iTunes has done to the music industry: creating a metamorphosis in the current technology content and distribution models. But a significant difference would exist: the music you buy today, for the time being at least, lives on your machine, in your procession. With the new model, you might not own the music or the video or the computer program. You might pay for access to these collections of digital bits that live on the big servers in the sky. Your access is granted or denied. The long term implications are substantive, and the scope of possibilities are interesting to consider... Yes, interesting indeed. No one knows the impact a crawling baby will have in 30 years.
I just don't want us to sink to the lowest common denominator of "cheap" and "good enough" (not that Apple ever has, in my opinion) or lose affordable access to the real horsepower the digital era affords the common guy/gal on the street, like me! Leave no computing power behind!
What are your thoughts on these issues as this post only skims the surface?