Apple and the Cloud: A Cautionary Tale

4/6/12

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help you do what you want. You’ll need to broadcast your identity on a need-to-know basis, receive permissions, provide access to your preferences, make transactions, get information, find people, make decisions, update plans, collaborate, negotiate, and much more. Now that the transparent AMOLED screen is available in test quantities, we can start to see the day when the screens are brutally cheap and ubiquitous, and the data is the valuable thing. A web of data integrates with a web of events and services that constantly adapt, learn, and grow to meet ever-changing demands.

In this rich environment, we won’t think nearly as much about apps as we do today. We don’t need an app-centric computing environment; we need a model with the data at the center. And that’s where the personal data locker comes in.

The Personal Data Locker

As much as both Apple and Facebook would like everyone to do everything on their platforms, we are a long way from building webscale data/service ecosystems. Just 10 years from now, we will have 7 billion people and some 50 billion sensors all using the Internet to do an almost infinite variety of things. As I show in my book, the way forward is to turn the current computing paradigm on its head: Keep the data in one place and turn apps into services that come and go as needed.

Think of it this way—did you ever lose some important data? You probably have. On the other hand, did you ever lose an app? Probably not. And, if you did, you probably found it again pretty easily.

Wouldn’t it be cool if, instead of apps, our phones had icons for all our personal and professional data? There would be buttons labeled:

identity
family
finance
health
education
career
home
travel
my stuff
etc.

It would be a start, but the last place we want to store all that information is on a single device. We want it online, so we can access it from any device. We don’t need hundreds of different websites to store our data; we need a secure online data-management system. On the personal side, I call it the personal data locker. Some people call it the personal data store. There is much more information on personal data in my book and in the blog posts below.

Android is not the Problem. Android is the Symptom.

Steve Jobs swore he would “go to war” against Android and its various intellectual property infringements. Today, companies are spending billions to lock up and defend patents pertaining to apps, app stores, and all the features companies are pouring into their smart phone platforms these days.

Android, which also has the app model, is an important step toward the ultimate goal of the personal data locker, because it will bring the price of battery-powered touchscreens down dramatically. The next step is to put all the data into a cloud-based personal data store, and access it using a dumb phone. Software development costs will come down significantly, and the data ecosystems will continue to emerge.

Forget about Android. Concentrate on Chrome. Chrome OS is an open-source web browsing platform. Within a few years, Android and Chrome will merge, giving developers using HTML5 the chance to run Web-native apps on phones, tablets, and other cheap devices. Then we’ll use a $50 “Chrome phone” that has no contract and loads everything from the cloud. We’ll make phone calls using Skype, use websites to do everything apps do today, and more. (Come to think of it, which company recently bought Skype?) This Web-powered phone will be the world’s first true dumb phone. There will be billions more to come. It’s hard to imagine right now, because Chrome is just for browsing the sites we have today, WiMax is just getting started, and the information infrastructure hasn’t been built yet. But as Android and Chrome merge, and the price of hardware plummets, we inch closer to the ubiquitous dumb phone every day.

People say we are in the post-computing era, but our devices are still tiny computers running tiny little apps. As civilization progresses, more and more of our information will go online. Rather than using the cloud to imitate our old ways of working, we’ll use it in a way that is … Next Page »

David Siegel is an author, consultant, and investor focusing on the future of technology, the Internet, and business. He has written three bestselling books about the Internet and started one of the first web design and strategy agencies, Studio Verso, which he sold to KPMG in 1999. He is an active angel investor and advisor to startups and the author of Pull: The Power of the Semantic Web to Transform Your Business. Follow @

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