Friday, June 10, 2011
Head in the clouds
The forecast for the next few years in the tech world is very cloudy. A few weeks ago saw Google announce the new Chromebook, a computer-like device that has a browser and precious little else in it. Since you can do just about everything in the cloud today what's the point of having all those applications in your computer? Goodbye computers and all the complicated maintenance they entail. If all your applications and storage are in the cloud you don't need to fetch updates, buy anti-virus protection, configure, clean and all the other routines you hate.
This week it's Apple's turn to grab the cloud computing limelight with the new iCloud concept. The idea here is to move all the apps on your Apple devices into the cloud and enable you to access everything from any device (as long as its an Apple device of course - that's the catch). Your e-mail, documents, photos, films and most importantly music will all be stored remotely instead of on one computer as today. If you make changes on one device they will apply to all devices making it irrelevant which one you use. You can start reading an e-book on your laptop and then continue reading on your iPad for example.
I get frustrated with the current situation where I have all my iTunes material on one older computer and can't work out how to move all the music to a newer computer. It's not easy and I cynically suspect that that was the intention. Also iTunes needs regular updates which tend to pop up when you least want them and take consideable time to download and install. To avoid all that hassle and to be able to access everything without all those syncing sessions at home would be heaven.
What does this mean for education however? Well everything really since it will accelerate the shift to cloud computing making all computer labs obsolete and forcing the IT departments to reinvent themselves. There's a good article on this on the blog Apps in Education called What iCloud means for Education - You can "iCloud it".
I really hope that the move into the cloud will make IT more user friendly. There's simply too much tech in today's computers for the average non-techie to cope with. Few people really know how to upgrade, install patches, check security, fix bugs etc and even fewer actually find such things interesting. If cloud computing lets us easily access services without having to mess around under the hood all the better. The only worry I have with this move is that the main players (Google, Apple) want us to subscribe to their walled garden. The iCloud solution is probably going to be very easy to use, secure and cool as long as you accept the limitaions. It may be that we have to sacrifice freedom for ease of use and convenience. I hope not but that's the way it generally goes in business.