Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Thoughts on Portal Technology

During presentations that I have made over recent months I straw polled audiences on whether they had heard of 'cloud' technology. Very few have, which isn't really surprising. The cloud is the latest thing in internet development. Last year Google provided us first insight into cloud technologies when it launched Google Apps (word processor, spreadsheet and presentation package). In their essence, they provide applications that you use on your computer (like Office applications, stats packages, diaries) and provide them online. For the consumer, this means a simpification of the way we use computers is firmly on the horizon. By placing applications away from your computer, you'll never need to install software again, or worry about updates. All of this will be handled by the service provider. It also means that computer technology can be simplified as you'll only need a web browser to run these tools. This market is now mobilising quickly. Just yesterday Microsoft announced that it will launch its Office package online during 2009, and that there will be a free version we'll get access to at the price of a few installed ads. This is a major step forward (Microsoft free?) that will set the rules of next generation technology. Cloud developments highlight that the information age is only just beginning to dawn. Old internet (call it Web 1.0) provided us access to information, a great innovation back in 1995. New internet (Web 2.0) allows users to communicate among themselves in lots of different ways, and to rate other peoples web content easily. Now cloud generation technologies are coming we need to focus on new risks and opportunities that will arise. For instance, the Cloud unleashes increased secuity risk to users as their valuable data will be stored away from their computer. Although I would personally trust Google and MIcrosoft to provide great security, it'll take others a little longer to become comfortable with this new way of thinking. Full diffusion will take time, but it will occur. In any case, for organisations requiring more secure solutions more local cloud (cloudlets or patchy fog, what shall we call them?) providers will exist to meet their need, and what of the opportunities? Life is going to get much easier for users (hurrah), for small businesses web technologies will be provided that meet their needs flexibly and cheaply. They will have access to technologies that only large firms can afford to install presently. Of course, there is much more to the risks and opportunities of this technology than meets the eye. Look out for my next post as I unwrap the discussion.

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