Cell phones have been around in the United States since 1983. The big brick microwave strength phones of that era have thankfully long passed, but small, sleek cell phones have also been around a good while now too. Motorola and Nokia in particular pushed the envelope. Remember the Razr? And there was Palm whose Treo was all the rage for a time. But everything changed when Apple debuted the iPhone in 2007 and the rest they say is history. Its been nothing short of a phenomenon with its elegant touch interface, bright, high resolution screen, stellar web browsing experience (aside from lack of Flash) and of course its OS, SDK and the App Store. All of this turned the idea of smartphone on its head and the industry has not been the same since. But despite Apple’s innovation, there is something else going on here and its worth thinking about for a moment. The iphone is really a metaphor for a mass move into cloud computing. Two technology writers make this point and are worth noting. In particular, I think this metaphor and their ideas will have quite an impact on education as students move their digital worlds higher and higher into the clouds, circumventing in many ways traditional IT infrastructure associated with institutions of higher learning. Writer Chris Hoff at Cisco put his finger on the pulse in his commentary on the iPhone and the Cloud with his nice post. And Fellow Cisco blogger James Urquhart succinctly summed Hoff and added his two cents with another post on CNet. Both are worth reading and pondering for a moment. Here are a couple of quotes pulled from these: Hoff says:
The iPhone is a fantastic platform that transforms using technology that has been around for quite a while into a more useful experience. The iPhone converges many technologies and capabilities under a single umbrella and changes the way in which people interact with their data and other people…
The thing I love about my iPhone is that it’s not a piece of technology I think about but rather, it’s the way interact with it to get what I want done. It has its quirks, but it works…for millions of people.
The point here is that Cloud is very much like the iPhone. As Sir James (Urquhart) says “Cloud isn’t a technology, it’s an operational model.” Just like the iPhone.
I think beyond just the success of the iphone, we have to look at the success of cloud computing and how the iPhone is a metaphor for cementing this way of computing into our lives and society. Its a device that has showed us the possibilities and clearly, we all want more. And clearly today’s students will increasingly use this technology more and more on devices that fit into the pockets of their jeans. A commenter on Urquhart’s post mentions that the “cloud” part of computing is soon destined for the tech talk closet since a good deal of computing is done now in the cloud and its just called computing. So perhaps we can just think of the cloud now as just part of the larger sky to use an obvious metaphor. So sky computing anyone? Whatever you want to call it, its here to stay and Apple found a compelling way to deliver this experience in a consumer device that just works.