|6774 - The Big Picture||05/05/2005 - 20:00:54|
From: Here's my thought : knowledge workers do not need to have an all-powerful device with them all the time, merely something that can give them universal access to all that power.
Is what we have today enough? Good enough, for most uses. It's improving, and in the right direction. There's always going to be something faster, smaller and cheaper - well maybe not cheaper down the road. However, as we see now, availability is more important than capacity. Intel's Centrino platform emphasises on better battery life and wireless performance over pure processing power- letting you work longer hours without a recharge. You have VNC, telnet, web frontends, FTP, and therefore access to any number of applications to do what you need - right at your laptop.
Phones, notebooks and tablets allow knowledge workers to produce, link and access multimedia content anywhere. Your smartphone today captures your thoughts and ideas in text, drawings, photos, audio and video - enabling you to produce content in a relevant, timely manner. We are simultaneously producers and consumers. Telecom companies don't get this - 10 years after the failed interactive TV projects, 5 years after the failure of "walled garden" WAP portals. Telcos are still obsessed with keeping the content within their control, with their "we know best for our customers" attitude.
How do we share this content? With high speed wireless access - via WiFi, EVDO, EDGE, 3G and beyond you can do it anywhere. Again, it can be faster today - but it's fast enough right now to make a difference. With Bluetooth finally gaining ground among device makers, there's a lot of sharing and commercial transactions "at the fringe" - at no profit to the telcos.
Meanwhile, personal portable storage gets cheaper for the person on the street. RM300 (US$75) will get you a 200GB external hard disk (paperback book form factor) or 1GB SD card (postage stamp form factor). Warranty periods are increasing - 5 years for hard disks and lifetime for SD, showing increased confidence in high reliability of modern storage mechanisms. That's enough to store your own content, and affordable terabyte home servers in portable form factors should be appearing within the next 18-24 months. With software like Orb, you will be able to access this content anywhere.
Responsible copyright behaviour releases more and more data and media into the public domain, for example via Archive.org . And being a producer means you can get your stuff out to the public, too, via outlets such as Wikipedia and Ourmedia, not to mention blogs. With Creative Commons and similar licences, our ability to produce and derive, and mash up content grows exponentially. And any scrap of data, any small thought or idea could be useful to someone, somewhere, someday. As with everything else, 90% of it will be crap but with peer reviews the cream will still rise to the top.
With all this content and data available, even making new discoveries will be easier. Imagine searching for specific event patterns across 50 years of TV. Utility computing makes it easy and cheap to do complex studies, simulations and calculations, without having to invest in any infrastructure. The Sun Grid and IBM/Lotus Workplace service promise processing, software and storage rental by the CPU and by the hour. The ease of setup and use of Apple's Xserve, Xserve RAID and cluster node system may see the rise many small "mom-and-pop" of specialised supercomputer clusters and grids. It's possible that we will see clusters for bioinformatics, mass marketing trends, for stock market simulations, for natural disaster prediction - for anything that makes sense.
The one thing that ties everything together is the ability to find, and to put the pieces together. The ultimate, universal finder right now is still Google. You can search for text from HTML and PDF, for photos, for information within videos, you can search from your mobile phone and PDA. And putting pieces together? That's the role of the knowledge worker.
For example, say I'm a Glenn Fleishman-wannabe with a passion for everything WiFi. I'm sitting in a cafe, sipping a cappuccino and surfing the web on my laptop. And it occurs to me, how many people are doing the same thing that I am, and what do they do? I'd go to Google and dig up data on number of cafes with WiFi access across the world, number of WiFi-enabled laptops and PDAs, average download speeds via DSLreports, and obtain some private data on average WiFi connect time from some service aggregator like Boingo. With all that data, I'd figure out a model of how everything connects to each other, send it to Sun to crunch the statistics, and end up with results that would be interesting for other wireless pundits and a hardware manufacturer or service provider. It won't matter where I am, or how powerful my laptop is. Like I mentioned in the beginning, it's a matter of what applications and data I can access, and what I choose to do with it.
Download the Big Picture diagram in JPEG and PDF.
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