The Cloud leans back – an iPad epiphany

Given the giant cloud of volcanic dust currently passing over Europe I could have also titled this blog “The cloud strikes back”, but that is not the topic of this “the cloud changes everything” blog.  It also has nothing to do with my earlier topics on Lean IT and Lean manufacturing. Lean Back and Lean Forward were the guiding principles for developers of Interactive Television.

The idea being that TV is typically enjoyed leaning back, while computers are typically used leaning forward. Of course we all know that interactive television so far has been as successful as the NEXT computer (not). In fact, in the last 5 years we moved to a situation where more and more entertainment content is consumed leaning forward . If you visit our home on a typical Friday night the big ass TV may be on, but meanwhile all family members are hammering away on computers. Mom on the desktop, the kids fighting over who gets the macbook versus the laptop and Dad on his company supplied artifact.
Now only a few years ago, you assumed that any person using a computer was probably working. (back then only dad would be using his computer on a Friday night). One of the first I saw point out this blurring of work, home and play – as illustrated below –  was IT visionair Peter Hinssen (t) , in one of his hilarious but at the same time highly educational sessions on IT strategy.

However, something felt wrong about this. Maybe it is a generation thing, but if the above is your life, then how much of a life is it?

Luckily help has arrived, but not from interactive TVs.  If a family of 4 can barely agree what TV channel is to provide the background noise to their computing activities, how would they agree on one joint interactive activity. This new reality was vividly described by Robin Bloor , one of the first industry analyst and author of havemacwillblog.com.  In how  “The iPad Will Replace The Laptop” he describes numerous use cases of how “lean forward” is no longer needed to have a good and/or productive time online. If you’re a person dying to get an iPad (like most of us in Europe) but also if you interested in the future of TV or indeed … in the future of the cloud … then this is a must read story.

Important to realize is that this is NOT about switching devices, but about a  fundamentally different way to interact with content and functionality (a.k.a. with the cloud).  People are interested in taking a ride, not in the art of motor cycle management or ownership. And that is exactly what the cloud brings. In fact, Google referenced the same phenomena when launching their latest incarnation of Google Docs. They stated that about as many people should need an office suite as need photoshop, autocad or similar. Most people read or at best annotate, only very few create. 

In this light, the decision of the Library of Congress to preserve the first billion tweets for prosperity (including interesting twitbits “like what did Dave or Joe or Bob  have for Lunch on Monday Aprill 11th” may not be so stupid after all. The “we are all authors” movement may turn out to have been an one-time phenomena caused by temporary ubiquity of keyboards. Let’s face it, writing 2500 tweets for 7 followers is not a fulfilling, economic or even sensible activity, let alone reading them (if you don’t believe me have a try). Similarly we may realize that the volume of email we all complain about , is because we all spend too much time typing and not enough time reading. 

I think we can all agree Apple already changed the computer industry several times and is revolutionizing the music industry. With the iPad they will now be changing the TV industry (Apple TV was not a failure, it is just infrastructure for the iPad)  and by leaving out a keyboard they now also created the ultimate work, home and play “cloud consumption experience”.  

This may mean that we are going back to an time where people using PCs are not just the ones working .  They are likely to be the ones creating cloud stuff: content creators and functionality developers (a.k.a . IT folks).  All other people – working, relaxing  and playing – will be doing so on cloud consumption devices.

Case in point, from a tweet by Cap Gemini’s CTO Ron Tolido: “Need to run a country? We have an app for that” that points to Norway’s prime minister running the country from his iPad while stranded due to the aforementioned volcanic cloud.  So lean back (or lean forward – depending on your job area) and enjoy the ride.

PS Some of you may point out that for that for the above to work, it would be a good idea if Google Docs actually worked on the ipod . In typically IT fashion we would call this an “implementation detail”, but feel free to point it out to Google, preferably before I get a chance to pick up my iPad from Europe.

Note: I could not find the original author or copyright holder of the Modern Life cartoon, any pointers appreciated.

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