Whether you’re a single-owner, home-based business or a multi-office, multi-national, you don’t need me to tell you that you need technology.
An email address and a website for sure. And if you have a web 2.0 perspective, you’re on Facebook, Twitter, Digg, StumbleUpon, LinkedIn, Disqus and possibly Valium.
Today, technology is evolving in real time. We’re literally watching it happen. Last November, the UK press included 40 articles that referenced Twitter. In the month ending today, there will be more than 700. And to coin Winston Churchill, we’re not even at the end of the beginning.
But while all this has been going on right under our very noses, an even more important technological revolution has been taking place in the back-rooms of some of our largest technology corporations.
It’s called the cloud. And in this exact moment, you’re in it.
The desktop revolution that Apple launched in 1984 has powered the PC revolution for a quarter of a century, putting a computer into the hands of virtually everyone we know. Indeed, the growth of the internet has been made possible by the advent of the desktop which gave us all web access - on our terms.
But in the last two years a subtle, and now increasingly significant shift towards a ‘cloud’ of massive, web-based, centralized servers is creating an entirely new set of possibilities.
This blog, like virtually every other blog, was created on a piece of software that exists only in this ‘cloud’ of central servers. The only point of access to it is through the internet.
No longer do I need a state-of-the-art laptop. Or three or four separate applications to create and manage the site. All I now need is a device with internet access. And nothing else. (This particular post was written and added to the site on my iPhone.) Software updates are a thing of the past, because they’re done automatically at the other end of the connection. And no more downloading, rebooting, reinstalling either. Just sign in, and you’re working on the latest version - though as Facebook users recently discovered, this-all-for-one, one-for-all approach can have its drawbacks. (Isn’t it time Facebook provided customized interfaces. Haven’t they heard we’ve individuated?)
The intensity with which some of the major technology companies are expanding the computing cloud, http://bit.ly/QoSGg means we’re going to see a lot more examples of services like Google Docs, SalesForce.com and WordPress. We’re also going to see stuff we haven’t yet imagined. How about multi-player, real-time video games that don’t need a $400 console or a $24.95 disc.
Of course, the cloud has enormous implications for every business owner. Big and small. A one-person company on a distant mountain top will now be able to have the same technological support as a Fortune 500 behemoth. Not close. Not like. The same.
When size no longer creates automatic marketplace domination that’s good for everyone because then innovative solutions to problems can come from anywhere, not just the giants. For anyone grounded in their business, that’s an incredible asset because now you can leverage the thing that sets you apart from your competition like never before.
Imagine if this concept could be applied to manufacturing. If the cloud could build and distribute cars - meaning anyone’s ideas about fuel, safety and aesthetic could be realized - does anyone believe we’d be sixty days away from the Big Three becoming the Big One?
That’s because the things that allow economies of scale to take hold - standardization, homogeneity, conformity - kill innovation. By definition. Instead, the cloud takes economies of scale and gives them to the individual, releasing the capacity for originality in all of us.
Now, overnight, we can all became Microsoft or Warner Brothers or Penguin. That’s a lot of responsibility. Let’s make sure we use it.