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"Cloud Computing" Will Enable Anytime/Anywhere Local Search

Jun 28, 2008
The latest word and latest product from two of the IT industry's blue-chip leaders - Google and Apple - are showing (and shaping) the way that consumers' online experience and behaviour, and consequently the local search market, will evolve.

In San Francisco on June 9th, in what was perhaps the year-to-date's most eagerly awaited product roll out, at least for technology buffs, Apple Computer CEO, Steve Jobs, introduced the new Apple iPhone 2.0. The iPhone 2.0 is cheaper, with much faster Internet access than current iPhone models and has new applications and GPS technology that will enable the latest 'smart phone' and its user to interact geographically with online Internet resources in a way unimaginable to the first few generations of mobile phone and handheld users.

In a product rollout announced for July 11, 2008, the iPhone 2.0 will be introduced into markets in 22 countries, including the U.S., U.K. and most of Europe. World-wide product launches of Apple's newest entry into the mobile handheld market will be introduced into the huge and potentially lucrative markets in China, India and Russia will follow.

While Apple's product wizard was in San Francisco rolling out the latest addition to the mobile hardware that will help bring computing fully off the desktops and laptops that have restricted the Internet's potential to reach ever more deeply and conveniently into consumer's lives, Rishi Shandra, the Product Manager for Google Enterprise, the search engine behemoth's software applications division, was at the Enterprise 2.0 Conference in Boston discussing the software for the handhelds and mobile devices that will make anywhere, anytime mobile computing available worldwide.

Mr. Chandra discussed the four key elements Google sees as propelling the Internet from Web 2.0 to Web 3.0 and beyond - "cloud computing". Essentially, Google is in a race with Microsoft, Amazon and other technology giants to build the data farms that will enable users to move their applications and files from the user's personal computing devices - which increasingly looks like they will be the next generation of handhelds and/or mini-notebooks - to the Ethernet. All that will be left in the users hand, pocket, briefcase or backpack will be the keyboard, touchscreen and wireless connection that will connect the user to his or her files and applications stored on a centralized data farm.

Google Apps product manager identified the four following trends that will shape the movement of computing from the laptop/desktop to "cloud computing":

* Consumer driven innovation and pace of innovation. As technology consumers are savvier and are using technology more and more outside the office for social purposes, the pace of change and type of change is being dictated by consumer taste rather than being driven by business needs and dictates as it formerly was.

* Collaborative power sharing. The next generation of "cloud computing" applications that will drive the handheld and mobile computing devices of the near-future will have to function across platforms. The applications that will be successful in making the leap will be those in which users will not be restricted in the skeleton platforms they will use.

* Massive economies of scale. As Google, Microsoft, Amazon and the other big players ramp up, it is predicted that the economies of scale offered by having applications and files hosted at large server farms and data centers rather than on user devices will bring the costs of computing down.

* Eradication of barriers to adoption. As both users and providers become evermore accustomed to having 'their' information stored off-site or off-computer, the psychological barriers presented by concerns for data security, user inexperience and reliability will fall.

The juxtaposition of both hardware and software capability advances that are moving what is now euphemistically called Web 2.0 into the technological stratosphere of Web 3.0 and "cloud computing" was vividly depicted by that Google's CEO, Eric Schmidt in a highly publicized interview he did with CNBC's Maria Bartiromo. In the CNBC interview, Dr. Schmidt pointed out what a "tremendous phenomenon" it is that most developed countries now have nearly 100% coverage with mobile phone technology. "Over the next three or four years," he pointed out, "there'll be more than another billion or so mobile phones added." He noted Google's research numbers, which "indicate that there'll be five or so billion mobile phones in a world of six billion or so."

Pointing to the current local search and mobile search capabilities that the most technologically comfortable and proficient users, like himself, already have from the widespread proliferation of the hardware and software that is making "cloud computing" a feasible reality, Schmidt illustrated how he already combines mobile hardware - his iPhone or Blackberry - with Google's ever-expanding local search capabilities to operate in a Web 3.0 world.

"The processors in the phones have gotten faster," he noted. "The batteries have gotten longer . . . lasting. The screens have gotten brighter. The whole device has gotten lighter. So all of that has been happening while people have been talking about this. We know that these things are working now. We know because we measure it that there's been a huge increase in maps, Google Maps, hugely successful. These phones have GPSes in them. So when I want to go to the equivalent of a Starbucks, I just type "Starbucks," it says it's over there. For me, that's just a huge--a huge improvement. And that service is available almost everywhere in the world."

"Our mobile phone (business), both search traffic as well as advertising is growing very rapidly," he observed "and we think people will do more and more interesting things in mobile phones. And, I mean, small phones, big phones, big screens, things that don't look like a phone, things which are mobile."

The rollout of a new generation of handhelds from Apple, Rim Nokia and the like, combined with the hardware and software capabilities that Google, Microsoft, Amazon and others are already building, indicates that the architecture that will enable anytime anywhere local search through "cloud computing" is largely complete and the platforms for "cloud computing" are already being built and manufactured.
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