Monday, February 18, 2008

Cloud Computing and mobility Part 2.

In part one we looked at how computing may just become a service utility in the same sense as electricity or water, and be accessible anywhere via wireless technologies.

Not accessible on a desktop PC you can’t lug anywhere. And available to devices that don’t have the processing power of decent laptops. But is this what we see happening around us?

There are at least two ways in which I believe you can see the beginnings of this happening - all of them outside the corporate, big server IT industry where cloud computing is usually talked about due to its potential to reduce the cost of running in-house IT departments.

The first is the availability of devices designed for this whole new category - a class that has only appeared in the last 18 months. Sometimes known as MID’s (Mobile Internet Devices), there are now major examples being sold by none other than Nokia, Sony and Apple. Certainly the iPhone and iPod Touch you’ve heard of, devices which boasts desktop-class browsing abilities as a major selling point.

The Nokia n810 tablet, though larger with its button keyboard and bigger screen, is still portable and configured primarily to access the internet. Likewise the smaller (and yet to prove itself) Sony Mylo resembles a PSP, but is built for messaging and VOIP rather than gaming.

The recent CES tech conference saw a plethora of other such devices from LG, Intel and Asus unveiled as well. Apart from the iPhone, none of the above contain phone functionality, but instead assume that easy access to the web is the new killer app.

Alongside this new found rush to supply consumers with ‘always-on’ wireless devices capable of accessing the internet as ‘cloud’, comes a push now to have the experience enhanced by having the ‘heavy-lifting’ of processing web data conducted by remote servers so as to enhance the mobile experience.

Introduced as a beta just recently, the Skyfire browser is an example of just this, supplying to mobile devices only an easily processed image file of any web page, thus making zooming and panning of content almost simultaneous. Available for windows mobile devices, it significantly lowers load times, all thanks to work being done ‘off-device’, the very model that cloud computing allows, albeit in a mobile access focused way.

This kind of service combined with Google Docs (and similar online ‘Office’-like suites) offering of free online use of productivity and business software, means that the ability to leave behind expensive and over powerful computers for sleek and accessible devices is becoming a possibility for many.

So will these trends impact mobile learning? Well, there’s dozens of new mobile devices becoming available, check. There’s access to the total of human gathered information and online software such as Word processors, Photoshop and video editing, check. There’s much greater interactive communication than just the txting, non-connected programs or basic web pages that many mobile learning projects have relied on so far, check. That seems like a winner.

Just watch and wait for them to be banned but still turn up at a school near you!