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Taking a Critical Look at the Cloud

Aug. 10, 2012
Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak's criticism of cloud-computing is changing the way we think and talk about the technology. It may be a sign that the cloud is here to stay.

In my position, conversations about the cloud never go far. Everyone knows the cloud is changing the world, everyone knows it's wonderful and amazing and how it is having such a dramatic effect on communication, efficiency, productivity and everything else in our lives.

Since this has generally already been established going into the discussion, conversations tend to turn into more of a contest of enthusiasm more than anything else. Just reiterations of a nearly universal excitement.

Granted, there are those lingering fears about security and some rumblings about sustainability, but on the whole, no one really seems to want to get into some of these real and critical issues the technology presents -- particularly when talking about manufacturing. 

That changed this week, however, when Apple (IW 500/9) co-founder Steve Wozniak climbed on stage after a performance of "The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs" with its creator to talk about... well, things, I guess. At some point in the conversation, he turned on the cloud and hit it with some actual criticism.

The quotes coming out of the talk are sparse and a little vague, but he used some adjectives that have really taken hold. The part that has most caught people's attention is when he said, "I really worry about everything going to the cloud... I think it's going to be horrendous. I think there are going to be a lot of horrible problems in the next five years."

This marks a drastic break from the usual dialog. I'm not sure if "horrendous," "horrible" and "the cloud" have ever even shared the same sentence before. Certainly not so close to the word "Apple."

Of course, Woz doesn't seem to have provided many details to back up this claim. He cited some more philosophical issues with ownership and control, but otherwise he doesn't appear to have given much insight into what his problems with the technology really are or what is so horrendous and horrible about it.

I don't think this really matters, though.

What is important now is that these comments have the potential to start a real dialog on the subject. It'll be hard to go back to the cheerleading and hyped up enthusiasm after headlines like "Apple's Co-Founder Sees Trouble in the Cloud," or my favorite, "Beardy Apple Wildman Voices Fears While Treading the Boards."

I see this as the greatest validation of the cloud that proponents could have ever hoped for. Open criticism and an open dialog seems to signal that we are moving past the honeymoon stage with the technology, that the time for singing its praises and poopooing its faults is passed. It takes for granted that the technology is here, that it will be here for years to come, and we have to start dealing with that in practical and productive ways.

This, I think, is the most exciting thing to come out of the technology all year. I can't wait to see how this new phase of critical analysis creeps in and how the industry responds. It's going to be fun.

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