Mod 5: Red Queens, Increasing Returns, and the Fine Art of “Sharing”

Among the forces that drive innovations in technology, two are closely connected by their competition for the hearts and wallets of the consumer. Red Queens are seen where two technologies that compete with each other leave everything else behind (Laureate Education (Producer), 2014g). Thornburg gives the example of PC and Apple, the two main competitors for the personal computer market. I might also point out the iPhone and the Android cell phone operating systems, both of which are continually improved and enhanced to meet the newest demands of their consumer bases.

Increasing Returns refers to the rather illogical tendency of one technology to win over its closest competitor to the point that the competitor fades away entirely. Chaos theory, the mathematical study that defines the unpredictability of predictions, works at its finest in this situation. Often it is not the superior technology that wins, but rather something almost as good but for some reason more appealing to the potential customer. Thornburg (Laureate Education (Producer), 2014e) uses the example of VHS video tapes and Betamax. As illustrated here, Betamax produced the better picture, but because of its lack of variety in pre-recorded material, it never became the public favorite it could have been.

Betamax vs VHS Picture Quality
Betamax vs VHS Picture Quality

This brings me to today’s discussion of how we view video now. In the early days of the pre-recorded video movie, we bought a few, but we rented dozens. Video stores were cropping up everywhere, and we could rent everything that had been popular over the past year for a fairly small fee, certainly less than the price of going to the movies. Some video stores were so eager for folks to rent movies that they also rented portable players. Back in 1984 my favorite store not only rented the movies and the players, it also delivered, just like pizza.

Portable VHS Player
Portable VHS Player

And we were reminded to “Be Kind – Rewind” so the next renter would have his tape starting at the beginning. bee kind

As with all good ideas, the local video stores were soon competing with national chains, such as Hollywood Video and Blockbuster. We had memberships, and the stores offered specials so we would rent more. In the meantime, movie formats underwent a change yet again. The DVD allowed video rentals on a much smaller footprint, and with improved clarity, additional features, and no need to rewind. The video stores changed gradually, and most phased out their VHS offerings over time. Then in 1997 – Netflix arrived.

blockbuster closing

Netflix combined the technology of the DVD with the technology of online rental, and a mailing turnaround time that made movie watching, if not instant, certainly more convenient than driving to the video store, hoping one’s favorite was in stock, and then driving back to return it. An urban myth says that one of the co-founders of Netflix came up with the idea after a huge late fee for a Blockbuster rental; it isn’t true, but it certainly represents the feeling of the time, that there had to be a better way to rent movies (CNN, 2014). In 2007 the company moved into a new realm, offering streaming of video over one’s own broadband service, so we can now watch movies on our computers, or display them from various video game consoles and internet-connected “smart TVs.” Blockbuster has struggled to keep up, with a mailing service and online streaming, but Netflix remains ubiquitous.

And for those of us who don’t have sufficient broadband for streaming, there is still a rental venue, and it has the advantage of allowing internet reservations. RedBox kiosks are found everywhere now, from grocery store lobbies to McDonald’s, and offer an automated, if limited, DVD rental service for a dollar a night.


In McLuhan’s four Laws of Media (Thornburg, 2013c), DVDs have their place both in replacing older technologies, and in giving way to newer ones. As the following tetrad illustrates, the DVD made movie watching better for home viewers, and was a smaller and more durable format for saving movies for the long term. DVDs have not yet disappeared; in fact, they are now generally sold as sets, with one normal DVD and one BluRay, the later technology which offers a clearer, brighter picture.

Video-on-demand, also known as video streaming, is rapidly taking the place of DVDs, particularly where the viewer only wishes to see the movie one or two times. DVDs are the preferred medium for ownership, while streaming offers more choices, including whole seasons of favorite TV series at a fraction of the cost of boxed sets. DVDs still offer additional features such as subtitles and short related films. When these become available on demand, the streaming format will very likely give way to DVDs entirely; for now, while there is still a shortage of broadband access for many movie viewers, DVDs remain the best choice.

slide 2Slide 3

A few weeks ago I want to watch the Philip K. Dick movie, A Scanner Darkly (Linklater, 2006). Netflix doesn’t have it. The newer Amazon Instant Video service has it, but wants $2.99 to rent it. My son, who is a huge fan of Philip K. Dick, mentioned that he had the movie on his portable hard drive, so we hooked that up to my television via HDMI cable, and I have enjoyed it several times now.

I try not to ask my kids (who are all grownups and don’t have to answer to me about their life choices) where they get the videos they have on their many terabytes of hard drives. But I have a pretty good idea. Just as I believe that all information should be available to anyone who wants it, they believe that piracy of audio and video files is an acceptable practice. They justify this position thusly: if I buy a book, and read it, then lend it to a friend to read, there is nothing wrong with that. I could lend my best friend my Cat Stevens CDs and that would be ok. Libraries lend millions of books at no cost. So it follows (they say) that if someone buys a video, they should be able to lend it to anyone they want for as long as they want – and thus it is not actually stealing, but sharing, that is taking place. I can’t argue the legalities of this, and certainly the history of Napster and the jailing of the founder of Pirate Bay in Sweden would say that this is still a legal area not fully resolved by the courts or by copyright law.

"Sharing" at Pirate Bay
“Sharing” at Pirate Bay

I, for one, am not going to take on the legal system over the right- or wrong-ness of the sharing websites where nearly any digital media of any sort can be found. I’ve bought (so far) three copies of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and they have each been borrowed, never to return to me. Does that give me license to pirate? No, not really, but it does make a good argument for the practice. I pay my $10-and-change to Microsoft every month for the privilege of using MS Office in its newest iteration legally, even though I could probably get a usable full version from a sharing site. I also have a Pandora subscription, and Amazon Prime and Netflix are my main sources of movies. But I suspect that in the not-too-distant future, a great deal more media offerings will be free; I also hope for an open and free internet and free education, but at my age, I won’t hold my breath.


CNN. (2014). A brief history of Netflix. Retrieved from CNN:

Laureate Education (Producer). (2014e). David Thornburg: Increasing returns [Video file]. Baltimore, MD: Author.

Laureate Education (Producer). (2014g). David Thornburg: Red queens [Video file]. Baltimore, MD: Author.

Linklater, R. (Director). (2006). A Scanner Darkly [Motion Picture].

Thornburg, D. (2013c). Emerging technologies and McLuhan’s laws of media. Lake Barrington, IL: Thornburg Center for Space Exploration.

Photo Credits

Beta/VHS picture comparison:

Portable VHS player:

Bee kind:

Blockbuster out of business:




Mod 4: SixthSense, Google Glass, and Disrupting Computing

Future Disruptor
Future Disruptor

A disruptive technology is one that take us by surprise, and changes the way we do things we’ve always done. Dr. David Thornburg defines it as a new product that provides the same functionality of its predecessor, but it is more efficient and cheaper, and then makes the old technology obsolete (Laureate Education (Producer), 2014a). It can transform the complex and expensive into the simple and affordable (Carmody, 2009). An example of such a disruption is the movement to digitally downloadable books. I haven’t bought a book in well over three years, unless it were unavailable in digital form, and rather than bookcases full of paper, I now have one Kindle with over 300 books at my fingertips.

In the world of computing, the focus on disrupting the ordinary is a constant. Technology innovators are continually working on “what if” ideas, thinking about what they need or how they like to do things, then translating that into new products. Pranav Mistry, a student at MIT, noticed how often we use movement and gestures in our everyday lives, and wondered how he might do his computing the same way, without a keyboard and mouse. His musings brought about SixthSense, a “wearable gestural interface” (Gupta & Shahid, 2011) that combines a small camera with a computer and a projector, and allows the wearer to perform dozens of everyday tasks more quickly and easily than they could on a more cumbersome tablet or smart phone. The video that introduced this product (TED India (Producer), 2009) made me want such a device immediately. However, the project has never taken off, partly because the power consumption of the combine components is a prohibitive factor, and partly because Mistry has moved on to work for Samsung on other projects (Mistry, 2013). 

Pranav Mistry using his hand as a SixthSense "screen"
Pranav Mistry using his hand as a SixthSense “screen”

The failure of SixthSense to launch into the consumer market did not mean the end of wearable computing. Thad Starner, founder of MIT’s Wearable Computing Project, has been wearing a heads-up computer display since 1998, and his creation caught the attention of Larry Page and Sergey Brin, the founders of Google (Starner, 2013). Starner’s research paralleled that of Google’s Project Glass team, which he joined in 2010, and is based on the quest to reduce the time between intending to do something and acting upon it. He maintains that while the smart phone may provide all the computing ability one needs, it adds time to the intent-to-action process, since most phones reside in a user’s pocket and require several steps to bring up a web page that can be accessed by uttering a single sentence with Glass.

In the definition of disruptive technologies, Google Glass meets most of the criteria that make it a sure bet for making smart phones and tablets obsolete at some point in the near future; currently, with a $1500 price tag, it is not affordable for most consumers, who can purchase very capable Android-based smart phones for around $100 (Best Buy, 2014). Given the new technology’s popularity at this early stage, it is likely that competitors will soon be introducing similar products, and the device will become more affordable as various companies vie for our consumer dollars.

Google Glass
Google Glass

The applications of Google Glass in the real world far outpace those of either smart phones or tablet computers, mainly because it offers a wearer’s immediate perspective of any scene. Doctors are exploring the technology’s ability to provide medical training through a real-time view of procedures taking place as seen through the surgeon’s eyes, and they note that the hands-free device would allow them to view a patient’s charts or monitor readings without taking their eyes away from the patient (Glauser, 2013).  

Ban Sign
Ban Sign

Rhodes and Allen (2014) discuss the implications for the use of Glass in theaters, where the bright glow of a cell phone is a rude distraction to the rest of the audience, while Glass could provide a “second screen” experience (defined as any screened device being viewed while other entertainment is being enjoyed) that does not impact others in the immediate vicinity. In this same vein, however, they caution that Glass could be used for illegal recording of movies, concerts, and other entertainment; as a result, there is already a “Ban Google Glass” movement afoot. 

Google has had some 2000 “explorers” using Glass for a wide variety of applications since mid-2013. A number of these early users have shared their experiences in stories that excite the imagination. A young woman who became paraplegic uses Glass to capture the experiences of a camping trip, while providing the navigation to the campsite from her Glass display during the drive.

Alex Blaszczuk camping with Glass
Alex Blaszczuk camping with Glass

 A science teacher who provides live online experiences to under-served student populations “takes” his classes to the Large Hadron Collider facility in Switzerland using Glass to interface with the kids in real time (Google, Inc., 2014). 

Andrew Vanden Heuvel at CERN, projecting to Ryan's class
Andrew Vanden Heuvel at CERN, projecting to Ryan’s class

The positive and negative implications of a device like Glass in social situations could be daunting. On the one hand, social interactions could be improved if users could hold face-to-face conversations while simultaneously using their technology devices; this could reverse the current trend where groups may meet and seldom speak while they are mesmerized by the contents of their individual cell phone screens.  

Typical Cell Phone Users
Typical Cell Phone Users

Privacy issues still worry consumers, who might be unable to tell when their pictures are being taken, or if someone behind them in a checkout line was recording their pin-pad numbers. And in the past week, the Navy has reported that a sailor is undergoing substance abuse treatment for his addiction to his Google Glass, which he wears at all times except when he is sleeping or bathing (Wilson, 2014). This is an extreme case, of course, though one need only think of those videos where people run into lamp posts while walking and texting to realize that Glass could become a physical hazard for some.

Glass holds great potential for educators. Lectures can be recorded; teachers can provide online content that Glass wearers can view on their own time (Sivakumar, n.d.). As mentioned before, virtual field trips become possible, and science labs could be experienced outside a traditional lab. With the addition of facial recognition technology, a teacher might use Glass to take attendance simply by looking at the class. Teachers across the country have taken up the conversation, and Margaret Powers has recorded her experiences as a teacher using Glass on her blog; many of her suggestions come from other teachers in answer to her “how would you use Glass in your classroom?” query (Powers, 2014). A group of researchers is exploring the addition of emotion recognition to Glass devices (Hernandez & Picard, 2014); their intent is to conduct emotions research in new ways, but this might be extended to other applications, especially for students with autism, who often have difficulty decoding the facial cues that express our emotions. 

Google Glass recognizing emotions
Google Glass recognizing emotions

Google Glass is in its infancy, and far from the day when it will be displaced by a newer technology. Whatever might replace it will likely be even more closely connected to the user than the current technology allows. Google is also working on contact lenses with computing capabilities – in some future scenario, they might merge the two technologies and provide a computer we attach to our own eyes! Perhaps an implanted device could simply speak to our brains, providing both visual and audible content directly into our bodies. Coming from the last generation to do math without calculators, I would never have imagined a computer like Google Glass – but now that it’s here, I believe the possibilities for even greater discoveries are endless.


Best Buy. (2014). Prepaid Phones. Retrieved from Best Buy:$pcmcat158500050014&cp=1&lp=1&contract_desc=

Carmody, L. (2009). [Review of the book Disrupting class: How disruptive innovation will change the way the world learns, by C.M. Christensen, M.B. Horn, & C.W. Johnson]. Educational Technology Reearch and Development, 57(2), 267-269. Retrieved from Walden Library database.

Glauser, W. (2013, November 5). Doctors among early adopters of Google Glass. Canadian Medical Association Journal, 185(16), 1385. doi:10.1503/cmaj.109-4607

Google, Inc. (2014). Explorer Stories. Retrieved from Glass:

Gupta, A., & Shahid, M. (2011). The Sixth Sense technology. Proceedings of the 5th National Conference, INDIACom-2011. New Delhi: INDIACom-2011. Retrieved from

Hernandez, J., & Picard, R. (2014). SenseGlass: Using Google Glass to sense daily emotions. UIST-14 Adjunct (pp. 77-78). New York: ACM. doi:10.1145/2658779.2658784

Laureate Education (Producer). (2014a). David Thornburg: Disruptive technologies [Video file]. Baltimore, MD: Author.

Mistry, P. (2013). SixthSense / Wear ur world. Retrieved from Pranav Mistry:

Powers, M. (2014). Retrieved from 365 Days of Glass:

Rhodes, T., & Allen, S. (2014). Through the looking glass: How Google Glass will change the performing arts. Carnegie Mellon University. Retrieved from

Sivakumar, R. (n.d.). Google Glass in education. Annamalai Nagar, India: Annamalai University. Retrieved from

Starner, T. (2013). Project Glass: An extension of the self. Pervasive Computing, 13, 14-16. Retrieved from

TED India (Producer). (2009). Pranav Mistry: The thrilling potential of SixthSense technology [Video file]. Retrieved from

Wilson, J. (2014, October 15). Man treated for Google Glass addiction. Retrieved from CNN Health:

Photo Credits

When I grow up:

Pranav Mistry using SixthSense:

Ban Google Glass:

Google Glass in Sky Blue:

Alex Blaszczuk Camping with Glass; Andrew Vanden Heuvel at CERN:

Cell phone users:

Glass reading emotions:

Module 3 Blog Post: From Gutenberg to Open Source

Technology often follows a path known as Rhymes of History (Laureate Education (Producer), 2014h), a term based on a Mark Twain quote to the effect that while history may not repeat itself, it often rhymes. One innovation may spark the imagination, leading to new innovations in a much later time and place. A very clear rhyme of history is the connection between the advent of the printed word and the current demand for knowledge as a free and open source on the Internet.

Gutenberg depicted taking the first proof off his printing press.

Sometime in the late 1430s, Johannes Gutenberg began to experiment with printing, and in 1455, he published his greatest work, known in our times as the Gutenberg Bible (Bio, 2014). The creation of movable type that could be manipulated in endless ways, and a manufacturing process that would possible thousands of copies, opened up a whole new world of information for the people of Europe.


Some have called the Gutenberg press “the great innovation in early modern information technology” (Dittmar, 2011). Certainly the press allowed the masses access to literature that had previously been held tightly in the hands of the clergy and ruling classes. At a time when every book was copied painstakingly by hand and was usually written in Latin, only an elite few ever had the opportunity even to see a book. To own one and be able to read it at one’s leisure was unheard of. With the press, information was available to the masses.

Economic and social change followed, with printers replacing scribes, and cities becoming centers of publishing (Eisenstein, 1986). Hearkening back to Moore’s Law (Laureate Education (Producer), 2014d), the printing press grew exponentially in its use, while its products fell in price, so that by the end of the 15th century, every major center in Europe had a publishing house, and some cities had several (Eisenstein, 1986). The printing press played social, intellectual, and economic roles, opening the doors of business as the technology became more commonplace (Dittmar, 2011).

In a similar way, the Internet and World Wide Web have revolutionized our access to the world’s documents in ways never imagined when Harnad (1991, p. 46) noted that the early Internet was “a communication medium with revolutionary intellectual potential being used mostly as a global graffiti board.” While the same might be said of today’s Web, where images of cute cats compete with political arguments for space in venues like Facebook, there is another side to the technology, with efforts like Project Gutenberg offering free access to thousands of pieces of literature, great or mundane. The project began in 1971 when Michael Hart created the first eBook, the Declaration of Independence (Project Gutenberg, 2014).

Many scholars, among them Stephen Downes, co-creator of the Connectivism model, believe that all tools for learning should be open and available for everyone. In that effort, he recommends that scholars not submit their work to for-profit publishing houses, even though that may have a lasting negative effect on their careers (Downes, 2009). There is strong support for Open Educational Resources (OERs), defined by Downes as “materials used to support education that may be freely accessed, reused, modified, and shared by anyone (Downes, 2011).

Some have taken open information a step further. Wikileaks founder Julian Assange believes that there should be no hidden news, and his organization openly publishes material that many governments argue may create security threats. The website notes, “One of our most important activities is to publish original source material alongside our news stories so readers and historians alike can see evidence of the truth” (Wikileaks, 2011). In the United States, Edward Snowden published information that he believed the American people had a right to know; while in exile, he has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize (Chappell, 2014); this indicates how strongly some people feel about the right to open information.


In the realm of education, the call is for open textbooks. This movement does not expect publishers to entirely unpaid, but rather calls for open choice, where students could read an e-book free of charge, pay the cost of printing it themselves, or purchase a print copy at its regular price (TechBlog Staff, 2012). With the average cost of college textbooks now hovering around $900 a year, the availability of e-books at no charge would open new possibilities for anyone who wants to learn any topic. Supporters believe that the e-book will eventually take over as the main method of distributing textbooks (TechBlog Staff, 2012).


Open publishing to the Internet is the Gutenberg press of our time. As access to the Internet grows, so does the opportunity for people all over the world to gain knowledge that would otherwise be unavailable to them. The effects on society are already being felt; an informed populace refuses to stand for the elites’ control over knowledge. Edward Snowden maintains that “Technology is the greatest equalizer in human history” (Bamford, 2014). Whether what is learned is a secret government policy or a lesson in mathematics, the right to know is at the heart of freedom.


Bamford, J. (2014, August). The most wanted man in the world. Retrieved from Wired:

Bio. (2014). Johannes Gensfleisch Gutenberg. Retrieved from Biography:

Chappell, B. (2014, January 29). Edward Snowden nominated for Nobel Peace Prize. Retrieved from The Two-Way: Breaking News from NPR:

Dittmar, J. (2011, August). Information technology and economic change: The impact of the printing press. Quarterly Journal of Economics, 126(3), 1133-1172. doi:10.1093/qje/qjr035

Downes, S. (2009, October 21). On open access. Retrieved from Stephen’s Web:

Downes, S. (2011, July 14). Open Educational Resources: A definition. Retrieved from Stephen’s Web:

Eisenstein, E. (1986). On revolution and the printed word. In R. Porter, & M. Teich, Revolution in History (pp. 186-205). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Harnad, S. (1991). Post-Gutenberg galaxy: The fourth revolution in the means of production of knowledge. The Public-Access Computer Systems Review, 2(1), 39-53. Retrieved from Walden University Library, ISSN 1063-164X

Laureate Education (Producer). (2014d). David Thornburg: Evolutionary technologies [Video file]. Baltimore, MD: Author.

Laureate Education (Producer). (2014h). David Thornburg: Rhymes of history [Video file]. Baltimore, MD: Author.

Project Gutenberg. (2014). About Project Gutenberg. Retrieved from Project Gutenberg:

TechBlog Staff. (2012, September 3). Why open source textbooks will soon take over. Retrieved from TechBlog:

Wikileaks. (2011). About: What is Wikileaks? Retrieved from Wikileaks:

Photo Credits

Gutenberg press:

Gutenberg Bible:

Edward Snowden:

Open Source on tablet:

Mod 2: The Hologram and its Role in Education

 hologram tetrad

The projection of  holograms is an emerging and rapidly-developing technology with fairly old roots, and great potential for the future. As early as the 1860s, theaters created what appeared to be 3-D, floating images by projecting pictures onto glass at an angle to the audience (Lee, 2013). More recently, holograms have been produced by projecting from various angles onto special aluminum “foil” sheets. Musion, a leading hologram developer, has produced lectures starring HRH Charles, Prince of Wales, addressing an energy summit.  The technology is becoming so realistic that Musion’s “Tupak Shakur” image appeared to be a reincarnation of the late rapper (Musion, 2014).

The Enhancement: Holograms can enhance the classroom experience at many levels. Students might be able to have a holographic Thomas Jefferson come to tell them about the Revolutionary war, or they might observe a “live” dissection in biology class, enhanced by the 3D imagery. Holographic technology also makes it possible to “appear” to many classrooms simultaneously from a distance.

The Obsolescence: With the recent improvements, holograms offer educators an opportunity tfilmstripo engage students with “living” media which can replace (or make obsolete) the outdated still images in slide shows, as well as the sometimes stale videos that are part of ordinary classroom experiences. For folks of a “certain age” who remember the ubiquitous filmstrip of the 50s and 60s, the holographic project seems to be a magic we could only imagine, and it doesn’t require a “ding” to remind teachers to switch to the next frame.

The Rekindling: Holograms in the classroom rekindle the mission to make education more relevant, exciting, and engaging (Bhashkar, 2013). The ability to interact with others using holography to speak to multiple classes at once opens new outlets for collaboration that rarely occur in many classes. Students who are already collaborating online with learners in other schools will find the 3D, more realistic imagery brings their cohorts “closer” in real time. Ghuloum’s (2010) research demonstrated that while many teachers expect holograms to be far off because of the costs associated with the technology, they are enthusiastic to see it develop and join the mainstream of educational technology.


The Reversal: We can imagine the next technology to follow holograms might be more interactive through the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI). As the science of holography continues to reveal new uses and better, cheaper equipment needs, one can envision a “holodeck” where students can interact with historical characters, tour ancient cities, or play learning games with their holographic cohorts from many places.

We have become familiar with the idea of holograms because of movies and television where the technology appears mainstream, from the image of a damsel in distress in the first Star Wars movie to the weekly forays onto the holodeck in the various iterations of Star Trek. Although we may still think of holograms as a science fiction “someday” technology, they are here, and they are improving rapidly in response to the demands of the tech industry as a whole. The medium may become the message, with the message being “see me in 3D, and interact with me for deeper learning.”


Bhashkar, S (2013).  Potential and Applications of Holograms To Engage Learners. Retrieved from EdTech Review

Ghuloum, H. (2010). 3D Hologram Technology in Learning Environment. Proceedings of Informing Science & IT Education Conference (InSITE) 2010. Retrieved from

Lee, H. (2013). 3D Holographic Technology and Its Educational Potential. Techtrends: Linking Research & Practice To Improve Learning57(4), 34-39. doi:10.1007/s11528-013-0675-8

Musion. (2014). Education. Retrieved from

Walsh, K., and Taylor, P. (2012).7 Ways holographic technology will make learning more fun. Emerging EdTech

 Photo Credits

Filmstrip projector:

Prince Charles:

Module 1 – Cloud Computing Emerges


A day does not go by that we don’t hear about “computing in the cloud,” the buzzword that describes using applications and storing data on the Internet rather than on a hard drive or local server. “The Cloud” is really nothing more than another term for Internet (Griffith, 2013). Although considered by many to have been originated in the worlds of Google and Oracle, the first use of the term can be traced to 1996 and an internal memo at Compaq, where the prospect was discussed as part of future strategic strategy (Regalado, 2011).

Soloway (Laureate Education (Producer), 2014a) notes that a technology has emerged when, among other things, it becomes both affordable and essential to the user. As a user who has been purchasing home computers every few years since 1992, I’ve experienced my share of lost data due to hard drive crashes or damaged floppy disks. Keeping my work secure in some remote location has become essential to me. The ability to back up data to a server via the Internet has been around since at least 2005, when Carbonite began offering automated hard drive backup (Carbonite, 2014a). I’ve personally been a customer almost since the beginning; the approximately $60 annual price tag has paid for itself time and again as I either changed computers or sent them in for repairs.

Beyond simple document storage, Microsoft and Adobe have joined Google Docs in becoming among the largest applications that can be used entirely online, without installing software on a computer hard drive. This allows for users to access their work wherever they happen to be, as long as they have Internet access. Google Docs (also known as Google Apps) is giving the ubiquitous MS Office a serious challenge in allowing multiple users to collaborate on documents and projects in the cloud, and some users have moved to the Google process permanently (Stevens, 2013).

A major challenge faced by proponents of cloud computing is convincing non-adopters of the safety of their data. Just as early users feared storing data on hard drives, believing floppies to be more secure, today’s computing population is concerned that hackers will have access to their data, or that some other catastrophe will cause the loss of all the work they hold dear. Deep and redundant encryption makes this less likely than, say, having one’s hard drive crash with irrevocable loss of data (Carbonite, 2014b).

If there is a serious pitfall to cloud computing, it is the necessity to have an Internet connection to access data and use cloud-based applications. This can mean lost time if, for example, there is an extended power outage, or when traveling to places where Internet service is limited. However, 4G and satellite technology make virtual connection possible nearly anywhere on the planet, and solar power sources for tech devices are becoming more robust and affordable. The computer industry is addressing the need for long battery life and strong Internet connections; devices such as the Chromebook by Google and the MacBook Air by Apple are two examples of computers that have eschewed the large hard drive for smaller solid-state (flash) drives with built-in 4G capabilities for use wherever a cell phone can find service.

I believe that cloud computing will eventually come to replace most hard drive-based storage and applications. The technology is expanding and improving, and developers are providing more web-based applications, allowing users to work “virtually” anywhere without worries about losing thumb drives or storing shelves of software packaging. If I were a professional prognosticator, I’d put money on the cloud eventually replacing PC-based storage entirely within the coming generation.



Carbonite. (2014a). About Us. Retrieved from Carbonite:

Carbonite. (2014b). Cloud backup 101. Retrieved from Carbonite:

Griffith, E. (2013, March 13). What is cloud computing? Retrieved from PC Mag:,2817,2372163,00.asp

Laureate Education (Producer) (2014a). Elliot Soloway: Emerging vs. emerged technologies . [Audio file]. Baltimore, MD: Author.

Mobile World. (2014). People working in the cloud. Retrieved from

Regalado, A. (2011, October 31). Who coined “cloud computing?”. Retrieved from MIT Technology Review:

Stevens, A. (2013, March 15). Office in the cloud: Google Apps vs. Office 365. Retrieved from ZD Net:

Technom. (2014). Cloud computing graphic. Retrieved from