Tom Friedman discovers the cloud

Tom Friedman is usually very good at explaining the disruptive influence of new technology and the implications for the global economy, even if he isn’t the first (or second) to notice something.

The latest phase in the I.T. revolution is being driven by the convergence of social media — Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Groupon, Zynga — with the proliferation of cheap wireless connectivity and Web-enabled smartphones and “the cloud” — those enormous server farms that hold and constantly update thousands of software applications, which are then downloaded (as if from a cloud) by users on their smartphones, making them into incredibly powerful devices that can perform myriad tasks.

The emergence of the cloud, explained Alan Cohen, a vice president of Nicira, a new networking company, “means than anyone can have the computing resources of Google and rent it by the hour.” This is speeding up everything — innovation, product cycles and competition.

The October issue of Fast Company has an article about the designer Scott Wilson, who thought of grafting the body of an iPod Nano onto colorful wristbands, turning them into watchlike devices that could wake you up and play your music. He had no money, though, to bring his concept to market, so he turned to Kickstarter, the Web-based funding platform for independent creative projects. He posted his idea on Nov. 16, 2010, reported Fast Company, and “within a month, 13,500 people from 50 countries had ponied up nearly $1 million.” Apple soon picked up the product for its stores. Said Alexis Ringwald, 28, who recently founded an education start-up, her second Silicon Valley venture: “I have many friends — they introduce themselves as ‘reformed’ Wall St. bankers and lawyers — who have abandoned conventional careers and are now launching start-ups.”

Some like Rich Kaarlgard have been describing this as the “cheap revolution” for years. Friedman is explaining the new developments in that area. We now have it all at our fingertips all the time. It’s a powerful and exciting development. Kickstarter is a great crowdsourcing example that thrives in this environment.

Friedman uses the column to contrast Wall Street and Silicon Valley. It’s a good read.

  

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