Reach for the sky
When electricity first started to be used commercially at the end of the nineteenth century it was very much a locally generated affair. To begin with towns would have their own generating station and companies that needed to use it also installed generators.
By the turn of the twentieth century electricity started to be sent across power lines over longer distances and at the same time various inventors started to produce devices that could take advantage of the new technology; the first vacuum cleaner and washing machine appeared in 1908. Today it is rare for companies to generate their own electricity and the rest of us rely on power generated by power stations in the UK and on the continent when we switch on a light or turn on the TV.
There is a similar analogy to be made with computer technology and a fundamental change going on with the way we use devices today, which will impact on the graphic arts industry. Bill Gates envisaged a world dominated by personal computers running windows, into which we would load various programs, including many produced by Microsoft. Steve Jobs had a similar view, except that he wanted the computer, the operating system and the program all manufactured by Apple.
That is the world we inhabit today, where you can choose from any number of PCs running Windows and proprietary software or you are an Apple user. The software you are using is resident in the machine and is usually supplied to you preloaded or it comes in a box and you load up the DVDs. Running the software is your responsibility, backing it up and updating it regularly is also your responsibility and making sure the PC is capable of running it is also down to you. It’s all a bit like the early days of electricity, with us all running our own software in-house.
There is one major difference between the nineteenth century and today however – we are all now connected by the internet. This intricate network of cables, landlines and wireless joins all PCs and Macs through internet service providers and is now powering a trend similar to the early days of electricity. Software no longer needs to be loaded into your computer in order for you to use it.
Increasingly software suppliers are hosting applications in large server farms on the internet and making the software available through an internet standard browser. The “Cloud” as it is called is starting to impact how we use software and in turn creating less reliance on PCs and ushering in a world of tablet users. Software providers are starting to see that providing software in the Cloud has many advantages.
They can make sure their customers are all using the latest version. They can charge customers monthly, creating a regular revenue stream. They can cut their distribution costs since they no longer need DVDs and boxes and can cover other countries from their home base. The users benefit from easy access to software and lower start-up costs. For example you can now rent the latest full version of Microsoft Office for £25 per month from one provider. Moving to a mobile tablet device such as the iPad means that powerful software does not need to be carried round with you, backed up or even assigned to you personally.
Software suppliers are now making MIS, Workflow Web Submission and Job Accounting available in the Cloud, along with Cloud storage replacing the old job bags. Many other applications will follow in due course, perhaps eventually even RIP Controllers. They will be as easy to access as Google mail or Picasa.
Soon, the days of internal IT departments and regular requests to update your software will be a thing of the past, along with hard disk arrays, clunky PCs and shelves of boxed software, which we have all been too busy to install!
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