Monday, August 08, 2011

Computing, a new public utility of the 21st century, Part 2

From the economic, the web evolutionary, the societal, and the technological perspectives, the computing as a utility has already begun.

This is the part 2 of a three-installment mini-series.

Part 1: a broad view of public utilities

Part 2: another thinking of the mobile web and the apps

The rise of the mobile web and the prevalence of the mobile apps combine to be the most significant phenomenon about the Web since the hype of Web 2.0. Based on a recent report from TheNextWeb, 31% of the 5 billion mobile phone users in 2010 accessed the web through their phones. The analysts predicted that in as early as 2014 the total number of global mobile Internet users would be equal to the total number of desktop Internet users. According to the data by Business Insider in March, from June 2009 to March 2001 the number of iPhone apps increased 7 times and reached the total number of 350K. During the same time period the number of apps on Android increased 50 times and reached beyond the total number of 250K.

What does this phenomenon represent? Among the many people have explained it based on four typical perspectives.

Economically the mobile web rises due to the economic need. Fred Wilson declared that "the mobile economics will trend toward Web economics". The mobile web business is what the Web business extends itself to the mobile phones for the convenience of the customers. Although cautiously I disagree to Wilson's corollary that "the business models that don't work well on the web will not work well in mobile in the long run", sincerely I am inclined to his prediction that the size of the mobile web business will be "even bigger and more exciting" than the desktop web business we have experienced.

Evolutionarily the Internet demands new types of links to grow. Chris Anderson and Michael Wolff claimed that the rise of the mobile web was one indicator to "the Web is dead". "The rise of machine-to-machine communications", Anderson wrote, "... is all about control." Web 2.0 brings the Web users closer to each other. The mobile web, by contrast, brings the users' computing closer to the respective service computing providers. Through the mobile apps the direct links between the service providers and the service consumers are established and enhanced. With these new strong connections the Internet was woven to be more diverse in the style of its links.

Societally we are able to get to the more delicate details of our society through the mobile apps. Ed Schipul emphasized that the mobile web equaled to a new way of communication in his public presentation "Mobile Web: How the impact of the iPhone will change Communications". Through the mobile web, the unspeakable living context is added to the social networks. The mobile web is a natural extension of Web 2.0 that is dedicated to the discovery and enhancement of the interpersonal relationships in our society.

Technologically it is a new gadget revolution that makes us live better. The prevalence of the mobile apps has updated the vision from software as a service (SaaS) to mobile as a platform. The quick adoption of iOS and Android indicates us a new era of information technology. They are not another operating system. They represent a technological revolution that liberates us from the sole binding to the computers for knowledge calculation.

Behind the four explanations it is the shift of computing from the local computers to the cloud as an utility.

Because of the computing as an utility, we are able to invent the new, less-powerful gadgets such as the smart phones to handle the more and more sophisticated demands of information calculation. This is the technological impact.

Because the new information-computing gadgets are smaller and less powerful, which means cheaper, more users are actively involved into the tide of information creation. More delicate details of our social life are digitized by the small gadgets. This information is then sent to the more powerful cloud and executed by the utility. This is the societal impact.

Because the demands are generated by the gadgets while the solutions are provided by the utility, the Internet is evolving toward an enhanced web whose new links directly connect the demands and the solutions. This is the web evolutionary impact.

And at last, because of all of the above computing becomes more efficient and more effective by the form of being an utility. In consequence we can use it to produce more output that satisfies our economic needs. This is the economic impact.

The cloud computing at present is still on its very early stage. Let it alone the computing as a utility in its ultimate form. But as we discussed in this post, the process of computing to be a utility is already inevitable by the mean of technology, by the mean of societal influence, by the mean of web evolution, and by the mean of economy. It is only a matter of when in contrast to a matter of whether or not.


In the first installment of the series we studied that in theory computing is eligible to be a utility. In the second installment we discussed how the process of computing being a utility had already begun. In the next installment we will then share how the world and our life would be after the computing as a utility comes true.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Being a pastor is hard

It has been 5 months. I must say that it is hard to keep on sharing a reasonably insightful post about the belief of Christianity every Sunday. Then I can imagine how hard it must be for a pastor to prepare a sermon that must inspire and bring light to hundreds of listeners every week.

The difference is that a post like this, let it alone a sermon, must be the sharing of truth and love. It is unlike writing the technology articles, which you do not have to put into your spirit. A post of technology does not require me to study and examine the deepest of my heart. But any post (or sermon) of the belief takes the heart with the writing. Before we speak of the truth, we were first judged and examined by the truth. The experience is hard. And many times it is even painful because it is truly difficult to write about sunshine when we find ourselves still in the darkness.

Ephesians 6:24

Grace to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love.

In Chinese Translation (以弗所书 6)

24 并愿所有诚心爱我们主耶稣基督的人都蒙恩惠!

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Computing, a new public utility of the 21st century, Part 1

Computing is qualified to be a public utility of the 21st century; and it is good if it comes true.

This is the part 1 of a three-installment mini-series.

Part 1: a broad view of public utilities

A public utility represents an infrastructure that serves a general demand of the public. The typical general demands include such as the demand of water supply, the demand of power supply, the demand of waste disposal, the demand of transportation, the demand of remote communication, and the demand of safety. Respectively we have the public utilities such as water, electricity (and natural gas), sewage, road (and rail), post (and phone), and police services.

Because of public utility ordinary people as well as the businesses may reach their general demands in low cost. Take the demand of power supply as the example. Before electricity became a public utility, power supply for not only the ordinary persons but also the businesses was expensive. In consequence, both the intensively energy-consuming personal gadgets and the intensively energy-consuming businesses were economically infeasible in society. After the invention of electricity distribution network, electricity became a new public utility of the 20th century. With the significantly lowered cost of power supply, many cutting-edge energy-consuming personal gadgets and factories rose from the horizon. It was the last great industry revolution.

But it is not to say that any general demand is suitable to be a public utility. Let's take a look at two examples.

The general demand of food supply is rarely implemented as a public utility. Comparing to the demands such as water supply or power supply, the food supply is too diverse in its demand. Different people often have varied requests on the food they demand. As the result, unless it is in some toughest time of history (such as during the war time when the general demand of food supply is generally reduced to be bread only) few governments take the demand of food supply to be a public utility.

Another typical example is the general demand of marriage. Although certainly everybody expects a spouse, never have this demand been a public utility. The reason is similar. Everybody has his (or her) unique preference. Such a demand is infeasible for a public utility solution.

With these insights we may start to study the other general demands and see whether they are feasible to be a public utility. Let's begin with a controversial topic---the general demand of healthcare. Shall our society be dominated by the government-run hospitals or the government-operated health insurance? The answer shall be no. The demand of healthcare is similar to the demand of food supply. The demand is general to everybody. But at the same time it is also too diverse in the demand with respect to the individuals. Government must initiate a few special programs for taking care of the health of the low-income people. It is the same as government has already provided special food supply programs for the low-incomes. But it is not a good idea to make the general demand of healthcare be a public utility, which would be equivalent for us to have made the general demand of food supply be a public utility.

Finally we are able to touch the theme---the demand of information computation. Based on what we have studied, we shall answer two questions in order to determine whether computing would be qualified for a new public utility. (1) Is the demand of information computation general to the public? And (2) are the requests from people in this demand too diverse to be handled by a public utility?

Since the invention of personal computer and World Wide Web, our society has already entered the information age. The digitized information is flooding over the daily life of many of us. Nowadays few people claim too little information to look at. By contrast, we often complain there are too much information but too limited ability to digest. The demand of information computation has been general to most of the ordinary people of our society.

Simultaneously digital data representation is gradually becoming uniform. After decades of studies the data storage at the physical layer has already been unified. We can now indistinguishably access the data stored in varied devices that are produced by different manufactures. Even at the presentation layer, due to the efforts of the Semantic Web and the linked data initiatives the data representation is approaching a common standard across the Web. All these achievements lays the foundation for implementing the general demand of information computation to become the new public utility of computing.


This first installment explains briefly why computing is qualified and good in theory to be a new public utility in the 21st century. The next installment will continue the topic by illustrating the Web evolutionary trend how computing is actually approaching to be a public utility.