Streaming Cloud Content Comes of Age
Cloud computing as an idea dates back to the 1960s, but only in the last few years have the practical applications of the cloud reached consumers. Most recently, Apple and Amazon both introduced cloud lockers that could store and stream audio media to any Internet-ready device. Cloud computing has arrived, but the general public can still only access its most primitive features.
Sure, streaming music is great, but what about streaming movies on an iPhone as if it was a DVD player? Or using an editing program that lives in the cloud on your iPad or other tablet? Cloud streaming, which was named a top 10 emerging technology of 2011 by MIT Technology Review, has applications far beyond just doling out music.
The movement is a convergence of two technologies. One is cloud streaming itself. Steve Perlman, CEO of OnLive, has developed a way for mobile devices to access powerful software up in the cloud and use it in real time, according to MIT Technology Review. Other companies like Netflix and Cisco are also working on ways to make cloud streaming more efficient and powerful.
The other technology is the web itself. With the development of HTML 5, new versions of Adobe Flash and WebGL, all of which allow for easier and more robust ways to handle multimedia, the Internet browser itself will become a portal for using new applications.
"Before we were tethered and now we have this potential for these devices to allow us to do anything anywhere," said Mark Beccue, a senior analyst for consumer mobility with ABI Research.
The other convergence is faster data networks. If you have ever tried to stream video on a public Wi-Fi network, you know that often the network is too slow, even though the technology for streaming is there.
"It's difficult to nail down cloud versus other things" such as the Web, said Beccue. As these technologies all become more robust and versatile, they become more interconnected. "At the very least, you have a delivery system that requires the Web," said Beccue, referring to the fact that you can’t access data in the cloud if you don’t have the Internet.
Just like the developments of mobile devices themselves, this is all being driven by the consumer's desire to do things more easily and efficiently, which usually means having access to all facets of their digital life at all times.
"We're going to have a lot of innovative ways that companies will exploit this," said Beccue. "At this point it kind of defies imagination."
This story is part of a series covering MIT Technology Review's Top 10 Emerging Technologies of 2011 list. You can read the previous parts of the series here.