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It's Getting Cloudy in the Technology Business

A seismic shift is underway in the technology sector as companies big and small embrace the "cloud". The cloud is another name for the Internet, but instead of a simply thinking of it as a set of dumb cables connecting computers together, the cloud represents the idea that all information and programs will reside on the Internet in a smart way for seamless interaction from anywhere. Rather than your local computer being the centerpiece of your digital life, it is shifted to the net where you can use any PC or any net-connected device -- mobile phones, PDAs, netbooks, and other yet to be invented devices.

Strategy teams at major technology companies are creating divisions such as "Cloud Infrastructure Group" and printing business cards with titles like "Cloud Supervisor". Start-up companies are out registering every possible domain name with the word cloud. (smartcloud, bigcloud, redcloud, nanocloud, etc). Unlike other mass hysteria fueled trends (Y2K, P2P, peak oil, global warming, etc), cloud computing is a trend that will dramatically change every aspect of our lives and deserves the hype, investment and attention.



Video will certainly reside and be delivered from the cloud and we're witnessing the early days of that transformation. YouTube has already amassed a massive library of short form video. Longer form video with higher quality is finding a home at Veoh. Besides these legitimate services there are many unlicensed services that offer a wide selection of videos. The new generation of young people use sites like The Pirate Bay and YouTorrent as their video provider instead of the cable company.

I attended a party last weekend to watch a pay-per-view event that was crowded with young people. Next to the big screen TV were two laptops tuned to ChannelSurfing.net, which broadcasts pay-per-view events from all over the world as they happen for free. The site had every major PPV event worldwide as it happens and has an archive of past events. The homeowner had paid for this event so I inquired why the laptops were necessary. The laptop owners said they were testing the delay, video quality and broadcasting team of ChannelSurfing.net for future events. (Apparently the service is based overseas and often has non-US announcers.) It's increasingly common for younger, technically minded people to not subscribe to a video service (cable or satellite) and simply use the cloud.

Video is following in the footsteps of music that experienced the music in the cloud explosion with Napster nearly 10 years ago. The original Napster has been shutdown, but there's an ever-expanding list of services taking their place from commercial MP3 stores (Amazon, Napster, Rhapsody) to unlicensed music services (Playlist, Muxtape, Grooveshark, etc).

Unlike the above companies, MP3tunes is not trying to offer the all-encompassing song library, but, we are about music in the cloud. We're putting your personal music collection into the cloud. This doesn't mean dumping your songs online into an A-Z list -- plenty of companies can do that. The cloud requires an intelligent approach so your music is everywhere you are with playlists, album art, searching, and smart playback to match any mood. With personal music in the cloud, any PC you use can have iTunes-like access to your music. Or, buy an Internet radio and have music in any room of your house. If you've got a Wii, Tivo, or other net connected device then you'll also have your tunes.

MP3tunes is investing millions in building the music cloud infrastructure, publishing an API for all to use, releasing open source libraries and working closely with hardware companies to build the next generation of home, car and mobile music devices which tap into the music cloud. Shortly we'll be releasing software to put your audio collection on any mobile phone. (If you'd like to help beta test please send me an e-mail and of course you'll need your own Music Locker).

Undoubtedly you'll be hearing more about the cloud from industry luminaries over the coming months and years as society makes the shift from the physical world to the cloud. Young people like those from the PPV party don't talk about the "cloud". It is already second nature to them. It's how they live and how they expect the world to work, like how we think (or don't think) about electricity.

Politicians will continue to speculate about global weather trends and forecasts of perilous doom which may or may not be true, but massive clouds will rain down change on every aspect of our technical life.

--MR

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