I'm not your typical early adopter, but I pre-ordered Apple's iPad and have used it endlessly since the day it landed on the doorstep of my Virginia farmhouse. Wherever I take it, I end up doing a sales pitch for the darned thing. From waiters at the only good restaurant in town to kids and adults at the hockey rink, everyone wants to know about Apple's magical device. The question I answer most often is "What do you use it for?" My answer is about 100 different things, but not just one thing. There is no killer app. For all its sizzle and hype, the iPad is a subtle device. It works its way into your daily routines in a hundred ways until you end up having separation anxiety when your spouse sneaks off with it to read a book. Weird, but true. Then again, isn't that what great products do? They subtly work their way into our routines. We don't know they have crossed the path from useful to vital until we don't have access to them for a period of time. Then we panic.
A few years ago, I bought a car with a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT). It wasn't why I bought the car. Truth be told, I didn't even know what CVT was. I liked the car. Five years later, when I went shopping for a replacement, I only considered cars with the smooth shifting CVT. Marketers can fill Times Square with all the brightly lit messages they can afford, but unless a product delivers consistently every day until we are dependent upon it, the product ranks as fad not trend.
For all the fanfare surrounding the cloud, I suspect this is the way the cloud will enter our work lives -- slowly, steadily and subtly. We won't be aware of its integration into our lives until there is a problem and we can't access something. I think this is already happening on a much wider scale than we realize.
The savvy people over at ZDnet's CloudTweaks raised an interesting illustration of this point in their blog about yesterday's introduction of Apple's other wonder tool, the iPhone. Writing about the introduction of a whole new class of SmartPhones, from Apple, HTC, RIM Nokia, Motorola and others, CloudTweaks pointed out that "these devices are introducing cloud computing offerings to many who might not otherwise care. The folks purchasing these devices don’t really care about all of that, however. They just want a slick looking, highly functional device." Exactly!
SmartPhone Apps have moved in one year from the novelty of Zippo Lighters to very functional network-based applications and services. And these are not just limited to apps of restaurants, maps and directions. There is an increasingly diverse set of corporate applications in areas like CRM, banking and communications. The cost benefits and limited risk certainly make these applications appealing to SMBs. But if employees start injecting cloud usage of their own accord via SmartPhones into the technology gene pool of large corporations, will their subtle reliance on the cloud accelerate the adoption of more mainstream cloud deployments? How long will it take until the cloud wends is way into mainstream corporate usage? For all the hype and marketing about the cloud, nothing will measure success in technology better than separation anxiety. In fact, I think they call it addiction. Excuse me. HONEY, WHERE'S THE iPAD?!!!!!!