As Amazon fuels the fire, where are the networks to deliver our content?

Last week saw Amazon’s announcement of the Kindle Fire – a new tablet computer which marks the bookstore-turned-online-warehouse-turned-cloud-infrastructure-provider‘s latest skirmish into the world of content provision and consumption. It’s not going to be available in the UK and Ireland for a while (some of the supporting services don’t yet exist here) but many technology commentators have drawn comparisons with the Apple iPad – the current tablet market leader (by a country mile). And, whilst there are comparisons (both are tablets, both rely on content) – they really do compete in different sectors.

Even as an iPad user, I can see the attractiveness of the Kindle Fire: If Amazon is able to execute its strategy (and all signs suggest they are), then they can segment the tablet market leaving Apple at the premium end and shifting huge volumes of low price devices to non-geeks. Note how Amazon has maintained a range of lower-price eInk devices too? That’s all about preserving and growing the existing user base – people who like reading, like the convenience of eBooks but who are not driven by technology.

At this point you’re probably starting to wonder why I’m writing this on a blog from a provider of enterprise IT systems and services. How is this really relevant to the enterprise? Actually, I think it is really relevant. I’ve written about the consumerisation of enterprise IT over and over (on this blog and elsewhere) but, all of a sudden, we’re not talking about a £650 iPad purchase (a major commitment for most people) but a sub-£200 tablet (assuming the Fire makes it to the UK). And that could well mark a tipping point where Android, previously largely confined to smartphones, is used to access other enterprise services.

I can think of at least one former CIO for whom that is a concern: the variety of Android platforms and the potential for malware is a significant security risk. But we can’t stick our heads in the sand, or ban Android devices – we need to find a way forward that is truly device and operating system agnostic (and I think that’s best saved as a topic for another blog post).

What the Apple iPad, Amazon Kindle Fire, and plethora of Google Android-powered devices have in common is their reliance on content. Apple and Amazon both have a content-driven strategy (Google is working on one) but how does that content reach us? Over the Internet.

And there stands a problem… outside major cities, broadband provision is still best described as patchy. There are efforts to improve this (including, but not exclusively, those which Fujitsu is taking part in) but 3G and  4G mobile networks are a part of the picture.

UK businesses and consumers won’t be able to fully benefit from new cloud-based tools until the UK has a nationwide reliable high speed mobile data network and a new paper, published today by the Open Digital Policy Organisation suggests that the UK is at least 2 years behind major countries in its 4G rollout plans. Aside from the potential cost to businesses of £732m a year,  we’re all consumers, downloading content to our Kindles, iPads, watching TV catch-up services like BBC iPlayer and 4oD, as well as video content from YouTube, Vimeo, etc. Add to that the networks of sensors that will drive the future Internet – and then consider that many businesses are starting to question the need for expensive wide area network connections when inexpensive public options are available… I think you get my point…

We live in a content-driven society – more and more so by the day… sadly it seems that the “information superhighway” is suffering from congestion and that may well stifle our progress.

[This post originally appeared on the Fujitsu UK and Ireland CTO Blog.]

The future Internet and the Intelligent Society

Last week, I spent an evening with the British Computer Society’s Internet Specialist Group, where I’d been asked to present on where I see the Internet developing in future – an always-on, connected vision of joined-up services to deliver greater benefit across society.

I started out with a brief retrospective of the last 42 years of Internet development and at look at the way we use the Internet today, before I introduced the concept of human-centric computing and, in particular, citizen-centric computing as featured in Rebecca MacKinnon’s TED talk about the need to take back the Internet. This shows how we need any future Internet to evolve in a citizen-centric manner, building a world where government and technology serve people and leads nicely into some of the concepts introduced in the Technology Strategy Board‘s Future Internet Report.

After highlighting out the explosion in the volumes of data and the number of connected devices, I outlined the major enabling components for the future Internet – far more than “bigger pipes” – although we do need a capable access mechanism, infrastructure for the personalisation of cloud services and for machine to machine (M2M) transactions; and finally, for convergence that delivers a transformational change in both public and private service delivery.

Our vision is The Intelligent Society; bringing physical and virtual worlds into harmony to deliver greater benefit across society. As consumerisation takes hold, technology is becoming more accessible, even commoditised in places, for on delivery of on-demand, stateless services. Right now we have a “perfect storm” where a number of technologies are maturing and falling into alignment to deliver our vision.

These technologies break down into: the devices (typically mobile) and sensors (for M2M communications); the networks that join devices to services; and the digital utilities that provide on demand computing and software resources for next-generation digital services. And digital utilities are more than just “more cloud” too – we need to consider interconnectivity between clouds, security provision and the compute power required to process big data to provide analytics and smart responses.

There’s more detail in the speaker notes on the deck (and I should probably write some more blog posts on the subject) but I finished up with a look at Technology Perspectives – a resource we’ve created to give a background context for strategic planning.

As we develop “the Internet of the future” we have an opportunity to deliver benefit, not just in terms of specific business problems, but on a wide scale that benefits entire populations. Furthermore, we’ve seen that changing principles and mindsets are creating the right conditions for these solutions to be incubated and developed alongside maturing technologies that enabling this vision and making it a reality.

This isn’t sci-fi, this is within our reach. And it’s very exciting.

[This post originally appeared on the Fujitsu UK and Ireland CTO Blog.]