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The Evolution of Computers: Key Resources (July 2013): The Personalized Web, Mobile, and the Cloud

By Kyle D. Winward

The Personalized Web, Mobile, and the Cloud

The first decade of the twenty-first century marked another critical turning point—the decreasing importance and popularity of desktop computers, fixed storage mediums, and to some extent operating systems themselves, and the rapid rise in the popularity of smartphones, tablets, and cloud computing.  Two companies critical to this phenomena are Apple and Google.  Important works about Apple are covered in the previous section of this essay.  Several significant books have examined Google’s operations and success.  Perhaps the most authoritative history of the company is Ken Auletta’s award-winning Googled: The End of the World as We Know It.  John Battelle’s The Search: How Google and Its Rivals Rewrote the Rules of Business and Transformed Our Culture explains how Google grew from a search provider to a multi-platform giant, launching such impressive products as Google Earth and Google Docs, and expanding its reach by acquiring YouTube and the Android operating system.

Other recommended works for gaining insights about Google include Siva Vaidhyanathan’s The Googlization of Everything: (and Why We Should Worry) and Steven Levy’s In the Plex: How Google Thinks, Works, and Shapes Our Lives.  An interesting insider perspective is Douglas Edwards’s I’m Feeling Lucky: The Confessions of Google Employee Number 59.  Edwards describes his employment with Google in the early years, including the relaxed work atmosphere of the Google campus and flatter organizational structure, and Google’s successes (e.g., AdWords) as well as challenges (e.g., its first social networking platform, Orkut).

Wireless networks have become increasingly important and expected in contemporary digital lives.  Given the recency of the wireless Internet, the book literature on this topic is more limited, especially about its historical development.  Titles useful for gaining an understanding of this new technology include Mobile Wireless Communications by Mischa Schwartz, which includes coverage of the history of mobile communications, and Dipankar Raychaudhuri and Mario Gerla’s Emerging Wireless Technologies and the Future Mobile Internet, which covers more recent developments.  Michael Saylor’s The Mobile Wave: How Mobile Intelligence Will Change Everything offers an exciting look into future of mobile technology but also provides historical perspective on the topics covered.

Reliance on mobile devices and platforms has correspondingly led to increasingly portable and smaller-profile memory storage and even remote storage of documents, music, images, etc.  Google Docs was one of the earliest popular applications of remote drive space, but as Kai Hwang, Geoffrey Fox, and Jack Dongarra stress in Distributed and Cloud Computing: From Parallel Processing to the Internet of Things, cloud computing initiatives have been in place for thirty years.  Their book can serve as a valuable overview and history of cloud computing.  In Management Strategies for the Cloud Revolution: How Cloud Computing Is Transforming Business and Why You Can’t Afford to Be Left Behind, Charles Babcock adroitly defines what cloud computing is and is not by referring to the proposed (now final) National Institute of Standards and Technology definition, The NIST Definition of Cloud Computing.  In Behind the Cloud: The Untold Story of How Salesforce.com Went from Idea to Billion-Dollar Company—and Revolutionized an Industry, Marc Benioff and Carlye Adler detail how Salesforce.com survived the financial downturn of 2001 to become one of the leaders in cloud computing.

The smartphone ushered in another technological revolution.  Although the term came into use later, Ira Sager describes in great detail the first smartphone—IBM’s “Simon”—in the frequently cited article “Before IPhone and Android Came Simon, the First Smartphone”.  The first popular smartphone was the BlackBerry Pearl, and in the essay “Research, No Motion: How the BlackBerry CEOs Lost an Empire”, Jesse Hicks describes the initial success of the BlackBerry and asserts that the dire financial situation RIM (Research In Motion) finds itself in is mostly due to its CEOs’ reluctance to see beyond RIM’s initial business-orientated market.

In contrast, Apple’s venture into smartphones has focused on the popular consumer base, gaining phenomenal success and loyalty with users interested in multimedia applications.  Always On: How the iPhone Unlocked the Anything-Anytime-Anywhere Future—and Locked Us In, Brian Chen details how smartphone applications have and will continue to enter all aspects of society, whether for entertainment or business.  Chen also approaches the topic of how the constant connection may affect human intelligence and learning.

Works Cited