So this week I shall be talking about the concept of ‘software above the level of a single device’.
What does this mean? Well, in a nutshell, any software service which you are able to access from more than 1 device, whether it be a mobile phone, a laptop or a PC. To better explain this concept, let’s look at an example of software that runs above the level of a single device: Microsoft Windows Live Mesh.
Here is a short advertisement for Microsoft Windows Live Mesh featured at the Web 2.0 expo:
Windows Live Mesh is a free data sharing and synchronization service offered by Microsoft. It works in the following way. A user is able to add content (files, folders etc.) to “the mesh” (collective term for all devices synchronized with one another). For a typical user this mesh may consist of mobile devices, laptops and home computers. Depending on the application, it may also contain devices of friends or family. When content is uploaded to the mesh, e.g. a photo from a mobile phone, live mesh synchronizes the new content with the other devices in the mesh. To accomplish this, Live Mesh utilities the widely used open- source FeedSync system.
What is the use of such a service? Well, for starters this is the perfect example of what a Web 2.0 application aims to achieve, namely information collaboration and sharing over the Internet. Previously this was not possible as several restrictions such as cost of the service, number of users who would actually find it useful and also technical capability handicaps (such as Internet speed) existed. These days, devices that connect to the net are ubiquitous. Almost every person has a mobile phone and a computer device of some sort. Internet speeds and data allowances are more than capable of allowing this (in first world countries at least… click here to learn more about the technology gap that still exists between First World Countries and Third World Countries).
The most glaring benefit however, of software that runs above the level of a single device so to speak is that the information that is being dealt with is not restricted to a single device. This means the information is readily accessible anywhere you go. The software itself is of little importance here, which is a key concept to understand. We do not access Windows Live Mesh to access “it”… meaning it’s not an end point. It is simply a means to get to what’s really important, the information. In the case of Live Mesh, family photos, videos, music and even work documents need not be carried around with you. They can all be retrieved from “the mesh”. Think of it as your on line access to all your computing devices, whenever, wherever. It has tremendous impact on mobility and also efficiency. For example, working on a document at work due the next morning? No need to finish it then and there. Simply access the document from the mesh at home, finish it and it will automatically get synchronized with your computer at work. Another example would be an overseas vacation. No need to take all your photographs and data overseas, simply access it over the web.
This is basically how other such software such as Facebook and Twitter work.
To sum up, I would say that after the ubiquitousness of devices, the only logical step from here would be to make information ubiquitous as well. After all, it is the really what counts in the end.