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In a paper released this month as sample work from Springboard Research, I was struck by the comment that "Organizations will [likely] seek a mix of options when it comes to software hosting… Even the most vocal SaaS providers, Google and Salesforce, have tacitly acknowledged that online presence is not possible for users at all times and have begun delivering offline variants of their applications."

I felt impelled — or even compelled — to challenge some of the assumptions that seem to be built into this statement.

  • First, I find that it’s ever more irrelevant to have a computer even turned on if it has no working Internet link. At this point, about the only things I can usefully do without a live feed are simple proofreading, image editing, or condensation of a presentation or a document down to a smaller size for use in a different setting. If I’m actually generating any new work, or taking any meaningful action, I need to be on line. Music composers and pure mathematicians are likely to disagree, but they’re not the mainstream market.
  • Second, I find that the number of places where I’m not on line is rapidly shrinking. I recently acquired an iPod Touch, and find that one of its most useful functions is as a pocket-size full-screen Wi-Fi sniffer. I find that if I’m not particular about briefly borrowing some bit-rate from an open access point, we live in a really packetful world — and without much effort at all, I can even be fully legitimate almost anywhere.
  • Third, I feel as if it’s sort of inside-out to talk about being disconnected in terms of whether you do or don’t have live Net access. I feel a whole lot more disconnected when there’s something I need, right now, but it’s on a particular laptop or desktop hard drive and I’m not in the same room as that particular machine. I’m getting ever more conservative about keeping things on a memory stick, or on a portable hard drive, or — best option — somewhere in a well-secured slice of the cloud where I can use it anywhere, anytime.

Finally and most generally, it’s not the problem of any single technology provider (or even any particular subset of the tech provider ecosystem) to solve the problem of staying up and running even if your public network link is intermittent. Google Gears, Adobe AIR, and any number of solutions yet to emerge are narrowing the gap between reality and full-speed always-on — and in a standards-based community, everyone gets better together. That’s the kind of connection that benefits us all.

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