Monday, June 22, 2009

"Genealogy in the Cloud" Program Summary - Part 1

Gary Hoffman presented "Genealogy in the Cloud" at the Computer Genealogy society of San Diego (CGSSD) meeting on Saturday, 20 June. The talk description was provided here.

"Computing in the Cloud " refers to Internet based software and web sites where the user does not use genealogy software on their "at home" or "away-from-home" computer, but uses software applications on the Internet (such as Google Docs, Gmail, Internet browser, investment management, photo management, music management, video sharing, social networks, online family trees, gaming, etc.). What else do you do with a computer?

The "Internet cloud" is represented by this graphic (which Gary used):

Users are connected to networks in the "cloud" to access their work and they don't really care about software downloads, where their data is stored, or how it gets to their computer to use - only that they can access it immediately and start up from where they left off.

There were two major parts to Gary's presentation about the future direction of genealogy - first about hardware and then about software. This post will discuss the hardware aspect and another post will discuss software.

Gary took the audience of about 70 on a fast trip down memory lane - from the first PC in 1981 and first Mac in 1984 with outrageous prices, to the present where our desktop machines have RAM and hard drive memory in the gigabytes, and high screen resolution all for a price of around $800 - more bang for the buck packed in about the same size case as 25 years ago.

But a counter-trend has developed - the Netbook. It's not really a computer, but a portal to the Internet without a hard drive (with flash memory so few moving parts), which sells for $200 to $400. It's lightweight, with a 9-10 inch screen, a relatively slow processor, a long battery life (goal is trans-continental 6.5 hours), wireless/cell network communications, running a light version of Windows, Linus or Mac OS X. You can read more about Netbooks on Wikipedia - see

Remember the buzz several years ago when the government announced a goal of one laptop per child for $100? This is essentially it. Dell, Hewlett-Packard and Asian manufacturers are making them now. One of the people in the audience had an Acer model that she bought at Costco for $330. There is a smaller profit margin for the hardware manufacturer because of the relatively low price.

The market is the millions of people in Asia, poor people subsidized by governments, and wealthy people who treat them as toys, throwaways or hand-me-downs when the better one comes along. Gary said that cell network providers in Japan are giving away Netbooks with provider contracts for $30 per month. Is this the future in the USA? Probably!

The "winners" in the Netbook market are the cheap manufacturers, agile websites, savvy content owners, customers, and the telephone companies with wireless and cell services.

The "losers" are traditional hardware manufacturers, traditional software and operating systems vendors, slow-to-adapt content owners, and newspapers and books.

In summary, Netbooks don't run programs, they run applications on the Internet. They need wireless and cell networks to run effectively. The next generation of users wants it now.

Where is all of your data with a Netbook? On the Internet, protected by passwords, rather than on your desktop computer with hard drives that fail regularly.

What does the future hold for genealogy users? We'll discuss that in the next post, along with Gary's experiences with doing genealogy in the cloud.

FYI - Dick Eastman had a good article last March titled Computing in the Clouds that covered the software issues very well.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Randy, I have used it for three years and I like the concept and the fact family can add without yourself doing the work. The drag is to make sure that the data is ligit that is put up. I use both Geni and Reunion as back up. New inventions sometimes fail like old ones.
:>) SusiCP