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Take Woz Cloud Fears with a Grain of Salt

Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak's prediction this past weekend that cloud computing may cause "horrendous problems" has gone viral but with due respect to the visionary inventor of the Apple I and II PCs: take his fears with a grain of salt.

Wozniak raised his concerns during off the cuff remarks after performing in Mike Daisey's theatrical presentation The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs, which exposes the labor conditions at Foxconn, the key manufacturer of Apple products in China.

In response to a question from an audience member after the two-hour performance, Wozniak revealed he's concerned about the growing trend toward storing data in cloud based services, reported PhysOrg.com, a news service covering science and technology.

"I really worry about everything going to the cloud," Wozniak told the audience. "I think it's going to be horrendous. I think there are going to be a lot of horrible problems in the next five years." Wozniak's remarks came following the performance, which took place at the Woolly Mammoth theater in Washington, D.C.

Sure there will be plenty of problems with cloud computing just as there are issues with all forms of computing. We're already seeing numerous outages that have raised serious concerns.

Wozniak appeared not only worried over the reliability of cloud services, but argued users risk giving up ownership of their data once they store it in the cloud. "With the cloud, you don't own anything," he said. "You already signed it away," referring to terms of service users agree to when signing on with some cloud. "I want to feel that I own things," he added.

It seems to me he was referring to social networks like Facebook and photo sharing services. Facebook raised concerns about data ownership when it changed its terms of service back in 2009, claiming it had rights to your data even after an account is terminated, a move that raised the ire of many critics. While social networks typically run in the cloud, and indeed consumers should be aware of the terms of using such services, that's where the similarities end.

Woz went on to say "a lot of people feel, 'oh, everything is really on my computer,' but I say the more we transfer everything onto the Web, onto the cloud, the less we're going to have control over it." To that point, it is indeed hard to argue that once data is in the cloud users have less control over it than if it is on their own premises but in many cases that gap is narrow. Giving up autonomous control is usually a tradeoff worth making for having data readily available and less subject to permanent loss.

Had Wozniak not chosen to use the word "horrendous" while suggesting the cloud would cause "horrible problems," his remarks probably would have gone unnoticed. But when someone of his stature predicts Armageddon it's inevitable it will spark debate.

Like any emerging technology, cloud computing will go through its fits and starts. But the cloud is not going away. Will Woz one day be able to say "I told you so?" I think not. What do you think?

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 08/07/2012 at 1:14 PM


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