Several recent information trends can be expected to accelerate in 2010 and beyond. Which of these trends are you a part of?
Growth of mobile computing
Smaller, less expensive devices (netbook computers, smart phones, etc.), coupled with greater availability of Wi-Fi hot spots and mobile broadband on the 3G networks, have fueled the expansion of mobile computing. I bought a netbook in 2009, so I’m part of this trend. I thought for quite a while about getting a laptop as a secondary computer, but held off because of the expense and weight of full-size laptops. The netbook meets my needs.
This trend will continue. Even faster 4G networks are now being built, and free Wi-Fi is getting easier to find. McDonald’s will offer free Wi-Fi at about 11,000 U.S. locations as of mid-January 2010. The variety of computers and smart phones will increase, while prices will keep dropping. According to DisplaySearch, netbook prices, which decreased about 15% in 2009, are expected to drop another 15% in 2010.
Greater acceptance of cloud computing
As mobile computing increases, so does the need to access your data and software from more than one computer. Cloud computing, where the data and/or software is hosted by a service provider accessible over the Internet, is a convenient solution. Many companies also use cloud computing to reduce the need for local technical support of servers, to maintain off-site data backups, and to provide collaboration tools for their employees and clients.
Among individuals, web mail remains the most common use of cloud computing. However, more are beginning to store data online and/or to use online software such as Google Docs. The convenience of access from anywhere seems to outweigh concerns about privacy and reliability. According to a September 2008 report from the Pew Internet & American Life Project, about 69% of online Americans were then using at least one cloud computing application. That number is undoubtedly higher now.
Larger drives for less
More of us need to store large video, photo, and audio files. Fortunately, the cost of large hard drives has plummeted, and even general office supply stores are selling more than one model of terabyte hard drives. Some of these drives can be configured to be accessible over the Internet, so that you can get to your files even when away from your primary computer.
More social networking
According to the New York Times, by the end of 2009, Twitter was approaching 100 million users; Facebook had reached 350 million users and may hit half a billion by July 2010. Although the growth of MySpace has been eclipsed by Facebook, MySpace remains strong among younger online users and those interested in music. LinkedIn is primarily for professional networking, but has been adding features as it competes with Facebook and other sites for market share. Other social networking sites are strong outside North America. For example, Orkut is popular in Brazil and India. Still others market to niche audiences. Ning makes it easy for organizations and interest groups to set up their own online communities.
I held off on participating in social networks, mainly because of concerns about time management, but 2009 was the year I jumped in with accounts on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. I’ve found that they’ve enriched my life, given some attention to time and information management. If you’re not already participating in an online community, will this year be the year you join in?
Increased use of libraries
As the economy worsened, library use increased. People have turned to libraries for Internet access, job-hunting resources, and entertainment, as well as books. Many libraries are also reaching out to Internet users by engaging in social networking; answering questions through e-mail, instant messaging, and/or specialized web applications; and providing registered library users with web access to expensive databases. If you haven’t been to your local library for a while, stop by its building or website and see what it can offer you.