Woz's Comments about Cloud Causing 'Horrible Problems' for Next Five Years Sets off Furor

By Peter Bernstein August 06, 2012

Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak has always been an iconoclast and no stranger to creating a hubbub. Thus, it was not surprising that his remarks after a presentation of the monologue piece, “The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs,” —by performer Mike Daisey who himself is controversial because of the revelation  that much of his material which lambasts Apple for using Chinese manufacturer Foxconn which has supposed deplorable working conditions turned out to be fabricated —drew fire. 

The Woz stated the following which has taken on the life of a viral YouTube video but without the benefit of a visual recording:

"I really worry about everything going to the cloud…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…With the cloud, you don't own anything…I say, the more we transfer everything onto the web, onto the cloud, the less we're going to have control over it."

What was surprising was his skepticism about the cloud. One would have thought that given his history of being a disruptor and watching how adaptable markets at a macro level and individual users at a micro level adopt to technologic change, that he would have been more circumspect. After all putting things like documents and spreadsheets onto computer files where they then can be accessed via a network and could be shared and or/hacked by bad guys is certainly having less control that putting pieces of paper in a locked safe. 

So the irony here is that one of the guys most responsible for breaking down the barriers between people and information is now concerned about breaking down the barriers between people and information. You can’t make this stuff up.

Do not get me wrong. I believe that at least emotionally there is a difference between feeling you have a deeper sense of security if you physically “control” access to things that are critical to you whether you are an individual or a corporation. However, I do not think that giving up physical control based on proximity should necessarily be equated with giving up real control. 

Like so much of the age in which we live, at the end of the day the word “control” gets conflagrated because it is part of the broader issue of ‘trust.” 

If I trust that a vendor of personal information management capabilities (the online “vaults” that would like me to let them safeguard my critical data online which I happened to write about only a few days ago) will abide by my policies and rules as to who can access what, I still should feel I have control.  Control is not just the ability to manipulate things it is also about peace of mind.  If on the other hand, I believe that putting anything, as opposed to “E”verything, online exposes me to a level of risk that I find intolerable because I do not trust anyone to look after my best interest 1000 percent of the time, ipso facto I will feel I do not have control.

As a technologist and business person, Woz’s lack of faith in the market is actually a bit disturbing. If control is the problem that he sees than you would have thought he’d also believe that companies that provide a superior customer experience (like an Apple computer for example) would pay a premium for services that they perceive as being more safe and secure, and by extension are more “controllable.”

One of the realities of the Internet Age is that because of the flood of inputs we all have access to, the future is going to be one dominated by the creation, execution and management of our permissions, policies and rules. That goes for us as individuals but also for us as members of companies, work groups, communities, etc. The individual and collections of “us” that constitute our multiple personae need to be mediated and secured according to our volition and that of those for whom we work. That is one of the reasons why working through how to accommodate the BYOD phenomena takes up so much air in many IT rooms these days. 

The truth however about trust has never changed. Trust is hard to earn, easy to lose and almost impossible to restore. If people want control they will pay a premium to entities they trust to provide it. In fact, if Woz’s paranoia represents a majority view, investing in trusted sources that provide the maximum of security and control is an astounding growth business. In fact, for telecom providers looking for how to create relevance and value going forward, look no further. You have the network and the assets to live long and prosper.    

My advice to Woz is to take a deep breath, relax and look for a bunch of control freaks to invest in. Maybe then he won’t have nightmares.




Edited by Allison Boccamazzo
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