Feature Article

May 25, 2012

Mobile Devices Need a CloudDial to Provide More Flexibility

One of the biggest pains in the neck across all mobile devices -- be they laptops, smartphones or tablets --- is a lack of basic intelligence in managing cloud services in different bandwidth-available environments. Microsoft, Apple and Google Android have an "always-on, always there" philosophy when it comes to cloud service availability and broadband but users need to be able to adjust the services and data they receive outside of the home and office environments.

I've been talking about the need for tailoring the automatic tendencies of operating systems for a while, but I become more convinced of the necessity each time I go out on the road. For example, earlier this week I was up at The Cable Show 2012 in Boston with a laptop running Microsoft Windows. I bounced between a bandwidth-rich and wide open Wi-Fi network at the Boston Convention Center, a limited and quirky Wi-Fi network at the Best Western Roundhouse Suites and the airport Wi-Fi networks at Washington Reagan National and Boston airports.

When I'm working on a story in the middle of an event, I don't need Microsoft Windows to download and start installing updates. Same goes for every other piece of software I have that wants to do an update at the worst time possible. Add in a couple of cloud syncing services and it is a formula for annoyances, especially when you move from a relatively bandwidth-rich environment to a more limited "free" hotel network.

Some users would tailor cloud syncing based upon security considerations. Do you really want to mirror sensitive documents over an unknown network? Documents and photos also might be too big to sync effectively.

And this is just vanilla Wi-Fi! As airlines install onboard Wi-Fi and mobile carriers milk LTE and HSPA networks for every penny, the need for CloudDial functionality -- to adjust what goes in and out of our devices when we are traveling -- continues to grow. It makes no sense to automatically download updates using expensive or limited connectivity. You want to do what you need to get the job down as quickly as possible.

We need a set of profiles that can be tailored to our needs in different bandwidth environments: Home, away, good, limited and secure. A profile could be applied either by asking the user when connectivity is established outside of a "home" network or automatically upon sensing bandwidth availability and reliability. With limited bandwidth, update downloading would be put on hold and syncing would only happen with the user's permission. In secure mode, no syncing or updates would occur while browsers would be put on max privacy.

Do I think this will happen overnight? Unfortunately, no. Businesses and users are going to have to start to insist on this feature in a future operating system release for Windows, MacOS, Apple iOS and Android. Programmers can't continue to assume you'll have the same connectivity everywhere.

Edited by Brooke Neuman

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