Real cost of the smartphone revolution – market expanding at an astonishing rate, but is it damaging creativity and innovation on the web?

The problem with living through a revolution is that you’ve no idea how things will turn out. So it is with the revolutionary transformation of our communications environment driven by the internet and mobile phone technology. Strangely, our problem is not that we are short of data about what’s going on; on the contrary we are awash with the stuff. This is what led Manuel Castells, the great scholar of cyberspace, to describe our current mental state as one of “informed bewilderment”: we have lots of information, but not much of a clue about what it means.

If, however, you’re concerned about things such as freedom, control and innovation, then the prospect of a world in which most people access the internet via smartphones and other cloud devices is a troubling one. Why? Because smartphones (and tablets) are tightly controlled, “tethered” appliances. You may think that you own your shiny new iPhone or iPad, for example. But in fact an invisible chain stretches from it all the way back to Apple’s corporate HQ in California. Nothing, but nothing, goes on your iDevice that hasn’t been approved by Apple.And even if you’re not an Apple fanboy and sport an Android-powered mobile device, there is still the problem that your access to the internet is regulated by a company – your mobile network provider – which is free not just to charge prohibitively for access but also to decide what you can access and what you can’t.This might not seem a big deal – after all, it’s just capitalism doing its thing. But what it means is that with every new smartphone subscription we take another tiny but discrete step towards a networked world dominated by powerful corporations that can not only “regulate” the system in their own interests, but also control the speed of technological innovation to a pace that is convenient for them rather than determined by the creativity of hackers and engineers.To continue reading this report in The Observer, go to:
www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2012/jun/03/john-naughton-smartphone-revolution-cost

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