PODCasting is the Poster Child for Occasionally Connected Computing


I had an opportunity to meet with Chris Thomas, Intel‚s Chief Strategist, when he was in Utah not long ago. Chris is very big on what he calls „occasionally connected computing.š We don't pay enough attention to this problem. Thousands of jobs are performed with only an occasional connection to the network. When I was Utah's CIO, we struggled with this a lot because many jobs get done away from the network. A good example is a State Trooper in a rural area. They've come to rely on networked resources to do their job, but connectivity in many places is not very good. Applications had to be designed to work with occasional connectivity.

I had lunch today with Curt Allen, CEO of Agilix. Agilix makes software for tablet PCs, including the Franklin Covey organizer product. One of Agilix's products is called Go Binder and is aimed at students and professors. Go Binder is designed to work with occasional connectivity allowing course materials, exams, and other content to be taken to places without constant connectivity.

As Curt and I were talking, I realized that PODCasting is likely the largest application of the occasionally connected computing model. The whole infrastructure has been designed to support that model. That's one reason PODCasting wins over streaming. Streaming requires a constant connection. Sometimes that's OK, but often its not. Curt and I discussed how PODCasting could have a huge impact in developing countries because:

  • Many people don't read, so audio is better than text (even in the US, where people are literate, they don't read).
  • Connectivity is spotty. In some places, even power is occasionally connected.
  • MP3 players are significantly cheaper than computers.

This raises interesting possibilities for remote education and content delivery. Imagine, someone taking a course, delivered via audio in a developing country. They have a cheap MP3 player with USB connectivity. They subscribe to a course that delivers course lectures inside RSS feeds. Once a week they stop at the Internet cafe and download that week's courses. Very doable with what we have now.