There was an article in the June 15th edition of Business Week entitled Cloud Computing 2.0. This caught my eye as it was one of three stories featured on the cover apparently designed to entice readers to want to buy the issue. My reaction was the opposite. Cloud Computing 2.0? This is the height of insanity! Anyone who is the least bit educated in the concept of Cloud Computing knows that it describes a future vision for how IT will be delivered. The article was a well-written introduction to the concept of Cloud Computing, which undoubtedly appealed to a non-technical reader. However, as with most “2.0” declarations the Business Week author failed to provide any justification as to why we had moved from Cloud Computing 1.0 to 2.0. The author and publication were, no doubt, using 2.0 to get attention and sell magazines, which brings me to my point. Too many people are using 2.0 as a strategy to get attention. Consequently, “2.0” has become a cliché and has lost credibility in my opinion.
2.0 Has Become a Cliche
The Business Week example is not unusual. At least once a week I see some reference to the “2.0” concept in a magazine, analyst report or vendor marketing promotion. There is a 2.0 in almost every category. One would think the fundamental structures of every industry, market and technology are being re-established in 2009. Certainly there are some radical changes occurring in certain sectors such as the capital markets and retail banking. However, in most cases the 2.0 claims are just unfounded hype being used to sell periodicals, market research and vendor technology.
There are two issues I have with the over-usage of 2.0 by vendors, analysts and press:
- The authors do not provide sufficient justification of why the use of 2.0 is warranted. In my opinion, 2.0 should only be used when a market or technology is experiencing an irreversible and disruptive change.
- Most of the markets and technologies being impacted by the so-called “2.0” effect are long-standing sectors that undergone multiple paradigm shifts throughout their history. Instead of using the term 2.0, evangelists of these concepts should be referring to 5.0, 7.0 or 10.0.
Good Uses of 2.0
There are numerous examples of appropriate uses of 2.0. For example, Business 2.0 was a term frequently used 10 years ago in the dot com era to describe the fundamental shift from a bricks and mortar economy to a digital online marketplace. Recently, Web 2.0 has been used to describe the transformation in which only corporations or HTML-savvy consumers could publish content to a model in which any PC-capable individual can generate their own videos, blogs, podcasts or social networks.
- Cisco’s Consumer Electronics 2.0 – outlines a new approach to delivering network-based services for home electronics, is truly a new and different approach. However, I might debate Cisco’s use of 2.0, versus 3.0 or a higher number. Consumer electronics has been a well established industry for decades now. What about the introduction of cable television, the video cassette recorder, the video game console, the compact disc player, the personal computer or home Internet access? Wouldn’t any of these have qualified as Consumer Electronics 2.0?
- Credit Cards 2.0 – Tower Group published a report this week entitled Credit Card 2.0 – Smaller Balances and Tighter Margins. I would give this one a passing grade two as there are major changes occurring in the consumer credit market not only in cards, but in auto, home and student lending that are fundamentally changing the market. However, again I might argue that there have been several paradigm shifts in the credit card industry since its inception. Perhaps, Credit Card 4.0 would be more appropriate.
Source: Dion Hiinchliffe’s Blog
Bad Uses of 2.0
Unfortunately, for every good use of 2.0 there are 5 bad ones. In addition to the Business Week Cloud Computing 2.0 article, below are two that I found to lack much credibility:
- Green 2.0 – AMR Research published a research note in January entitled Green 2.0. Western nations have only begun to take climate change and environmental impacts seriously in the past few years. And most have not truly enacted any meaningful legislation or changes. I think it is a stretch to state that we would be anywhere close to Green 2.0 yet.
- Mainframe 2.0 – Earlier this month I received a spam e-mail from Information Week advertising a Mainframe 2.0 course sponsored by CA. Mainframe technologies have been commercially available since the 1960s. But according to CA there have been no meaningful paradigm shifts or disruptive changes in the mainframe industry until now in 2009.
Source: Spam from Information Week
Keifer’s Rules for Using 2.0
Here are three rules I would suggest for assessing whether a concept qualifies for 2.0:
- Only use Game Changers – The 2.0 term should only be used to describe phenomenon which are fundamentally changing a market or industry. Is there a disruptive technology emerging? Has a vendor adopted a totally new approach to an issue? Is regulation rewriting the rules of how companies approach the market? If not, then it is probably a 1.1 versus a 2.0.
- Pick the Right Number – Is 2 really the appropriate number? Or has the market, industry or technology being described been through several changes in its history. If so, then associate each major paradigm shift with a “.0” until you reach the appropriate number. I suspect the use of “5.0” would be a differentiated approach that would gather more attention in the marketplace.
- Justify the Usage – Most importantly, if you are going to use the term 2.0 then explain why there is a fundamental paradigm shift in the market you are describing. Nothing erodes credibility more than an article that uses 2.0 in the title, but lacks any explanation of why the usage is justified.