"Mr. Carr’s provocations are destined to influence CEOs and the boards and investors that support them as companies grapple with the constant change of the digital age."
Future Shock for the Web-apps era…Compulsively readable—for nontechies, too—as it compellingly weaves together news stories, anecdotes, and data."
"The best read so far about the significance of the shift to cloud computing."
"Carr stimulates, provokes and entertains superbly."
The Big Switch is thought-provoking and an enjoyable read, and the history of American electricity that makes up the first half of the book is riveting stuff."
With the rise of Silicon Valley, pundits heralded the advent of "the computer revolution." But, according to former Harvard Business Review executive editor Nicholas Carr, you ain't seen nothing yet. In this persuasive, eye-opening book, Carr argues that we are experiencing changes in business and society as profound and stunning as the transformations of the early industrial age. He contends that cheap computing is enabling users to dismantle their private systems and tap the rich services available on the Internet.
While it may seem that we're in the midst of an unprecedented technological transition, Carr (Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Does IT Matter?) posits that the direction of the digital revolution has a strong historical corollary: electrification. Carr argues that computing, no longer personal, is going the way of a power utility. Manufacturers used to provide their own power (i.e., windmills and waterwheels) until they plugged into the electric grid a hundred years ago. According to Carr, we're in the midst of a similar transition in computing, moving from our own private hard drives to the computer as access portal. Soon all companies and individuals will outsource their computing systems, from programming to data storage, to companies with big hard drives in out-of-the-way places. Carr's analysis of the recent past is clear and insightful as he examines common computing tools that are embedded in the Internet instead of stored on a hard drive, including Google and YouTube. The social and economic consequences of this transition into the utility age fall somewhere between uncertain and grim, Carr argues. Wealth will be further consolidated into the hands of a few, and specific industries, publishing in particular, will perish at the hands of "crowdsourcing" and the "unbundling of content." However, Carr eschews an entirely dystopian vision for the future, hypothesizing without prognosticating. Perhaps lucky for us, he leaves a great number of questions unanswered. (Jan.)
A leading technological rabble-rouser prognosticates a world beyond Web 2.0. Carr (Does IT Matter?, 2004) rattled the confidence of international conglomerates with a 2003 article in the Harvard Business Review declaring that proprietary information technology is superfluous to the industries it augments. Here, he examines the burgeoning phenomenon of "utility computing": bundling data processing into a metered service not unlike the electric company. The concept immediately recalls the second-generation applications trumpeted by Wired, exemplified by Google and now infiltrating the wireless world. Indeed, the author wastes no time in holding up the multifaceted Google and its offshoots as prime examples of the new practice of employing Ethernet-linked server farms processing simultaneous data. The first section builds Carr's case using historical analogies that trace, for example, a direct line from Edison's light bulb to the "White City" of the 1893 World's Fair to the social impacts of cheap, available power in the 20th century. He makes some salient points about the duplication of efforts among IT departments guarding their own fiefdoms. A chapter titled "Goodbye, Mr. Gates" posits the rise of utility computing as a primal shift between the PC age and the new world, with a few gloomy forecasts predicting that more traditional companies (dubbed "weapons suppliers in the IT arms race") may soon find that their wellspring has dried up. The second section examines the behavior of users in this new matrix and surveys the "economic, political, and social upheaval" wrought by the change in operating models. Examining this change, Carr seesaws from the dismal fallout (the death of newspapers)to the merely curious side effects (the nontraditional "game" called Second Life). His broader sociological observations are punctuated by a pair of ominously prescient chapters about privacy issues and cyberterrorism. Carr makes some sophisticated leaps of logic tying together the causes and effects of this evolving network of information, but many of his observations are fairly old news. Agent: Ralph Sagalyn/Sagalyn Literary Agency
Mr. Carr is always interesting.
Lucid and accessible ... [Carr's] account is one of high journalism, rather than of a social or computer scientist. His book should be read by anyone interested in the shift from the world wide web and its implications for industry, work and our information environment.
Times Higher Education Supplement
Mr. Carr's provocations are destined to influence CEOs and the boards and investors that support them as companies grapple with the constant change of the digital age.
Considered and erudite.
The first serious examination of 'Web 2.0' in book form.
The Big Switch is thought-provoking and an enjoyable read, and the history of American electricity that makes up the first half of the book is riveting stuff. Further, the book broadly reinforces the point that it's always wise to distrust utopias, technological or otherwise.
Persuasive, well-researched, authoritative and convincing....He's reasonable in his conclusions and moderate in his extrapolations. This is an exceedingly good book.
The Big Switch ... will almost certainly influence a large audience. Carr persuasively argues that we're moving from the era of the personal computer to an age of utility computing - by which he means the expansion of grid computing, the distribution of computing and storage over the Internet, until it accounts for the bulk of what the human race does digitally. And he nicely marshals his historical analogies, detailing how electricity delivered over a grid supplanted the various power sources used during most of the 19th century ... I also suspect he's right to suggest that in a decade or so, many things we now believe permanent will have disappeared.
While technological innovation is largely the creation of idealistic geniuses spurred on by utopian visions, Carr points out, it is rapidly co-opted by the incumbent in power and turned to other purposes ... Technology may be the ultimate tool or even the ultimate psychedelic, but do we really want to become utterly dependent on something about which we have essentially no say? And as for those Utopian visions, do we really share them?
Magisterial ... Draws an elegant and illuminating parallel between the late-19th-century electrification of America and today's computing world.
Nick Carr has written a meditation on the loss of the old when confronted by the new, the loss of the incumbents' advantage when history shifts under them, the loss of data control to third parties, and the loss of sovereignty to institutions and other actors we can't control.
Newsweek's "Fifty Books For Our Times":] You've heard of 'cloud computing,' but let's be honest, you really don't know what it means. Or why it's going to change everything.
Carr may take a somewhat apocalyptic view of the vast technological and social issues which a move to utility computing will raise, not least those of privacy, ownership and access, but he makes a compelling case for its desirability in a world where the network is pervasive. Whether we go gently into this world is, of course, up to us, but with the insight offered here we will at least be prepared to understand the consequences of our choices earlier in the process rather than later.
The Big Switch explains the future of computing in terms so simple I can understand them.
Ed Cone - Greensboro News-Record
An enjoyable and thought-provoking read.
'Information is born free, but everywhere is found in chains.' So Nicholas Carrin his latest and characteristically stimulating challenge to conventional thinking about technologymight have paraphrased Rousseau.
[W]idely considered to be the most influential book so far on the cloud computing movement.
Christian Science Monitor
Quick, clear read on an important theme ... Scary? No doubt. But as we prepare for the World Wide Computer, it's not a bad idea to consider its dark side.
Starred Review. Carr created a huge rift in the business community with his first book,
Does IT Matter?, challenging the conventional wisdom that information technology provides a competitive advantage. Here he examines the future of the Internet, which he says may one day completely replace the desktop PC as all computing services are delivered over the Net as a utility, the Internet morphing into one giant 'World Wide Computer.' ... Carr warns that the downside of the World Wide Computer may mean further concentration of wealth for the few, and the loss of jobs, privacy, and the depth of our culture.
The Big Switch explains the future of computing in terms so simple I can understand them. Ed Cone