W. W. Norton & Company
January 17, 2008
A hundred years ago, companies stopped generating their own power with steam engines and dynamos and plugged into the newly built electric grid. The cheap power pumped out by electric utilities didn’t just change how businesses operate. It set off a chain reaction of economic and social transformations the brought the modern world into existence. Today, a similar revolution is under way. Hooked up to the Internet’s global computing grid, massive information-processing plants are pumping data and software code into our homes and businesses. This time, it’s computing that’s turning into a utility.
The shift is already remaking the computer industry, bringing new competitors like Google and Salesforce.com to the fore, and threatening stalwarts like Microsoft and Dell. But the effects will reach much further. Cheap, utility-supplied computing will ultimately change society as profoundly as cheap electricity did. We can already see the early effects – in the shift of control over media from institutions to individuals, in debates over the value of privacy, in the export of the jobs of knowledge workers, even in the growing concentration of wealth. As information utilities expand, the changes will only broaden, and their pace will only accelerate.
Nicholas Carr is the ideal guide to explain this historic upheaval. Writing in a lucid, engaging style, he weaves together history, economics, and technology to describe how and why computers are changing – and what it means for all of us. From the software business to the newspaper business, from job creation to community formation, from national defense to personal identity, The Big Switch provides a panoramic view of the new world being conjured from the circuits of the “world wide computer.”
Nicholas Carr is the author of Does IT Matter? The former executive editor of the Harvard Business Review, he has written for the New York Times, the Financial Times, Wired, and many other publications. He lives outside Boston.