Ready for the pervasive data layer?

Trans app ubiquity! That’s a mouthful from Dropbox, the company that’s planning to move us off the file-centric way of going about our business. You can read about Dropbox’s game plan here. But, the short story is Dropbox has created something called Datastores, places where an app can write data that can be read later from another device. There would be no sensation of opening a file as such–you just pick up where you left off, making Dropbax a “pervasive data layer.” Let’s thank Steve Jobs for getting this going with the iOS.

I love the idea of the pervasive data layer. It means a much more flexible and seamless connection to the things I need to do my work. I get a taste of it with Google Apps, but the full flavour with the Reminders app. I’ve tried a slew of other to-do apps, some with amazingly handsome design, but I keep coming back to (the unfairly maligned) Reminders because what I write on one device–my iPhone, iPad or Mac Air–is just  there on the other two. Indeed, I can’t think of another app that works so seamlessly. I value that above aesthetics and some other bells and whistles.

Insitutionally, however, the file-centric habit is amazingly hard to kick: we’ve just been filing things either in cabinets or directory trees for too long. Our attachment to files is the reason it’s hard fo students and teachers to move to working on the iPad or to Google Apps or even to the idea of collaboratively held documents. It’s the reason IT departments have a hard time letting go of their networks and moving to the cloud.

And arguably, the need to put files in a specific location–in a filing caninet in a classroom or a server on an intranet–is the reason we’re stuck inside a building for most of our formal edcuation. Does pervasive data mean we can break free of brick-and-mortar?

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