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11/7/2010
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Bob Evans
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Global CIO: Steve Jobs Creating New-Age Broadcasting Network?

Apple's massive new $1 billion data center could become the hub for an all-streaming broadcast network, says big-thinker Nick Carr.

Where others saw nothing beyond a pitched battle pitting peer-to-peer networks selling stolen music versus generic but expensive CDs in hermetically sealed cases, Steve Jobs saw iTunes.

Where others saw smartphones and notebooks converging into hybrid devices that offered nothing new and often failed to match up to the performance of either original product, Steve Jobs saw the iPad.

And now, where others regard the nascent generation of sprawling new data centers as little more than highly automated powerhouses for online operations, Steve Jobs could well be seeing a new broadcasting network.

While others might call Apple's nearly complete $1-billion facility a data center, Jobs might be calling it his all-digital, all-customizable, all-streaming, and all-Apple broadcasting system and network of the future.

That's the opinion of IT-industry big-thinker Nick Carr, who shared some of his thoughts about what Jobs intends to achieve with the sprawling facility in North Carolina during a recent email interview with a website called cultofmac.com.

In an intriguing piece written by cultofmac.com's Leander Kahney, Carr hypothesizes that Jobs and Apple intend to use the 500,000-square-foot facility to begin their transition away from a customer-interaction model based on downloading to the more sophisticated model of streaming.

From the cultofmac.com article:

"Apple increasingly views its mainstream computers, from iPod Touch to iPhone to iPad to MacBook Air, as media players, with "media" spanning not just audio and video but also apps," Carr wrote in an email.

"From that perspective, the North Carolina data center can be seen as essentially a broadcasting system that will enable Apple to make the shift from a downloading model of media distribution to a streaming model. It's a proprietary broadcasting system (not altogether unlike traditional broadcasting systems), which means it's a very different model of the cloud from the open model promoted by Google."

If that's the case, then Apple's new broadcasting-type business will extend the company's zealous efforts to avoid the "open" approach, a hard-line stand that Apple insists results in better experiences for users because it gives Apple and its customers end-to-end control over all aspects of that experience: hardware, software, user interface, iTunes, and more.

That "more" is increasingly perceived by consumers and a growing number of business users around the world as Apple's ability to deliver superior products that, in turn, create fanatical customers who don't view the Apple ecosystem as "closed" but rather as the best approach for them to have the experiences they want.

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The concepts of "open" and "closed" are inside-the-industry artifacts that are losing their relevance in the wake of new approaches to applications. If the App Store has tens or hundreds of thousands of products available from tens of thousands of developers, just how "closed" or "un-open" can that be?

And that's a core reason why Carr's theory about the forthcoming Apple broadcasting system is so intriguing:

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