Synopses & Reviews
A hundred years ago, companies stopped producing their own power with steam engines and generators and plugged into the newly built electric grid. The cheap power pumped out by electric utilities not only changed how businesses operated but also brought the modern world into existence. Today a similar revolution is under way. Companies are dismantling their private computer systems and tapping into rich services delivered over the Internet. This time it"s computing that"s turning into a utility. The shift is already remaking the computer industry, bringing new competitors like Google to the fore and threatening traditional stalwarts like Microsoft and Dell. But the effects will reach much further. Cheap computing will ultimately change society as profoundly as cheap electricity did. In this lucid and compelling book, Nicholas Carr weaves together history, economics, and technology to explain why computing is changing'"and what it means for all of us.
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.Persuasive, well-researched, authoritative and convincing....He's reasonable in his conclusions and moderate in his extrapolations. This is an exceedingly good book.Magisterial ... Draws an elegant and illuminating parallel between the late-19th-century electrification of America and today's computing world.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.[W]idely considered to be the most influential book so far on the cloud computing movement.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.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.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.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?Mr. Carr is always interesting.Carr is one of the more cogent writers on the economic and social implications of the changes sweeping through corporate data centres.'Information is born free, but everywhere is found in chains.' So Nicholas Carr—in his latest and characteristically stimulating challenge to conventional thinking about technology—might have paraphrased Rousseau.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.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.Considered and erudite.Carr stimulates, provokes and entertains superbly.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.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.A leading technological rabble-rouser prognosticates a world beyond Web 2.0. [Carr's] broader sociological observations are punctuated by a pair of ominously prescient chapters about privacy issues and cyberterrorism.An enjoyable and thought-provoking read.The Big Switch explains the future of computing in terms so simple I can understand them. --Ed Cone
Building on the success of his industry-shaking Nicholas Carr returns with , a sweeping look at how a new computer revolution is reshaping business, society, and culture. Just as companies stopped generating their own power and plugged into the newly built electric grid some hundred years ago, today it's computing that's turning into a utility. The effects of this transition will ultimately change society as profoundly as cheap electricity did. provides a panoramic view of the new world being conjured from the circuits of the "World Wide Computer." New for the paperback edition, the book now includes an A-Z guide to the companies leading this transformation.
Building on the success of his industry-shaking Does IT Matter?
Nicholas Carr returns with The Big Switch
, a sweeping look at how a new computer revolution is reshaping business, society, and culture. Just as companies stopped generating their own power and plugged into the newly built electric grid some hundred years ago, today it's computing that's turning into a utility. The effects of this transition will ultimately change society as profoundly as cheap electricity did. The Big Switch
provides a panoramic view of the new world being conjured from the circuits of the "World Wide Computer." New for the paperback edition, the book now includes an A'"Z guide to the companies leading this transformation.
"Future Shock for the Web-apps era.... Compulsively readable--for nontechies, too."--
[#4 on 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.
About the Author
Nicholas Carr is the author of The Shallows, a Pulitzer Prize finalist, as well as The Big Switch and Does IT Matter? His articles and essays have appeared in The Atlantic, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Wired, and the New Republic, and he writes the widely read blog Rough Type. He has been writer-in-residence at the University of California, Berkeley, and an executive editor of the Harvard Business Review.