SALT LAKE CITY -- Do you remember going to the county fair when you were a kid and getting this long stick with a big, puffy cloud of melted wisps of sugar on the end of it?
If Norwegian- based FXI Technologies gets its way, its "cloud on a stick" Android device, appropriately named "Cotton Candy," will be in everybody's hands by the end of this year. The best part? This cotton candy doesn't cause tooth decay.
According to the company's press release on Nov. 17, 2011, "The vision for Cotton Candy is to allow users a single, secure point of access to all personal Cloud services and apps through their favorite operating system, while delivering a consistent experience on any screen. The device will serve as a companion to smartphones, tablets, notebook PC and Macs, as well as add smart capabilities to existing displays, TVs, set top boxes and game consoles."
So what exactly is Cotton Candy? Let's talk about the stick part first.
At first glance, the device looks like a USB thumb drive that was handed out as X-Men merchandise at a movie premier. At a mere 2.5 cm by 8 cm, you would probably be surprised to learn that it's not just a thumb drive. You'd be even more surprised to learn that it contains a Dual Cortex A9, 1.2 GHz processor, 1080p capable HDMI output with a quad core GPU, 802.11 b/g/n WiFi, Bluetooth v2.1, USB 2.0, and a Micro SD slot giving you 64 GB of onboard storage. So, where's the screen?
Today's device functionality is often limited by the size of the screen it inhabits. We've turned things upside down, eliminating the screen and delivering the power of a PC and the Web to any screen.
–Borgar Ljosland, founder and CEO of FXI Technologies
"Today’s device functionality is often limited by the size of the screen it inhabits," said Borgar Ljosland, founder and CEO of FXI Technologies. "We’ve turned things upside down, eliminating the screen and delivering the power of a PC and the Web to any screen."
FXI's "Any Screen Connected Computing" concept means just that. Connect your Cotton Candy device to any screen using the HDMI output. If your screen doesn't support HDMI, buy an adapter — wait, maybe you need to buy a new screen.
Next, grab your Bluetooth keyboard and mouse, find the nearest wireless router and you're now connected to any screen and you're computing! You can now play Angry Birds on your 102-inch high-def plasma screen home theater with the Bose sound system and you will undoubtedly be the coolest dad in the neighborhood. You're welcome.
To say that is what Cotton Candy is all about would be to grossly understate its capabilities. Admit it though, 102- inch high-definition Angry Birds is a pretty darn cool start.
"With the broad acceptance of cloud computing and the advancement in processor technologies, the concept of a "screenless PC" is a natural evolution in the form factor of computing devices," said Jon Peddie, president of Jon Peddie and Associates. "The connectivity, flexibility and multi-screen compatibility of FXI’s Cotton Candy makes it like a computer built specifically for the cloud."
This seems like a good time to talk about the cloud part.
Why do you care about cloud computing? Chances are, you don't, at least right now. You've heard the term kicked around, probably had some weird visuals of fluffy, cloud- shaped computers floating freely through the air, who knows what else. You have probably used cloud computing already and maybe you didn't even know it.
If you have used a webmail service, you have used cloud computing in one of its simplest forms. If you have used Google Calendar, Google Docs, Amazon cloud storage for your music files, Apple's iCloud, the list goes on, you already know something of the oncoming avalanche that is cloud computing. Simply put, cloud computing means all the powerful computing resources are somewhere out there in this nebulous "cloud" and you are accessing them through what is known as a "thin client," in most cases, a web browser.
Believe me when I tell you, 10 years from now, cloud computing is what we will all be doing when we take to the keyboard or whatever input device we happen to be using at the time. Funny thing, seems like that old mainframe concept has come full circle, but that's another story.
Is the "cloud on a stick" phrase starting to make sense now?
To add to all of this cool functionality, plug Cotton Candy into the USB port and your computer takes on a whole new personality. The device gains access to all of the resources on your computer — disk, cpu, screen, keyboard, mouse, etc. — and basically becomes your computer if you run it in full screen mode.
Run it in windowed mode, and your computer gets to keep its identity while you run your Android device in a separate window. You can also run Ubuntu if you like. It's only a matter of time before someone, perhaps FXI, designs a portable screen so you can turn your Cotton Candy into a tablet.
Let's take a quick break and do some free word association. I say "cloud," you say "open." I say "Android," you say "open." I say "cotton candy," you say "yum." I say "Apple," you say "closely held, proprietary, exclusive, won't run Flash, but makes some really cool tech. Also goes well with peanut butter." OK, that's cheating.
Is Cotton Candy the dreaded iPad slayer? Let me say this about that.
Steve Jobs was one of the most brilliant minds our planet has ever known. So brilliant, in fact, that Apple was able to overcome the challenges that are inherent to proprietary, exclusive products. Proprietary and exclusive only work if they are so cool that nobody wants to use anything else.
The problem is that Jobs is gone, and in spite of the reassurances we hear from Apple, that type of genius only comes along every few hundred years. It doesn't matter that Jobs hand-picked his replacement because his replacement isn't Steve Jobs (even Jobs couldn't pull that off). History has shown that Steve Jobs was Apple and when he wasn't there, things turned sour.
My point is, the cloud computing revolution is coming. Will Cotton Candy be the next big thing? It's hard to say, but cloud computing is the next big thing, and whoever devises the coolest way to interact with it will ride that wave.
As for me, Cotton Candy looks pretty sweet.