There was an interesting little story in the New York Times on Saturday where Professor of Business Randall Stross at San Jose State University made the case that while the availability of Internet services like Skype and Facebook don't (yet) match that of the old AT&T Bell Telephone system of 99.999 percent (or it being down about 5.26 minutes a year), they aren't too bad considering.
After all, Professor Stross argues, that even in the light of recent problems:
"Internet computing, however, isn't as unreliable as it may seem. After all, when was the last time you got to Goggle’s home page but couldn't complete your search?"
His article (which somewhat co-mingled the concepts of availability and reliability) led me to think about just how available should our digital systems and devices be?
I bring the issue up also because of Verizon Wireless announcement today that it will now be selling Apple's iPhone, and the company is promising that its network can handle the expected increase in network traffic. This Wall Street Journal article yesterday says that
"Verizon Wireless ... is confident enough in its network that it will offer unlimited data-use plans when it starts selling the iPhone around the end of this month."
Verizon is doing so as a way to distinguish itself from AT&T which had to move to restrict data usage after complaints from customers (like me) over dropped calls and poor service due in part to heavy users of smart phones like the iPhone. The AT&T started selling iPhones in 2007
AT&T is already taking swipes at Verizon over the iPhone, according to this story today in the New York Times. Mark Siegel, an AT&T spokesman for corporate issues, said in a company statement quoted by the Times:
"I'm not sure iPhone users are ready for life in the slow lane."
Which also kind of leads us back to my question about availability. Would you rather have an iPhone (or other smart device) that is fast, but the service is spotty or one that is slightly slower but is always available?
Given that as an introduction, and for those of you so inclined, what are your expectations for digital system and device availability? Do you expect them to be available "all the time" in the Old Ma Bell sense, or do you accept outages to be a normal fact of the digital life?
Also, if you accept outages are "normal" now, do you expect your opinion to change in the future? In other words, should digital systems/devices become more available over time? And are you willing to pay more for greater availability?
Feel free to discuss the same issues in regard to the reliability of digital devices as well.
One final question: anyone planning on switching from using an iPhone on AT&T to Verizon? I - and I think a lot of other people - would like to know why.
Robert N. Charette is a Contributing Editor to IEEE Spectrum and an acknowledged international authority on information technology and systems risk management. A self-described “risk ecologist,” he is interested in the intersections of business, political, technological, and societal risks. Charette is an award-winning author of multiple books and numerous articles on the subjects of risk management, project and program management, innovation, and entrepreneurship. A Life Senior Member of the IEEE, Charette was a recipient of the IEEE Computer Society’s Golden Core Award in 2008.