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Book review: Anywhere

Anywhere is big. Really big. You just won't believe how mind-bogglingly big it is.
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Anywhere is big. Really big. You just won't believe how mind-bogglingly big it is. And so on.

In the mid-1990s, the advent of the internet was hailed by the most grandiose hyperbole in the history of man (we hope): it was, said some pundits, many of them writing for Wired, the "greatest invention since fire". (We like Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner and their 2000-year-old man, and we're going with Saran Wrap.) Here it is, only 15 years later, and Emily Nagle Green, president and CEO of the global research firm The Yankee Group, has a new candidate for this very same hyperbolic slot. She calls it Anywhere; most people in Europe would call it 'ubiquitous' or 'pervasive' computing. There are, Green says, tens of trillions of dollars in them thar hills — in the next ten years. She and her book are here to help businesses get their hands on some of those dollars.


Having actually lived through the dawning of the Age of the Internet — which, according to Green, is about to be replaced by the Age of Anywhere — it's hard to achieve the level of breathless anticipation required to fully participate in Green's enthusiasm. Anywhere is going to be bigger. It's going to be more pervasive. It's going to change everything, from the way we live and work to the way we eat and travel. Come the Anywhere revolution, the internet revolution is going to look like a small, local rebellion.

Everyone will have lightweight computers. Everything, from televisions to pill bottles, will be connected wirelessly. So far, so Nicholas Negroponte's 1995 Being Digital book. What Green is about, however, is explaining the opportunity businesses have to exploit all this new infrastructure (whereas Negroponte was exploring research opportunities for the MIT Media Lab). Anywhere will happen in different ways in different countries at different times, Green says, but overall it is 'inevitable'.

Here is the cognitive dissonance in reading this: it was the week that air traffic throughout Europe was grounded by the Eyjafjallajökull volcano eruptions in Iceland. Granted, the volcano did not disrupt the internet, mobile phones or those bathroom scales that post their owners' weight to Twitter. But it served as a potent deterrent to confident predictions about the future: we are Nature's bitch.

Green admits that human inventiveness and technology have their failures, too: the spork and the electric knife became niche, not mass market, products; in the technology world DC lost out to AC in the early days of defining electrical standards. Even so, let's assume that Anywhere is inevitable and that Green's other assumptions — power, connections, accessibility, adoption — hold sway. What then? Businesses will organise themselves differently, forming and reforming the way film production does. Individuals will have genuine, across-the-board equal opportunity. Those who want to survive, says Green, will try new things, use their connections to create new opportunities, remember the paths to knowledge rather than the knowledge itself. Accentuate the positive. Become an Anywhere evangelist.

Anywhere: How Global Connectivity Is Revolutionizing the Way We Do Business By Emily Nagle Green McGraw-Hill 282pp ISBN: 978-0-07-163514-1 £18.99

Wendy Grossman

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