Cloud Cover

"The future," science fiction writer William Gibson once wryly observed, “is already here—it’s just not very evenly distributed.” Today, Gibson’s words have a particular prescience for an American entertainment industry struggling, in the eye of the Internet’s seemingly perpetual destructive storm, to reinvent itself. The future has indeed arrived for the recorded movie and music businesses, but not only is it unevenly distributed, it is a future in which the very issue of distribution— how entertainment is transported from the producer to the consumer—will determine the survivors and victims of the early 21st-century digital storm.

If you want to see the future of distribution in the entertainment industry, glance up into the sky. Imagine a celestial space dotted with massively powerful computers directly storing and distributing personal data, movies, and music over an interconnected global network to consumers. This is the future and it’s called “cloud computing.”

Don’t be misled, however, by its ethereal sounding name. There’s nothing otherworldly about the cloud....