Ok, so after a little title theatrics…here’s the real question. Is the rapid adoption of Cloud Computing sounding the death knell of the personal computer? I have a few definite opinions to go along with a whole litany of questions!
What is the Cloud and Why is it Appealing?
According to the complete compendium of human knowledge (aka Wikipedia), Cloud Computing is a concept that uses the Internet as delivery platform for applications and services hosted online. Probably the oldest example of the concept (although it was never called that back in the day) is Yahoo! Mail. The app resides on the server along with your data (email messages) and is easily accessible from any computer with a web browser (PC, Mac, Linux…doesn’t matter). Now there are countless companies offering “cloud” based services. Google is of course the biggest but hundreds of others are out there too.
The clear appeal of Cloud Computing is ease of access from anywhere and no installed software. It is the concept of no installed software that has the choir warming up for the funeral of the PC. If I can do everything I need to do from any browser, the “PC” is now just a platform for the browser…right?
Hang On a Sec…
While it sounds like a good theory, can it really be so? In his latest article on PCMAG.com, Lance Ulanoff has eight key questions for Google’s cloud specifically, and cloud computing generally. Some I agree with, some I don’t, but the point is really a cautionary one…don’t rush head long into adopting such a radical departure without at least a little forethought. There are bound to be downfalls with some of the concepts, companies will come and go, and what responsibility should the service provider have toward protecting your data? Then there is the ever present possibility that they’ll get hacked, or big brother might want a peek at your data. Lots of questions without answers…yet.
So What Does the Future Hold?
Wow, wouldn’t we all like to know the answer to that one! But here’s at least one possible outcome, heavily slanted toward my opinion (go figure!).
A move away from the dedicated, sitting in the corner, all-purpose personal computer to more task specific appliances. Case in point, Tivo. I quite accidentally stumbled over Tivo’s cool integration with Netflix. Movies viewed on demand from Netflix via my Tivo. Or if I can’t find anything good there, I can watch YouTube videos or rent a download from Amazon…all through the Tivo. Great example of a task specific appliance. Oh sure, the interface is pretty weak, but hey, its still young.
Need another one, ok. How about Skype, the web based IP based communication service? With their new unlimited use pricing structure ($2.95/month I think for unlimited calls to and from US based phone numbers!) now their hardware offerings are looking pretty appealing. Takes the place of you regular phone, even looks like a regular phone.
One more? Ok. Xbox. Now instead of installing games on my PC to take advantage of the cool things the PC can do, including playing over the Internet with my friends, just get an Xbox.
Are there problems with this theory, only one I can see. The interface!!! The keyboard & mouse have worked well for the dedicated use computer, but as anyone who has tried to compose an email on their cell phone / PDA can attest, it doesn’t work nearly as well away from the desktop. Will it be speech to text, gestures, sub-cutaneous implant behind the ear? Don’t know but I do know, sooner or later, it has to change.
And Now, For the Pretty Bow…
Just think about it. How natural does it seem that I have to sit in a designated place, using a specific device in order to take advantage of a service? Back in the early days of the telephone (all the way up to the mid-80′s or so…when they still were attached to the wall!), people had dedicated places to sit and use the phone. Heck, they even made pieces of furniture for that very purpose. How crazy does that sound to us now, just 20 years later? The same evolution of use is coming for the personal computer, in fact its already underway. So be open to adopting the enabling technologies, like Cloud Computing, that will be bringing this kind of thing into the realm of possibilities. Begin to watch for the ways the data & information we use in our daily life is now being (or could be) delivered through something other than the beige box sitting on the desk. Oh, and enjoy living through the transition! In 20 years or so you’ll be able to say, “I remember when you had to sit at your desk and hold the mouse to use the computer…”
And Now Its Your Turn…
Leave comments and let me know what you think about this topic. Ways you’ve already seen information delivery changed… or just tell me how full of crap you think I am (I may delete your comment but at least you’ll feel better!). No, really…what do ya think?
PS – After going back and re-reading this post, I did get a little far afoot from the cloud computing topic. Sorry, I was on a roll!