One trend we don’t expect to dissipate

January 21st, 2010 in .Applications .Blogs .Cloud Computing .Tech


Lee

Clouds, you have to love ‘em. They’re always there in one shape or form, and so is the interwebs. Harking back to a vision that first originated when speaking of a WWW was innovative, cloud computing has become a definite buzz concept as the latest embodiment of the all-online PC.

But since it has nothing to do with predicting the weather, why “cloud”? Apparently because the internet is “out there” in the atmosphere and cloud-based computers rely almost exclusively on apps that float in the great infosphere. In other words, like that budget PC envisioned by the U.N and other net PC proponents, cloud computing seeks to bypass physical storage on your machine, replacing it with connected functionality.

So whether or not you subscribe to the fad contingent, the base tenets of cloud philosophy are sound and indeed go with the flow in terms of several practical, contemporaneous trends. The first is the tendency to favor smaller, lighter laptops, or mini-laptops. Since most of these are inclined to do away with hard drives, let alone optical media, the cloud mantra suits them just fine. Users by default have to rely on online applications and content when using these machines. The second compatible trend is simple convergence, as the boundaries between smartphones, tablets, laptops and all-in-one PC’s continue to blur. All of these devices rely on miniaturising and minimising hardware – again, taking out the hard drive is a natural choice for them, leading once more to a cloud-friendly structure.

One shouldn’t see cloud as a new phenomenon, it’s simply a semantic evolution of an old concept – at least old in internet years. The essentials are pretty clear: cloud computing revolves around software that’s stored on servers rather than physical media. This software can then be accessed from anywhere so long as a fast enough connection exists between said servers and a user’s device of choice. Unlike traditional software, cloud computing eschews distribution for an “always on” model. It’s like your Yahoo or Gmail account, kicked up a few notches. You can also think of cloud computing as companion to the idea of a browser PC, or a machine that boots to the internet in a matter of seconds, has no redundant hardware beyond that which is needed to go online, and even has no conventional OS. Instead, there’s only the ever-present browser interface.

We’re talking about this because CES 2010 had more mention of clouds than your average meteorological convention. Everyone and their pet tech guru was talking about cloud this and cloud that, with a wide range of devices claiming to be in the thick of it – mostly mini-laptops and tablets. The crux of the matter is that an increasing number of apps are available in the form of clouds, expanding usability from email essentials to extensive productivity suites, gaming, storage depots, creativity and pretty much anything else you can do with a hard drive at the moment.

ASUS’s own Eee PC range seems highly adapted to the cloud phenomenon because these models all prefer a lightweight, energy efficient and minimalist approach that goes hand in hand with the principles of cloud computing. So long as wireless broadband or Wi-Fi or any of the other ethereal connection modes exist in a given area, you can go online. ASUS also has an entire range of cloud devices known as Waveface, some combining entertainment center duties with their online design. Naturally, both  Microsoft and Apple are already on the case, the former fielding another Windows Mobile platform, the latter the source of iSlate rumors that simply won’t blow away.

One may wonder where one might find these elusive clouds, and a possible answer is the Access subscription-based service, also from ASUS. Access effectively acts as a portal for online apps, plus for the same price opens up thousands of affiliate hot spots all over the planet. This is still a hardware meets software kind of solution, but we’re not in completely virtual PC land just yet.

So no matter what you call it, the move towards always-connected, all-online computing is one we embrace. Given enough security and encryption, having all the stuff you want and need minus the constant worry about storage space and that perennial classic, loading time, is a technological blessing – and not a disguised one, at that.

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