Even before Steve Jobs made the bold prediction that new formfactors such as tablets would eventually replace the PC, there’s been ample evidence that the landscape of personal computing is radically changing—and mobility is a driving force. Just look around at all the folks carrying smartphones, the massive growth of the netbook sector, and yes, the phenomenon that is the iPad. Even your most hardcore PC power-user is finding a need for these smaller, more portable computing devices in his or her life. Whether the growing proliferation of these gadgets spells the end of the desktop workhorse PC is arguable, but change is definitely afoot. But hardware is only half of the story. Applications are evolving, as well. They have to. Smaller, slimmer, more lightweight devices necessarily entail more modest resources, e.g., less processing power, less storage. Enter the cloud, aka the Internet.
A few years back Apple had success with a series of 'switcher" ads where people told their stories about switching to the (supposedly) problem free land of Macintosh. Now Microsoft is trying the same maneuver with businesses and Google Apps. The thing is, they're actually having some success.
The Google Apps online service is a competitor to Microsoft's own Office products. Microsoft's gameplan is to attract companies to their Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS), then highlight all these companies in order to attract more. A long time Google Apps customer, Serena Software, was one of the first to make the switch thanks to a sweetheart deal from Microsoft.
Several other big Google customers, like Capgemini and China Navigation have been enticed to join the dark side. Microsoft says companies are willing to make the switch because BPOS offers more advanced features, like Group Policy Management. Even if Microsoft can lure away some Apps customers, we think Google will soldier on.
Google has just unveiled a new feature of their popular video sharing site, YouTube. The YouTube Editor will allow users to perform some rudimentary video editing entirely online. It's not going to challenge desktop software in the feature department, but it will serve the needs of many people.
Users will be able to trim any video in their collection, as well as combine multiple clips into a longer one. The files are saved instantly, as Google already has them on their servers. You may not have access to more advanced features, but it brings some new options to a less tech-savvy crowd.
There is no way to edit other's videos for obvious copyright reasons, but wouldn't be surprised to see video sharing features added later. This feels to us like another feature destined for integration with Google's upcoming Chrome OS cloud connected platform. Have a look at the service here, and let us know what you think.
Conservatives and personal computing aficionados are still not convinced that the world is ready to move to cloud-enabled operating systems like Google's Chrome OS. Their skepticism is not simply borne out of their reluctance to accept change, though. Many of their arguments against the possibility of such cloud-based endeavors tasting success in the immediate future are perfectly tenable.
But it would be wrong to think that Google is betting on cloud computing in hope of immediate gains. It is probably concentrating on issues that it can sort out while waiting for others not in its control (including poor broadband penetration globally and privacy concerns) to sort themselves out over time.
For instance, many people have been wondering whether Chrome's early adopters will be able to abandon critical applications and features associated with traditional computing, especially if their web-based replacements simply turn out to be poor imitations. But Google does have a solution: “Chromoting.”
Chromoting is the internal name for Chrome OS's ability to run legacy PC apps from within the browser. The Google engineer who revealed it to the world likened Chromoting to Microsoft's Remote Desktop Connection tool.
"We're adding new capabilities all the time. With this functionality (unofficially named 'chromoting'), Chrome OS will not only be [a] great platform for running modern web apps, but will also enable you to access legacy PC applications right within the browser,”Google software engineer Gary Kačmarčík said in a message.
As the economy picks up, so too does the demand for cloud computing hardware, says market research firm IDC. In a report released this week, IDC said it expects server revenue for private cloud computing to grow from $7.3 billion (2009) to $11.8 billion in 2014.
The public cloud market, which is a significantly smaller segment, is also on pace to experience growth, with IDC predicting a rise in revenue from $582 million to $718 million the same time period.
"Now is a great time for many IT organizations to begin seriously considering this technology and employing public and private clouds in order to simplify sprawling IT environments," said Kathernie Broderick, research analyst, Enterprise Platforms and Datacenter Trends.
On a related note, the IDC report notes that public clouds won't see the same broad adoption as private clouds, partly because the public sector will be less enterprise focused.
Desktops on the road to oblivion? Well, not quite. In parsing Herlihy’s comments, it might be fair to say that he expects technology users will become differentiated, with the vast bulk of them using mobile devices. You don’t need a desktop to run Google searches, post a Tweet, update Facebook, send or receive email, listen to music, or check a calendar. Thinking about what most people do with computers--it’s actually quite limited--a desktop is over-kill. If given the alternative, it makes sense that a lot of consumers would jump to the less powerful, but more convenient mobile devices.
And Google wants to be there when the leap is made. Going forward, says Herlihy, Google will view its activity through a mobile lens, with an emphasis on cloud-based computing solutions. “At the end of the day it's the customer who owns the cash,” said Herlihy, “That’s why we construct our organization to deliver value. The underlying framework is to make it easier for people to do business, solve problems and move on.”
SGI on Thursday announced the immediate availability of what it claims is the world's first large-scale, on-demand cloud computing service. Called Cyclone, the service is targeted specifically for dedicated to technical applications, SGI said.
"Cyclone enables an exciting new generation of discovery," said Dr. Michael Levine, co-founder and co-scientific director of the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center (PSC). "Large supercomputing centers such as ours will benefit from the ability to scale computing capacity dynamically, on-demand, and experiment with the latest technologies."
For now, SGI has committed Cyclone to supporting a "number of leading applications partners" plus five technical domains, including computation fluid dynamics, finite element analysis, computational chemistry and materials, computations biology, and ontologies.
There are two service models available, one of which is as a Software as a Service (SaaS) and the other in the form of an Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS).
The U.S. Air Force knows a thing or two about navigating in the clouds, and with the help of IBM, it will be tapping into a different kind of cloud. Specifically, the U.S. Air Force has granted IBM a contract to build a secure cloud computing infrastructure.
"The project will push the technology boundaries of cloud computing with an infrastructure design that not only supports large-scale networks, but meets rigorous security standards and the government’s Information Assurance guidelines for all networks, IBM said. "The Air Force’s network manages the operations of nine major commands, nearly 100 bases, and 700,000 active military personnel around the world."
The contract calls for IBM to put together a secure online environment ready to be demonstrated in 10 months. Staff from both IBM and the Air Force will work together to build the infrastructure and a health monitoring system for information flow across the network.
Clio is one of the new wave of cloud-based software solutions (SaaS, or Software as a Service). It is designed for attorneys, allowing solo practitioners or small firms to manage all aspects of the their practice online, through a web-based interface. Clio is expanding access to its software through mobile applications, allowing access from smartphones.
“Having information at your fingertips has always been a need for lawyers,” said Jack Newton, the President of Clio, “The recent advances in the mobile space, coupled with innovative applications, are helping make ‘anytime, anywhere’ access a reality. The iPhone, Palm Pre, and Android-based phones such as the Google Nexus One are helping to revolutionize the mobile market, and we’re happy to provide lawyers anytime, anywhere access to their practice management software via our Clio mobile application.”
A brief review of the iPhone application is available it iPhone J.D. Additional information on Clio, including a tour of the software, is available at goClio.com.
The Internet started it all off--the (theoretical) creation of a world without borders. There's a problem, however: borders still remain. And those borders are inhabited by sovereign entities that dictate the rules for their respective domains. This creates another problem, for both consumers and producers: what rules are in force over a technology that has no regard for arbitrary geographic boundaries? Microsoft, in a move that protects it and the consumers it serves, has asked that current federal technology laws be updated, new ones implemented, and that international standards be devised, so that border-oblivious technologies will be protected.
Microsoft’s push for change is motivated by the advent and expansion of cloud computing. Brad Smith, General Counsel for Microsoft, in a keynote address delivered at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C., stated: “The PC revolution empowered individuals and democratized technology in new and profoundly important ways. As we move to embrace the cloud, we should build on that success and preserve the personalization of technology by making sure privacy rights are preserved, data security is strengthened and an international understanding is developed about the governance of data when it crosses national borders.”
The big concern for Microsoft is how clouds will be regulated and protected. Cloud computing won’t take-off unless consumers believe it secure, so consumer privacy is a must. To protect that privacy there needs to be rules that make punishing transgressors more certain. And all parties, including governments, need to be on board (as cloud computing transcends political boundaries). The benefits for providers and consumers are self-evident: consumers get the security they want, while producers have a stable environment within which to offer their product.
While it may seem odd to find Microsoft on the side of the angels, Smith makes a good point: there are no rules at present that govern cloud computing. Users have no protection from hackers, from providers, or from governments. Smith rightly notes: “The rise of cloud computing should not lead to the demise of the privacy safeguards in the Bill of Rights. The public needs prompt and thoughtful action to ensure that the rights of citizens and government are fairly balanced so that these rights remain protected.”