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davidlian is an ultra-geeky chinese dude that works for a technology PR agency. He loves fiddling with techno-toys, plays Warhammer 40K, and shoots pictures wherever he goes. Here, he rants about PR, Technology and anything else. Don't expect balance and un-biased, he ain't no journalist. Anything said on this blog are solely davidlian's personal views. Don't confuse them with company mantra, client's views or views of any organisation he may be part of.

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Wednesday, September 3, 2008

And we shall all live on clouds...

The thing that struck me about Google’s announcement of its new-fangled web browser Chrome wasn’t the inward groan of “do we really need another browser?” No. It was a sneaky confirmation of the suspicion that one day, we will live on clouds. Cloud computing, that is.

Clouds above - Share on Ovi

If, like 90% of the world’s population, you’ve not really bothered to stay up to date with the latest in geekspeak, “Cloud computing” is the lovingly coined term that describes the storing of data, applications etc. on servers connected to the internet, as opposed to on your friendly hard disk (C: drive, for the uninitiated).

Basically, this covers storing your photos onto online services like Flickr, PhotoBucket or Share on Ovi, running Google Docs off the Google server via a JAVA shell, or even, just posting on your blog. Why Cloud? Because your data is not stored on you hard disk, but on the sprawling morass of the internet.

Innovative companies like Adobe and Microsoft have started jumping onto the bandwagon with platforms like Adobe Air and Silverlight that allow you to run web applications when not connected to the internet even. Google Gears also lets you run Google Docs offline.

But none of these platforms are as ubiquitous as your browser. Thus, I’m seeing Chrome as Google’s play to get its platform on the desktop / laptop PC /Mac. To simplify the thinking, as Cloud Computing takes root the web browser will become more and more important, and the actual Operating System becomes less and less important. Think about it; the FireFox Foundation doesn’t care whether you run Windows or Mac OS, so long as your browser is FireFox.

So if you get to a point where the first thing you do is log-on to your browser and surf the internet, would you really care to splash RM 580 for Windows XP when free Linux builds (like Ubuntu)will give us just as good an experience? What if Chrome launches as a shell on boot, cleverly disguising Mac OS, Windows XP or Ubuntu with a swish Google interface?

Of course, there are challenges roadblocking this dream and I just want to point two out:

Security and privacy:
With your home computer, it was your responsibility to ensure you have all the requisite firewalls, antivirus, antispam and what-nots installed to safeguard your data. When all that data goes to the cloud, I wonder what level of liability / responsibility on the providers (like Google) to ensure our (mostly private) data is safe and sound. Sure, they have privacy policies, but when your emails actually get stolen, what’s the recourse?

The other thing about putting all your stuff on the cloud is that like information then gets clumped together. Hackers who want to steal lots of private emails just have to target Gmail. Similarly, targeting Facebook will net you lots of private contact information.

Online all-the-time:
The second obvious challenge is that when more and more gets put on the cloud, the more you’ll need that internet connection everywhere. Obviously, there’s need to balance between what you put on the cloud and what you store locally, but being online and connected is intrinsic to cloud computing.

This challenge is actually an opportunity for mobile because cloud computing basically plays on the strengths of mobile and covers its weaknesses. With mobile technology on the up and up (WiMAX, 3.5G), full internet web-browsing on your mobile etc.), what you can’t store on your mobile you can easily pull off the ‘cloud’.

There’s an awful lot of potential in the clouds.

2 comments:

Yung-Hui Lim said...

I think 'Cloud' is not ready for prime-time yet; I would see it at its infancy stage. For it to reach its potential, broadband ubiquity and stability is a must. Until this happens, we're still very much dependent on locally installed OS and applications. 'Cloud' reminded me of the failed Oracle, Sun's Network Computer (1996-2000); thin client linked to servers for computing resources. Good vision but just timing. Will 'Cloud' avoid the fate of the NC? We'll see ;)

davidlian said...

Sorry man, but I beg to differ. A lot of us already live on the cloud whether we like it or not. Heck, if the cloud decided to burn my entire blog tomorrow, I'd be out of a blog. Same goes for my email, though I still have a stash of photos on my desktop.

I do doubt that the cloud will take over for the intensive apps that need to be hosted locally, but if you're a casual user, the cloud is exactly why Cybercafe's and Netbooks are so popular now.

And as the power of the cloud grows, so does the power of the browser - which was the point of this post. :)

It's a good discussion we're having.