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Will the cloud replace the PC?

Posted by sjvn01 in CIO Engage on Mar 11, 2013 3:30:28 PM

cloudSome people are still stuck in the idea that the cloud is just so much vapor. While they're still sneering at the very idea of a cloud, others have moved on to the next logical step: That cloud-based computing will replace the PC.


As Jason Perlow, Senior Technology Editor at ZDNet and Microsoft Technology Solution Professional, recently put it, "It seems some of you find the cloud … threatening. And that you'll move to the cloud kicking and screaming, holding your personal computer and your local data with your gritty nails dug into your laptops, external drives, and NAS appliances, tearing at them with whatever last lingering bit of life force you have left in you before you'll accept the inevitable."

And what is inevitable?  According to Perlow it's that "The cloud is coming for you whether you like it or not. The cloud cannot be stopped. Your data and user experience will be assimilated." <Cue ominous music.>

It's not just Perlow. Gartner predicted last year that the cloud will replace the PC as the center of users' digital lives by 2014. Certainly the vendors are betting on this.


That was the vision Steve Jobs had in mind for Apple's iCloud. Google's Chrome OS, and its associated Chromebooks, is all about making the cloud the center of the computing experience. And even Microsoft is getting into the act with more advanced online services such as Office 365.


So, will most of us be doing our computing on the cloud in 2014? I don't think so.


Sure, we can do a lot of things on the cloud now, but some apps, such as video or photo editing and CAD/CAM still need lots of fast local CPU speed, and you're not going to get that even if there's a supercomputer on the other end of the cloud. Let's face it, I'm only nanoseconds away from my data and my applications when they're on my hard drive, while I'm seconds away from them if they're on the cloud.

Which reminds me. I'm lucky my office actually has a 100Mbps-down/6Mbps-up cable Internet connection. I really can use cloud connections to their maximum potential, but what about your office? Are you still on DSL? T1? A shared 56K connection from the dawn of Internet broadband time? The bottom line is a lot of us are never going to have really fast Internet connections, and the desktop needs really fast connections.


Also, color me paranoid, but I don't trust all my data in a cloud. Sure, it's great for some things. Indeed, for a lot of things the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) is all the computing power and storage you'll ever need. But I like my most important data to be close, say as close as my local server where it's milliseconds away on my Gigabit Ethernet, not seconds away in a datacenter thousands of miles away on a shared corporate 30Mbps Internet connection.


Mind you, I get the attraction of the cloud-desktop model. It has the same beauty of ye olde mainframe/terminal model for IT. Centralized control makes IT's job so much easier. But the PC genie's been out of the bottle for decades now and I don't see it going back in. People like having control of their own systems. You only need to look at the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) movement to know that urge is still alive and well in users.


So, will we move our servers to the cloud? Check, many of us are already doing that. Will we move simple applications such as word-processing to the cloud? Yes, indeed, Google and Microsoft both will be happy to sell — well, rent, really — basic office applications. But are we going to move our desktops to the cloud? Not quite yet, and maybe never. I'm voting for never.


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