Cloud computing is such a simple concept to understand and execute that its lack of mass implantation can only be the result of a mass conspiracy. Okay, maybe there’s another reason out there that isn’t so paranoid. But a conspiracy of sorts isn’t improbable considering the companies with the capability to create a completely cloudy system of computing are the same folks who manufacture our computer hardware and provide platforms for software. Even the best laptops 2011 has to offer don’t stand a chance against the potential mobility of function and increase of access that a successful cloud network could accomplish. The problem is that those who can change that are the same people who want to keep things the way they are.
The latest fervor is all about Apple’s new iCloud, which actually demonstrates my point perfectly. Apple, as you well know, prides itself in its sophisticated hardware and the elaborate software their OS can handle. If something like cloud computing were to seriously take off, then Apple would have a problem in selling their premier machines to people who no longer need their capabilities to run word processors, video editors, and save swaths of complex data. So what Apple does with their cloud computing venture is pitch it as a way to unite all of their sophisticated machines and therefore promote further investment in different products. Despite having the capability to virtually shift the entire Apple consumer experience into one single online platform, the company rejects this in favor of dusting off the same old strategy.
Google is an industry giant that despite it’s dabbling in with smartphones and such, is not reliant on hardware purchases and software sells to make their annual billions. Inverse to Apple’s cloud computing model, Google has been for years now expanding its Chrome browser, adding features that are definitive of the cloud computing experience. On June 15th they will begin selling Chromebooks, which represent everything companies like Apple want to avoid when facing the cloud computing future. Chromebooks are going to be nothing but netbooks stripped of everything but an OS that is catered to sync with Chrome programs and services online. This is an ideal prototype for what Google hopes to be a future standard of inexpensive mobile computer terminals that function entirely online.
Chromebooks are expected to bomb, according to most industry experts. They’re claimed to be less optimum than netbooks while costing nearly the same. Nobody seems that impressed, but maybe that’s just a reflection of how hard the hardware hammer has hit our heads by the companies most invested in propagating reliance on powerful and therefore more expensive computers and software. We’ve been made to value our sophisticated technology so much we’ve forgotten to question whether or not it’s necessary. The Chromebook might itself not sell too well, but the foothold has been taken.
In the end it really will be all about value. If Google and licensed manufacturers are able to someday sell a sleek looking notebook or netbook for under $200 that has access to hundreds of free or incredibly inexpensive programs and services available online, then it’s going to be Apple and friends’ turn to argue why intricate hardware and software is still necessary. If this becomes a proven strategy for Google, expect competitors to join in. But at the same time don’t expect a post-price tag age of programs. Maybe the only thing these people need to figure out is a way to still make money from cloud computing at the same rate they’ve been making it.
Until the creepy day comes when we can install CPUs with display rigged right into the retina, computer terminals are always going to be necessary. But hauling around thousands of dollars worth of programs and hardware won’t be if cloud computing is truly stretching across our horizon. We just need to check it out, whether it’s iCloud or Chrome or other, and if we like what we see be outspoken about it. The more we make it clear we want more clouds in the digital sky, the more likely these hardware honchos will appease us and give it shot.