Cloud computing is the new kid on the block. In simple terms, lots of servers are linked together on the World Wide Web to provide clients (you) with data storage, and software (or APPs as they are now becoming known). This array of servers is the CLOUD.
Google have jumped the gun with Cloud, and if you sign up for a free Google account, you get email, calendar, document storage, word processor, spread sheet, photo imaging software, photo album plus several other “apps” of varying desirability. Google have also produced their own browser which is a lean mean machine known as Chrome, and is much faster than Internet Explorer. They are also about to launch their own operating system which will be called Chromium and, which they claim, will improve on windows.
Microsoft have been slow off the mark with Cloud, and are now fighting desperately to catch up. First of course they tried to buy Google, but that cost too much, so they swung into action with lots of lawyers to slow Google down with injunctions.But it doesn’t matter if they loose because Google has lost some of their lead fighting back. Microsoft has produced a new search engine (BING), rewrite Windows to make it leaner ( they must have got rid of the Bloat ware writers). Windows 7.0 is the new lean operating system.
So what is the attraction for Google? For an average office user, the free word processor and spreadsheet will probably suffice, they are not as powerful as Microsoft Office, but few people need all that functionality. If the free apps are sufficient for 90% of computer users then the cost to Microsoft will be severe, particularly if Chrome takes off. Microsoft also know better than most that you can’t stop progress, you must harness it instead.
Based on the simple fact that altruism wasn’t the character trait that made Bill Gates the world’s richest man, how can money be made from all this free software?
When selling Office software ceases to be profitable, it will stop being written, as will most of the widely used applications, so your only access will be by using the cloud. Here comes the reward – Instead of Free cloud, lets have rental cloud. It would work just like your mobile phone and you would pay by the minute for using a word processor etc.
There is no certainty that this is the way it will go, one sea change which is manifesting itself at the moment is the loss of T.V. advertising revenue to the internet. It could be that in the battle for hearts and minds Google, Microsoft and others (we haven’t heard from Mr Murdoch yet) will continue to provide a free service and force upon you advertising (how about a pop-up at the end of each paragraph or a cute little animated insurance man glued to your cursor offering cover for your VDU when you finally put your fist through it).
You can of course always go over to Linux, there is even Linux cloud for larger companies to set up their own CLOUD. As all Linux is free anyway, there will be no loss of revenue and no need to stop writing software. I understand that many of the Linux contributers are also writers for the big software houses so there need be no fall off in inovation.
Historically, predicting computing is very inaccurate as we don’t know what is around the corner. I recently saw a pen computer that had a little fold out stand, the pen stands vertically and projects a dispaly onto the wall, and a keyboard onto your desk!
If computers take this route, will office practices still be the same?