Came across a pretty interesting post (part two here) on the New York Times Technology Blog regarding computing-in-the-cloud i.e. moving computing and data away from the desktop to an online location which is then transmitted to the user’s terminal.
What the article basically tries to say is that this should lead to development of stripped down desktop computers or dumb-terminals having the ability to let the user do basic stuff using "powerful and standardized Web browsers".
The basic stuff that the user will be able to do includes using word processing and number crunching applications like MS Word and Excel. These tasks will be done using online suites like Google Apps (Google’s online answer to Microsoft Office).
I feel, for such an idea to really take off it is necessary that it is adopted by enterprise users. Having enterprise users will give online computing the legitimacy that it craves and also provide developers an assured source of income, which will in turn lead to further developments.
But will such an idea really be able to take off using only "powerful and standardized Web browsers"? Will you as a company really be comfortable doing your daily work on a "web browser"?
What I mean to say is that there is a mindset that has associated "web browsers" to (generally) non-business things like surfing the net, social networking etc. Enterprise users would normally check their official emails on applications like Microsoft Outlook, Lotus Notes etc. e.g. will a Goldman Sachs or a Lehmann Brothers analyst be comfortable making his valuation models on an browser with his personal Orkut and Gmail accounts running on parallel tabs?
I think the way ahead for online computing would be to develop a light user interface like that of a standard word processing or number crunching program on top of a powerful Internet connected skeleton. This will greatly increase the confidence that people place in online applications and also allow the developer to add functionality like drag-and-drop across multiple windows (also suggested in a comment in the original article, with an interesting example of iTunes as such a super-browser).
Till such an application is developed, Cloud Computing will need a lot of effort in getting off the ground (Assuming the other very important concerns of online computing like security, assured connectivity etc. are taken care of).
As I finish typing this, my Google desktop news feed announces Capgemini’s Google Apps initiative. Will this push be decisive enough for Cloud-computing?