The strongest case for cloud computing

In the midst of all of the various reasons for cloud computing and virtualization, we think we may have hit on the strongest reason yet: ease of PC upgrades.

For several years, we've bemoaned the fact that the most expensive part of getting a new PC (and of having a PC crash) is the time that must be spent reloading and reconfiguring the new system. That's the one part that better, cheaper, faster silicon doesn't fix.

And while we see this primarily on a personal level, in a totally cloud-based world the issue applies equally well to the corporate world. For instance, Steve recently received an automatic notification from a colleague that "I will not have my computer for the afternoon of Wednesday, July 21. Please contact me via [phone] if you need immediate assistance." (And I bet that anything you asked via phone would require computer access.)

So let's fast-forward to a 100% cloud-based and very thin client world. Indeed, in this situation, one would simply go to any computer, and, assuming appropriate authentication, start working.

This brings us back in some ways to the days of VT-100s and before. It was once argued that data transmission speed faster than 2400 bps per user would never be needed because that's as fast as you could scroll through data on an 80 column by 24 line text screen.

Then along came PCs, and, all of a sudden, our entire IT experience changed. Nevertheless, the limiting factor for many years was the ability to have sufficient WAN bandwidth to support real-time graphical interfaces, etc.

We postulate, however, that we have reached another inflection point. With the powerful combination of "almost free" and nearly ubiquitous broadband and applications like Gmail (and related suites), the absolute "need" for programs like Microsoft Outlook is quickly evaporating. Not only are you able to access e-mail, contacts, and calendars from any reasonably well-connected PC, you also can do a pretty darn good job (if the application is well-designed) from a range of devices from "pads" to "pods" and other highly mobile devices. In fact, from a perspective of computing power, the major difference between a really smart phone and a PC is the screen size and the keyboard.

So Steve is actually looking forward to migrating his most critical apps (e-mail, SalesForce, Web management, etc.) to a new computer. As for those that have to be installed and configured, well, that's another story.

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