Home Computing in the Cloud – But Will We Just Rediscover the Same Old Problems?

Recently, I wrote about home computing moving to the Cloud. One of my observations on why I like the Cloud was that applications launched faster than an equivalent application running on my six year old PC. The Cloud seemed to extend the life of my PC. It just needed to be good enough to run a browser. I hate tossing out a working PC just because it needs to be faster to handle updated, often bloated, application software.

I do a lot of creative writing and brainstorming. When an idea comes to me, I want to pop open a document and get it down, now, while the ideas are coming.

I disliked Microsoft Word, my main writing tool, because it took … so … long … to … launch. And even when it appeared to be ready for my use, it … still … was … doing … things … behind … the … scene: I would type and nothing would show up for moments.

Instead, I can open Google Docs and I can start to type almost immediately. Plus, I never had to “save” the document. It was always saved for me. I’ve never lost anything unlike with Word where I lose a major chunk of work on a regular basis. Yes, I do save manually with Word every few minutes – saving is a habitual twitch I’ve been doing for decades, but something always eventually happens. Always. The Cloud based Google Docs just seemed to work more intuitively (e.g., no need to save – what was that all about with Word? So last decade.) and faster.

However, I’ve noticed a recent change. With Google Docs, I enabled “Gears.” This allows my PC to do more of the work. It allows me to edit offline. The problem is I launch a document and then I get a screen displaying how it is synchronizing with my PC. Ugh. Stop that! I don’t care. I want to write. Now.

That reminded me of all the applications my software development teams had written. Every time we wanted to “start over” and make a better application, too often we rediscovered that too many of those things we disliked about the old software, were needed even in the new software. Many relate to security and performance. Others were all those features we thought nobody used. We want those things. They can slow down the application. Being safe and robust can cause additional performance issues. Making sure the customer gets what they want might require a series of questions or showing time consuming status updates on the display.

So my worry is, as personal Cloud based applications mature (e.g. Google Docs, QuickenOnline.com, IDrive.com etc.), they will slowly become what we already have on the individual PC. Problems included. The advantage of accessibility everywhere and speed will be severely limited by security and the need for safety (e.g., don’t lose my work). We will then just have migrated everything to the Cloud, for no net advantage, except to the wonderful folks who brought us the Cloud capabilities. They now have our business. What a neat deal … for them. Will we be any better off?

I still like the Cloud approach to home computing. Who can complain about free productivity applications (writing, spreadsheets, financial software, etc.) and almost limitless storage? However, reality is beginning to set in and like all Information Technology initiatives I am now seeing the difference between the promise and what it is really all about. Next, we get to hear the string of promises: “We will have that feature in the next release! Then it will do everything you were able to do on your PC.”

1. Home Computing In The Cloud.

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