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Apple or Google: which Cloud Vision will dominate?

I often participate in a forum, moderated by Peter Schooff for EBIZQ. He typically makes a statement and asks us to respond. About a month ago, Peter made a statement, and you know what, I had so much to say, I realized I was writing a full blog entry rather than just responding to his question. That is why I decided to publish my response separately. Here it is.


So, what was Peter’s statement that made me react this way? Here it is:


Jason Hinter has an excellent article over at ZDNet about the two different clouds from Google and Apple.  First, Google: "Google's entire approach to the cloud is based on the future, and not on the internet as it is today. Google is betting that the world will have low-cost, ubiquitous internet access in the not-too-distant future."  Next, Apple: "Apple's approach is not to use the cloud as the computer-in-the-sky that runs everything. It doesn't want or need it all to happen in the cloud. Instead, the company views the cloud as the Fat Controller who makes sure all the trains run on time and reach the right destinations." So which version of the cloud do you think will dominate?


So, here is my extended answer:

My gut feel is neither. The reason is that there will not be one cloud model in the end (if there is ever an end to evolution), because there are very different needs. Enterprises have completely different needs from consumers. And new applications (e.g. the intelligent car, smart grid, healthcare) will introduce new models again. We are going back to all the permutations of client/server. Except now the client is the mobile device and the server is the cloud. Remember, we used to have fat clients, thin clients, presentation layers and you name it. Add into that another mythical technology, voice recognition, and now you see what can happen. Can I speak to the cloud? Why not?


As time and technology continues evolving, cloud computingwill increasingly support both our private and business life. While we can live without Facebook for a couple hours, we may not accept the inability to send a message to a customer or to present at a critical client meeting, as it may have a great business impact. So, the fundamental question is how close specific functions/services need to be from the point of consumption to provide the required level of availability. I hear you, connectivity issues are a story of the past, and all this will be resolved very soon.


Let me play devil’s advocate here as this statement requires a few things. First, Internet access needs to become available in one form or shape everywhere (Wifi, 3/4G, satellite, maybe WiMax or newer technologies still under development. ) Second, network management will need to be integrated in the cloud. What I mean by that is that cloud will no longer just be about datacentres providing capabilities in a highly efficient manner, but about an end-to-end experience encompassing the datacentre, the network and the device. The question is, how I can ensure optimal delivery of the required functionality across datacentre and network? When will I have quality Internet access when on a bullet train, a metro or in an airplane? When will my customer allow me to hook up on his enterprise network? You get it, don’t you?


I strongly believe we need devices that can store information and are able to deliver services on their own (the Apple model), but are capable of easily tapping into the full power of the cloud when the cloud is available. So, when I’m traveling I would have some e-books and music on my device to avoid being interrupted when my Internet access sputters and I would keep my e-mail synchronized. On the other hand, I would be tapping into the cloud to visualize the latest product designs if I’m an engineer , get access to patient medical records if I’m a doctor or access financial modelling tools if I’m a banker. In each of these cases, my device would manage the presentation of the information and all the heavy lifting would be done in the cloud (the Google model).


This is why I answered Peter’s question the way I did. When looking at the latest mobile devices in general and at the tablets in particular, many people get hung up on the amount of applications that can be downloaded. In my mind this is largely beside the point. How does the device manage on-board applications while being a credible window to the cloud?


I actually believe that no phone or tablet device on the market today allows me to run my business when I'm on the road. That's why I continue carrying my laptop with me. So, we're not at the post PC era yet in my mind.


How would you answer Peter’s question?

Labels: Cloud| cloud advisor
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