cloud vs desktop?

 sword_fight_smallSpeaking of cloud computing, I’ve been itching to write an article about it.

Ever since the inception of Web 2.0, it has been prophesized that it will kill desktop computing. Some people believe that browser is the new operating system and the underlying OS is now irrelevant or it will come to a point that it will be irrelevant. This reached fever pitch when Google  announced Chrome OS, a cloud OS that will change the way we interact with computers. Personally, I think it’s foolish. Here are my reasons why.

  1. Cloud purists (yeah, I said it) believe that online and offline computing are mutually exclusive i.e. one is the antithesis of another. I strongly disagree on this matter. I believe that the future of computing, web 3.0 if you will, should be the marriage of online and offline computing. One that harnesses the benefits of both worlds. Think about it, they are doing it now but won’t admit. Both worlds are trying to outflank each other by implementing each other’s core strength. Here’s how:

    • Desktop apps are now starting to implement online capabilities. Take MS Office for instance. Office 14 have now collaboration features and the ability to be saved on the cloud.
    • Web apps now increasingly mimicking desktop apps. Google has released Gears to enable offline capabilities. Google also released Native Client (NaCl) to allow browsers to run native (sandboxed) code locally. On the UI side, we’ve been pushing AJAX and CSS to copy rich desktop applications.
    • Flash and Silverlight are new breed of platforms that harness the power of both worlds. They are blurring the line between desktop and web applications. Silverlight has now the out-of-browser experience that allows application to persist outside the browser.
  2. Internet’s reach is now well extended beyond PC and we can’t expect every device to have a browser. Internet experience should not be confined to the browser. Rather, the web experience should be connected to the device’s experience. iPhone is a monumental evidence for this. Yes, browsing in iPhone is cool and fast but you have to admit, it’s still broken (don’t get me started on that). The same reason it is broken on an Android, Blackberry or a WinMo phone. Mobile web browsers just don’t cut it. That’s why developers chose to develop native apps for iPhone despite the fact that Apple initially offered web apps for the iPhone. Today we are increasingly living in a connected environment. Phones, TV, portable media devices, photo frames, etc are now internet capable. Pushing a browser into these devices is just burying our heads in the sand.
  3. Personal computers (even devices!) these days are just too powerful to be left untapped. The ubiquity of low cost yet powerful device is just too huge to ignore. Yet web applications barely scratch this computing power while users demand too much from them. Web apps have been pushed too much even on some areas they’re not supposed to. What we have are sometimes missed, sometimes hit user experience *cough* Google Docs *cough*. Native apps can deliver incredible great user experience once done right. Why? They can take advantage of computer resources such as local storage, hardware acceleration and GPU processing.

These are 3 compelling reasons why cloud alone is not the panacea of computing. Rather, together with desktop computing, it can create the seamless experience every user is looking for: an experience that takes advantage of all the resources – networked and local.

The issue of standards

Despite of the points I made there’s one thing that outweighs them all: standards. Yes, native frameworks / OS are proprietary (most of them anyway). In these days of open source, open standards and anti-trust lawsuits, people just go nuts over standards. This is for good reason. I am not in any ridiculing what standards have brought to us. Standards allow fair competition and encourage innovation. However, the same standards are holding us down. Standards are slow to implement and too much politics are involve. This is where I think that standard has to also evolve into something else. They have to evolve from specific implementations to strict guidelines of native frameworks. Let the companies innovate as long as they operate under the rules. This way, again, we are harnessing the best of both worlds. It’s a stretch, I know.

What’s your take on cloud computing? Hit the comment section and let me know.



Filed under Cloud, Desktop, Tech, Web 2.0, Web 3.0

2 responses to “cloud vs desktop?

  1. Rom

    Nice article Jhoeforth,

    And about Chrome OS, I never heard anything about it ever since it was unveiled by Google. Netbook manufacturers seem to prefer the other Google OS – Android.

    I’m going Android soon 🙂 hehe

  2. The release of Windows Phone 7, I believe, makes my argument more convincing. An OS + cloud marriage. I could dream of the days where we consume the internet that is very native to the OS.

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