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Some thoughts on The Cloud and ownership

Posted on Aug 21st, 2008 by Tony Tulathimutte
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In the prognosticating manner of Vannevar Bush’s “As We May Think“, ReadWriteWeb has a piece on the future of the desktop, essentially predicting that desktops will be replaced by browsers, will all significant functions pushed out to the cloud:

Is the desktop even going to exist anymore as the Web becomes increasingly important? Yes, there has to be some kind of place that we consider to be our personal “home” and “workspace” — but it’s not going to live on any one device.

As we move into a world that is increasingly mobile, where users often work across several different devices in the course of their day, we need unified access to our applications and data. This requires that our applications and data do not reside on local devices anymore, but rather that they will live in the cloud and be accessible via Web services.

How soon these changes arrive also have a lot to do with location: in countries like South Korea and Japan, with higher broadband penetration, more pervasive wireless infrastructures, and more computer users who don’t own their computers (using internet cafes and kiosks instead), the cloud is both pragmatically and culturally more feasible.

I have no doubt that cloud computing is going to play a much larger role, especially as the heavy-hitting mobile platforms take hold (iPhone and Android). But especially in America, where concepts of property and proprietorship are so ingrained, some stuff is always going to be local. Take music subscription services–you might blame their failure on the lack of mobile broadband saturation, but more likely, people just want to own their music and do with it what they want. I suspect that security and privacy have much less to do with it than most people think (how much personal info do most people have on their Gmail accounts?).

The key factor in Americans’ willingness to delegate to the cloud may be money–if people buy something, they want to “own” it, even if it’s just as a file on their hard drive. (Which is why Napster’s “Have everything, own nothing” music subscription ad campaign was a catchy, but ultimately failed campaign.) If it’s ALSO available on the cloud, then all the better–but “we Americans” want to have our things, and own them too.

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