Disclaimer: this post does not imply anything related to Microsoft Cloud Computing strategy.
What does Cloud Computing (CC) mean to me? Two services for now:
One feature missing from both services is what I call the “Save To My SkyDrive” on the “File” menu, with which you can edit your stuff in your client application and save it directly to your SkyDrive. Even better, you should be able to create a network drive that maps your SkyDrive to a drive letter, and drag and drop your stuff directly into the drive.
Looking ahead, I expect a lot (probably not all) of your communication materials on your hard drive will be actually just local copies of the same stuff in the cloud. We already have emails stored somewhere on the Internet so we can access anywhere, anytime, from any computer. We will see a lot more going this direction: your Office docs, your calendar, your personal documents, your health care record, your family photos, etc. In other words, the web, or the cloud, is your big “My Documents” folder, and you are either working offline with some client applications such as Microsoft Office and sync with the cloud later, or working online using web browser based applications to edit your files directly.
The files are not even stored and managed in one single place – for example, your family video may not be saved as a single file on Cloud Server # 314 at Mountain View, CA. Instead, pieces of this file may be stored in various places in New York City, Phoenix, Chicago, and Seattle, and some networking coding scheme is employed to achieve excellent performance and reliability (P2P users should know what I mean here).
And your mobile devices should be doing the same thing – offline editing and online syncing to your corner in the cloud.
One word: web-sourcing. We will see our local storage sourced to the cloud, and a lot of our communications (file editing and review, meeting request, trip planning and expense tracking, etc) can be sourced to the cloud as well.
Why are we heading this way? Two reasons:
- Files in your local storage can not be shared with others easily; How often do you have to send attachments of file copies back and forth to your colleagues and family, and to yourself?
- How much space do you really need to store your docs/videos/mp3/books? I always need more space …
Is this trend killing box software manufacturers like Microsoft? Not at all. Client applications are still much more powerful and user-friendly than those browser-based solutions. People still need them. The client software just need to be more CC-ready, creating an enriched user experience that is closely, naturally integrated into the web.
This requires a company-wide initiative to be successful, something like Cloud-Ready Computing (CRC (r) all rights reserved) , just like what Microsoft did with security (Trustworthy Computing). Small features such as “Save To My SkyDrive” should be identified by every participating product group, and the Windows Live services should be extended to provide could hosting, and the Windows Mobile platform should be Cloud-Ready together with other Microsoft products as well instead of always playing the porting/catching-up game.
Update: Microsoft Office Live Workspace (beta) offers similar service as Google Docs.