cloud computing

Why I don’t love the Cloud

There’s a lot of talk about Cloud Computing lately. There’s been a lot for the past couple of years, but with Apple’s announcement of the iCloud, everyone’s doing the talking.

iCloud Media Cloud

This is also something Google has gotten into, with their Google Music and to an extent Google Docs. So this isn’t just a slam against Apple, they’ve just gotten all of the press lately.

Like most good ideas, iCloud is a simple one: Since there are so many devices you may have – an iPod, an iPhone, an iPad, and/or an Apple computer, iCloud would be the place where all of your files and contacts live, so all of your devices can be synced up easily. Rather than living on your base computer’s hard drive, and updating everything one by one, the Cloud will simply do it for you. What’s more, your files would be accessed wirelessly and not have to live on an old fashioned, poopy hard drive.

So where do I begin with my complaints on this? All of them stem from two things that drive me crazy with modern technology: The over-large corporation that tells its users this is a good idea, and the mass of users who go along with the hype.

First off, storing all of my files on an Apple server means I no longer have my own files. There is a flimsy contract between the provider and myself that my files will be secure and always waiting for me. What happens when they aren’t though? If I am a salesman, and I lose all my contacts through a snafu with their cloud, how will I be compensated for all the lost sales that would result?

Then there’s the purely selfish reason: I have a LOT of illegally burned content. Not necessarily stolen, but I do burn my own copies of CDs and DVDs – if you’ve been online for at least a few years, you do too. What’s to say the owner of the cloud service doesn’t bow down to the RIAA or Paramount or Universal, and let them look over my collection to see if there’s anything lawsuit-worthy?

Finally, assuming there aren’t any technical or draconian legal issues, there’s still the problem of bandwidth. Loading all of your music onto the iCloud and syncing it with your iPad on the go is great – until everyone else does it too. I actually like the idea of cloud computing to store some files. But what happens when everyone’s device relies on a mobile data plan to get its music?

What happens is everything will get slower.

It is possible to get enough servers and towers to make this work. That will be incredibly expensive, of course, and that cost will be passed onto the consumer – namely, you. And me, in fact, whether I use it or not. It wouldn’t surprise me if in a year or two Android or iPhone data plans drive the monthly cost up to $200 per month.

The current cost is already too high for something as simple as a phone in my opinion. All the market needs to do is tell companies they’re willing to spend twice as much on their service just to avoid manually syncing devices. Then they can charge almost as much as they want to.

All just so Apple can stop putting hard drives in iPods, and sell you more crap exclusively on iTunes? It sounds like we’re all lining up for a major screwing.

7 Reasons Microsoft should release a Cloud version of Office

In case you haven’t heard, Microsoft Office 2010 will be web based. Yeay!

Google Docs and Microsoft Office

However, they are still going to be charging money for this. Boo!

Microsoft could get a lot of people using Bing if they simply made a cloud version of Office. Sound like a bad fiscal decission? It’s not! Here’s why:

1) Not everyone needs everything that comes with the full version of office anyway. A simple version of Word and Excel would be enough to make most people happy. If they don’t like it, they can buy the full version.

2) PowerPoint is useless to the average user. However, you could retool it so people can create presentations out of their photos, videos, music, narration, and share it on Microsoft Video. If it’s easy to use, a lot more people would create, and you’d have a wealth of fresh, new, common use content on your other platform. (As well as giving people something else to share with your new Hotmail.)

3) You could add more to the sale version of Office, to make it more enticing. Certainly a Microsoft Money for Small Business on Office would help to get more people using both. If people need a heftier version of Office for college or a small business, then they’ll pay for it. Everyone else who just needs to write a quick letter can do it on their site.

4) If you can build dominance with a free version of Office, you can take an important shot at Google Docs, which more and more people are using who don’t want to pay for the full version of Office. The problem with Docs is it doesn’t have the tools and usability people are already used to with Office. The best way to compete with Google is to offer people what they already know.

5) Google Docs kills office on price, sharing and online storage of documents. Obviously, a competing could version would take care of the price advantage. Including sharing and online storage would be simple to add, and level the playing field against Google.

6) Why would Microsoft care to compete with Google Docs? Because it keeps some people using Google Search. If Office was widely available as a component of Bing, don’t you think there would be a LOT more people using that?

Microsoft would make their money back – in advertising. Google has no problem paying the bills each month because they have hoards of traffic. If Bing sacrificed the small percentage of income they get from households that just need a copy of word, and exchanged it for the ad revenue they’d get from all those people using their site, they’d make all that cash back. Seriously.

7) Finally, if Microsoft doesn’t, Google will own the market on free desktop publishing with Docs. It’s been growing slowly, but as more and more people balk at the idea of paying for Office when they can get the simple jobs done with Docs, more will. Office can jump into the fight any time – but the longer they wait, the more people will just get used to using Docs, and they’ll lose the advantage they have now of being the most familiar program.

That’s all of the reasons I can think of in one sitting – but I’m sure there’s more. I doubt Steve Ballmer will read this, but if you are Steve, seriously – you’ve got an Ace in the hole, and you need to play it.