Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Is Offline Computing a Thing of the Past?

Microsoft have announced that their Cloud Computing Platform Windows Azure will 'come out of test mode' in January next year and be fully operational by February. This is a big step for Microsoft who know that they need to have a top notch Cloud Computing (simple explanation) offering in order to compete. It also shows that Cloud Computing is where tech is heading. Although this has been known for some time Microsoft's announcement may well speed things up.

While many are ready to write off Microsoft as an declining icon of computing's last generation, Ozzie sees Microsoft positioned to leapfrog some of the companies that tend to be thought of as the leaders of the cloud computing world--names like Amazon, Salesforce and Google. - Cnet

Most of use use Cloud Computing applications for our personal email accounts with providers such as Gmail or Hotmail. Looking to the future more and more computing will be achieved via a web browser without the need for offline software. Consider the following examples you may already use:

1. Spotify

Spotify allows you to stream music over the internet without having an offline copy. It means that you don't need to carry around your music collection on an mp3 player, you can access it from an internet enabled device.

2. Skype

Skype allows you to instant message your contact over the internet and can be downloaded to a range of web enabled devices. If you use the Skype Mobile or the mobile app you can make VOIP (voice over IP) calls and thus bypass the phones traditional call making technology in order to make free calls.


Picnik lets you edit photos via your web browser. It has all the basic functions the average users needs such as cropping, rotating and adjusting contrast. Once you are done editing your photo you simply download it back to your desktop.

As I said in a comment on a recent Independent article on Azure:

Cloud computing is a great idea (I use various online tools such as Gmail, Picnik and Remember The Milk) but it relies on users having a good connection speed so infrastructure improvements will help it to take off.
If you take Cloud computing to it's logical conclusion all we will need in the future is a device that acts as a browser with no need for offline tools of any kind. You can already see this happening on mobile devices with the increasing popularity of apps like Skype for mobile and Windows Live mobile messenger which bypass the normal call making methods in favor of VOIP calls.

Perhaps the future will see us carrying around mobile web devices with cameras and the ability to make traditional calls may be forgotten. If everything you need to do (or more realistically, want to do) can be handled by online apps all you really need is a portable web browser.

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