You're already living in the cloud

There's nothing like a hardware meltdown to remind you that the cloud is already your home base -- and that arbitrary barriers stand in the way of a seamless cloud experience

A couple of weeks ago my MacBook's hard drive died a melodramatic death -- right in the middle of a meeting, kernel fault messages flew across the screen. Nothing was recoverable.

According to our internal tech support, a Mac Genius needed to inspect the MacBook before the drive could be replaced, so I was without my laptop for a couple of days. Instead, I was stuck with an old Windows loaner laptop, which -- after our IT person took a day to load it with the apps I needed and download my massive email store -- turned out to be a painfully slow machine. I wasn't about to take that old dog home with me, so I ended up provisioning my home machine with all those apps, too.

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This tedium seemed awfully last-century, since everything I really needed was in the cloud: Files on iCloud and Box, some shared Google Sheets, my Chrome bookmarks and history, and a bunch of Evernote notebooks (not to mention many thousands of messages and attachments on the Exchange server).

It's one thing to know intellectually that the center of your computing life has moved to the cloud, but it's another to be forced by circumstance to experience it. A year ago, InfoWorld's Simon Phipps had a similar experience when he traded his MacBook for a Chromebook.

Sure, I know the limitations of HTML5/JavaScript apps, but as I noted last week, that's a moving target. We leave in an era of responsive Web design, where the same websites -- or Web apps -- rearrange themselves to suit whatever client you're using, another sign that your computing life is already in the cloud and the device you're using just happens to be the current window into it.

This is scarcely a new idea, but my hardware disaster brought home the degree to which it has already occurred, even though annoying fatware prevents today's cloud-centric experience from being as elegant as it might be.

One way to take cloud apps to the next level is the so-called "hybrid" method, where HTML5 apps run in a native container that talks to the unique features of a specific platform. Adobe PhoneGap, a cross-platform mobile dev tool and InfoWorld Technology of the Year award winner, uses this approach. On the other hand, I keep stumbling on JavaScipt frameworks that do things in a browser I never would have imagined possible (check out Famo.us for this week's eye candy).

I may be wrong, but I feel like we're on the cusp of another big shift, one where we slough off the legacy of silly platform wars and enable the cloud to become the avatar for our work lives the way it has already become for the personal lives of millions with social media. Some incumbent software companies will make the leap, and some won't. And as Andrew Oliver notes, shameless foot-dragging by telecom providers in upgrading to fiber threatens to ruin our happy cloud future. More than ever, I have the distinct feeling that the next phase of computing is overdue.

This article, "You're already living in the cloud," originally appeared at InfoWorld.com. Read more of Eric Knorr's Modernizing IT blog. And for the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld on Twitter.

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