Mobile's next great leap will happen in the cloud

Smartphones and tablets are saturated with features, leaving less room for innovation on the device -- but more for innovation in the cloud

The fact that mobile devices like smartphones and tablets are becoming cloud devices is nothing new. What is new is that we seem to be nearing the point of feature saturation on those devices. When that happens, the use of the cloud by mobile applications and providers will accelerate.

Smartphones and tablets are getting about as fast as we need them to get, the platforms are more capable, and the apps more sophisticated. My smartphone can download faster than most DSL services can, the user interfaces are easy to deal with now, and the applications equal or exceed those that we can find on a PC. Indeed, were it not for the fact that my smartphone has a 4-inch screen, I would have written this post on it.

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This is not to say that mobile devices are now as good as they can ever get. Smartphone providers will keep finding new ways to enhance them. But I am saying that the mobile devices will be more difficult to improve, so the push will be on cloud-delivered systems to enhance their use.

On the infrastructure side, the cloud is already playing a much larger role. Some carriers are moving the base stations from the cell site to a data center. This is important because the base station is the most expensive part of a cellular network. Moving it to the (cloud) data center allows the carrier to provide enough processing capacity into every cell to handle peak traffic conditions, while allocating processing resources to the parts of the networks where it's most needed at any given time.

On the platform side, the continued migration of major mobile services from devices to back-end cloud servers continues. Platform providers such as Apple and Google are pushing compute and storage to cloud-based platforms. You can see that in Google's changes to Quickoffice to default to the cloud-based Google Drive for document editing and Apple's expansion of iCloud for just data syncing to providing a cloud-based editing capability for its iWork suite.

Indeed, mobile devices are morphing more into data terminals than stand-alone platforms. Doing so provides better performance, resiliency, and of course, another revenue stream for the providers (again, think Google Drive and iCloud). 

On the application side, app providers are taking the same path as the platform providers, meaning more cloud. Application providers are focusing on cloud-native application development tools, and they seek to push as much processing and storage to the back-end systems as they can. Of course, this means more dependency on network connectivity and bandwidth, but that problem is now solved with Wi-Fi and increasingly on cellular networks. Case in point: InfoWorld's content management system is Web-based, so my editor is as apt to use his computer as his iPad to work on my posts. (In fact, he edited this one from an iPad over a cellular connection.)

The growth of mobile technology has clearly changed our lives. As mobile platforms and infrastructure evolves, their use of cloud computing will deepen that impact and even shape how it evolves.

This article, "Mobile's next great leap will happen in the cloud," originally appeared at Read more of David Linthicum's Cloud Computing blog and track the latest developments in cloud computing at For the latest business technology news, follow on Twitter.

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