The recent move to cloud computing, the new “computer timesharing”, takes advantage of efficiencies provided by economies of scale, professional centralized hardware and software management, and simple client devices such as cell phones, e-readers and tablets. These devices don’t require much management effort by their users. The companion article, “Mobile Computing: Native Apps versus Web Apps,” explores in detail how mobile apps are rolled out to these cloud-enabled devices.
You can see the new timesharing all around you. Besides smartphones and tablets, electronic readers are among the fastest selling products for Amazon and Barnes & Noble. These readers can download content from vast inventories of books and periodicals. Both the Kindle and the Nook are beginning to provide web browsing capabilities. They will probably evolve into good Internet clients. They are carving out a niche in the larger market for tablets like the iPad, Xoom, and Galaxy Tab, all capable Internet clients for consuming content, and as terminals for cloud-hosted applications.
Apple and its Android competitors maintain large libraries of ready-to-download software for a wide spectrum of applications. In the new timesharing, much of this capability will be hosted and run as Web applications. Apple will no longer require that its devices ever connect to a computer running iTunes. Apples’ latest operating systems let you can buy one of their iPods, iPhones, or iPads, connect to the Internet and instantly install applications. Internet connections will be increasingly available everywhere, serving more and more functionality from the cloud.
Google’s Chromebook initiative goes a step further. Chromebooks are clients for applications served from the Internet. Chromebooks assume an available Internet connection. The rapid evolution of telecommunications might very well make this approach attractive.
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At DataPlex, we create business systems that support common browsing devices including personal computers, netbooks, tablets, and smart phones. These systems use a cloud-based virtualized computer for data management, backup, and business logic tasks. The users device, be it a PC, a tablet or a smart phone, requires no special software beyond standard web browser software. These applications are attractive, robust, and responsive. Large companies like Apple, Oracle, Google, and Microsoft are improving hardware, software, and networks. We’re doing more and more on the Internet. It’s getting easier and better. The landscape is changing fast. It’s getting really interesting.