So often lately, I hear of the cloud and the wonderful things it will do for the world. I increasingly hear that any software effort that is not directed toward the cloud is going to fail. So much, I hear that desktops and laptops are antiquated due to the superiority of cloud-utilizing dumb terminals. I completely disagree, and should the cloud be the true future of computing, I think I may just have to find a new interest.
For me, the cloud is one big mistake. I do not want others to be in charge of my data. I do not want to put my data on a server run by a company whose fine print tells me that the company is not responsible for my data, or worse that the company owns my data. As Google has shown us, the servers that make up this "cloud" are computers like any other. Bad things can and do happen. In a perfect world, massive levels of redundancy would exist for every computer on Earth, but this isn't a perfect world. This world is one where mistakes are made.
The biggest issue that I have with this cloud model we are seeing is the lack of control that people are getting as concerns the systems that fully utilize it. For example, our smart phones give us little to no control. iPhones have to be jailbroken if their users wish to install non-Apple sanctioned software. Android phones have to be "rooted" which can be a simple task or a difficult task depending upon the device's manufacturer. Windows 7 phones have to be jailbroken as well, considering that they are following Apple's "walled garden" approach. The Google Chrome OS tablet/netbook things are apparently just as bad as these smart phones, and iPads will be as well. WebOS was traditionally a little more open for tinkerers, but not to the extent that our traditional desktops and laptops were.
People may regard this as a first-world problem that concerns only the wealthy elite, but I would beg to differ. I didn't learn the majority of what I know from university (although university did help). I learned most of what I know from tinkering and experimenting with "open" machines. I learned through a process of trial and error with relatively inexpensive equipment that allowed me to try an endless number of possibilities. I was able to find out for myself what worked and didn't. In this new world of "closed" and "cloud-based" devices no future generation will have the same advantage. University will no longer be a privilege for those curious individuals who happen to be wealthy, but will instead be a requirement for all people seeking to enter the IT community.
Further, I would argue that the "cloud-based" and the web-centric nature of the current IT community punishes those who live in areas where web access is limited. I live in a rather rural area of Georgia (SE, US), and I am consequently stuck on a relatively slow DSL connection. For those who live closer to Atlanta, getting a high speed connection is rather easy. For me, it's nearly impossible. America is a wealthy nation with a lot of offerings. One would imagine that offerings in less developed nations would be scarce as hens' teeth. Yet, we continue down this path, and alienate a good portion of the human population.
Some cloud initiatives are less abominable, but still awful. For example, cloud-based data backup is somewhat useless for an individual. While it's a nice thought that any person could get off-site backup for the low price of $60/year, it's still not that good a deal. Should your machine fail, you now have to spend hours restoring your data. Nothing will beat a good external hard disc drive in that realm.
I almost feel as though we are taking a step backward. The network may be much larger, and it may be rather pervasive as well, but I feel like we are willingly giving up our freedom, and enslaving our digital world to the hands of massive, multinational corporations that couldn't care less about our computing experience. Somehow, I am supposed to think that this is the best turn the computing industry has ever taken. Somehow, I am supposed to think that this is true innovation, and not greed and lust for control. Somehow, I am supposed to think that I am being liberated by having zero control over my data. Somehow, I am supposed to think that being completely nerfed in my ability to change the computing device that I depend on is an improvement over being able to completely alter my hardware and software stack in any way(s) I see fit. Sorry, but for me the cloud has already come and burst.