Get on my cloud
October 19, 2007
Mr. Cringely rises to the bait, arguing that the Google-Apple cloud-computing collaborative is being hamstrung by psychofriction between Google's nerd elite and Apple's hippie elite, personified in a two's-a-crowd-on-my-cloud struggle between Eric Schmidt and Steve Jobs. Cringely concludes:
Apple isn't going to be satisfied making clever little interfaces to a world of information provided - and owned - by Google. Schmidt (and Carr) see that Apple doesn't have the supercomputer, but Jobs just as firmly believes that Google doesn't know how to run the supercomputer it has, and besides, he can rent a supercomputer anytime he wants one, so there.
But that doesn't mean the collaboration won't eventually bear the fruit I predicted. It just means, says Cringely, that Jobs will call the shots:
Apple will make those little devices Carr and Schmidt imagine will be needed to take mobile computing to a new level. But the key difference here is that Apple will make more expensive devices, too, and everything will be labeled Apple and nothing will be labeled Google.
Fair enough, but at least a couple of things will be "labeled Google" - the search results and the ads - and in the long run even those "more expensive devices" will also be tied back to the Google supercomputer. Why would Jobs rent a lesser supercomputer when he can get a cut of the profits from the Google Brain? Schmidt laid it out again yesterday in discussing Google's boffo quarterly results:
"We are now seeing a massive transition to web-based cloud computing at a consumer and enterprise level. We talked about this for a while and we now see not only the progress but also the future products, both from Google and from the other folks in the industry to make this really happen ... We're on the cusp of a world where people can create content on the cloud anytime and anywhere."
The Apple artists design the appliances; the Google engineers run the power plant.
Do we really have to take Schmidt's word for this "massive transition" to web-based cloud computing?
There's certainly a massive tranistion of ad revenue to the Web, and lots more stuff that can be done online by all kinds of people. But, how do we measure it? Are booming online ad revenue and spiralling social network populations really the whole story?
Phil Jones - I don't know how we measure it, but when Adobe announces that it's going to move all its software to the web (including Photoshop) it's surely clear that a shift is happening.
That said, my guess is that desktop and web will merge into some intermediate architecture rather than everything being stored on the cloud.
Posted by: tom s. at October 19, 2007 02:00 PM
I'm just wondering how this all fits with the rumors on Google's phone? If Google was going to team with Apple, wouldn't they be developing software for the iPhone, rather than developing hardware?
@Phil -- you're correct, and of course the future will be a mix of the two (kind of like it is now, @tom s beat me to the point). But it is so much more dramatic to state it absolutely: blurbs need to fit on a book jacket.
Actually, itunes already uses this hybrid model: You access the store on the cloud, download your purchases once locally. When the store is unavailable (happens occasionally) I don't have the same kind of fit as when "Oops one of your calendars didn't load -- try again later" (happens once a day or two). And itunes itself is not a crappy browser so the whole cloud experience works better.
Maybe the photoshop thing mentioned by @tom s will work the same way. Keep in mind everyone has to pay lip service to the cloud nowadays or seem hopelessly out of step. It's like talking about the long tail a year ago. The article tom s. mentioned was short on details, but talked about a 10-year timeframe -- that's like infinity.
A web-based suite, whatever it looks like, will cut down on piracy, big time. That article's last paragraph was funny: $400 dollar prepackaged software has always been a "thing of the past" for the younger generation. I know very few non-professionals who have bought adobe's products legally.
Speaking as someone who's lived on the cloud for some half-dozen years now, it's surprising to me to hear others speak as if this is a new change. Perhaps it's the word "cloud" that allows it to suddenly be "cool."
That said, I also like having my applications available locally for the times online access disappears. Uncertainty of access isn't just getting online, it's getting to your site (even gmail's servers are occasionally challenged), and living in a place where your site isn't suddenly blocked by a Great fireWall. If not only my work but my ability to work on my work is all online, I'm lost if the app disappears for some reason. Plus, sometimes people want to work privately, and in this day of ISPs sharing data with the government far too easily, that's a big consideration.
Regarding a massive transition: I think those of us prone to liking an online place to work and store files are there already. But an en masse movement doesn't seem likely to me unless businesses push it, because too many internet users have encountered the unstable ISP with poor service, the slow server, the closed site or service. To paraphrase the Joker, that isn't easy to get over, and don't think we haven't tried ;-)
There is of course the option some of us early adopters used: get your own site, and leverage multiple online storage locations in addition to it. And of course, always save a backup. This reduces the number of vulnerabilities.
Posted by: alexfiles at October 19, 2007 04:48 PM
Google has been working on making the cloud available off-line, with their 'Gears' for Reader, and the same for their Documents program would help learn a lot. Safety has many dimensions, and on many of those (data not lost on a broken HD, prevent accidental & planned intrusions) Google's cloud does better then most computers; I agree that you need to trust the borg big time when you are working on a strategic plan to over-throw them -- but, thanks to their Toolbar, I'm not sure keeping it local is enough; of course, I wouldn't use any snitch-ware like that, but most people have a hard time understanding beyond the bottom line.
Regarding the personalities, I'm happy Cringely agrees with me ;) -- question: why doesn't his posts show up on my Google Reader Home page, while Carr's always do?
Posted by: Bertil at October 22, 2007 08:45 AM
@tom s: That intermediate architecture already exists to some degree. Read up on Adobe Flex and Microsoft Silverlight. It's likely that Adobe will be migrating all their apps to a mix of Adobe Flex plus custom architecture.
I'm still not convinced that cloud computing is in Apple's cards. I just don't see the business value in making dumb terminals. Apple's ethos as defined by Jobs seems to be creating the very best user experience possible while maintaining the integrity of the brand. A cheap machine that simply plugs into Google's backend doesn't mesh with that. Such a move would reduce Apple to a commodity hardware company, just another Dell so to speak. Because if Google controls the backend, what's to prevent a third party or even Google themselves from creating a similar frontend for standard PC access? If Steve Jobs-era Apple has a notable pattern, it's that it has always positioned itself to remain in the driver's seat. Apple wouldn't cede control of user experience to make a few cheap bucks on dumb terminals.
The "cloud" is why I like Google's chances. The user experience is transient. The backend is not. Google's strength is its infrastructure, and in the end it will be the reason the company is going to be successful in the long haul, especially since I have a feeling that some day, the mobile stranglehold will fall and Google will be lying there, waiting.
Posted by: mndoci at October 22, 2007 05:17 PM
Erm, Google's chances at what?
Of being the dominant partner in any collaborative with Apple
Posted by: mndoci at October 22, 2007 06:49 PM
That's why I think this supposed collab will never happen. Jobs would never position Apple at the short end of the stick in a deal.
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