I hear a lot of people talk about cloud computing, mobile revolutions and all of that, but I am left positively agog at just how much of a buzzword these things have become. You know, it struck me the other day when I had a sitcom-esque moment whilst getting coffee and a bagel that morning. I ventured into a rather overpriced coffee shop many of you would probably recognize, and while inline, in front of me was the most absurd caricature of a hipster I had ever seen. Tucked under his arm was a polished aluminum MacBook, and on his face were thick-framed glasses, the lenses of which I am positive did no correction of his vision. And he was prattling on and on to someone either imaginary, or on the other end of a Bluetooth headset, about cloud computing for mobile devices.
He went on about how software as a web service was such a big future, and how he lived in a time when the air was alive with omnipresent futuristic data cloud access. These are his words not my own. As I stood waiting patiently for my bagel and coffee, I stifled the urge to laugh at this obvious cartoon character, and vowed to talk about it the next time I had a chance to publish a mobile article.
I want to talk about the real facts of cloud computing for mobile devices, without jargon made up or real, and say what’s good and bad about it as it is, as a technology.
So, the idea behind cloud computing, in its original sense, is to use a bunch of servers as a dynamically-formed super computer, and use net tunneling to render I/O (input and output) on a mobile device like a smartphone or a tablet. Computers, of course, also are meant to access it.
The goal is to give supercomputing capacity to everyday people with devices that, by themselves, couldn’t equate to a fraction of the raw computing power the cloud has.
This is a good idea in theory, but it doesn’t work quite as well as it needs to, to be as viable as it wants to be. Latencies are a big issue, and so are internet infrastructures. This is to say that a lot of people are still using slow internet, or slow cell coverage, like DSL or 3G. Some people live in areas where mobile reception is spotty or impossible.
This means that it’s not always reliable, it’s like having a super computer that’s not always there. Another problem is that mobile devices aren’t standardized yet, meaning that there’s a lot of uncertainty about what works with what at any given point.
So, cloud computing for mobile devices is a novel idea, but it needs refinement and better infrastructure. The way phones work and think needs to be standardized, and the interfaces on mobile devices need a lot of work. Touch is kind of an awful type of interface, and screen real estate problems continue to be something designers struggle to contend with. This concept’s just a little too green to come into its own for now, but that is not to say that it should be ignored. Keep on this, because in a few years, it’s going to take off crazy, and when it does, you’ll want to already be on that ride.