The Cloud isn’t all that

Something struck me as interesting this morning. I’ve written two articles for the new Flex Authority Quarterly Update, and we used Buzzword to hand the articles. The Author writes, shares with editor, who shares with tech and copy editors. Then we do the dance of copy/technical editing and review.

The other day, Editor in Cheif Jeff posed a question. “Move to word, from Buzzword?” There were a few reasons, easier approval/dismissal of tracked changes and comments, etc.

as of this morning there are 13 messages in that thread, all saying “Yeah, Word is fine.”

Many of the authors cited being able to work offline as a major plus for Word.

I gotta say I agree. I love Google Docs,  I use buzzword for 360|Flex and The Flex Show, but there’s something to be said for being able to work when there’s no WiFi. Like aboard planes, trains and automobiles, in the backwoods, at the ski resort, etc. There’s still a lot of the country, let alone world that are offline, so sometimes it’s nice to not have all your tools rely on the cloud. I use MobileMe to keep my macs in sync, I also make use of my iDisk a lot! I sync the entire thing locally, because I’ve wanted to work and guess what, not online, no iDisk. Thankfully iDisk syncing doesn’t completely suck, so it’s a pretty good experience.

As an example, when I was in Japan earlier this year, WiFi was non existant. I never saw an access point once. The hotel didn’t offer it, they had a ethernet cord in the wall for $15 a day. The Starbucks (yes, really) had none, the local coffee shops, had none. I suspect because everyone’s phone had internet, and they text and IM through that. While being offline isn’t the worst thing in the world, especially on vacation, it’s nice to have the option. I didn’t.

I think we’re in an interesting time; on the one side we have Adobe, Microsoft, Google, et al. pushing for Photoshop online, Buzzword, Office online, google docs, google reader, etc. They’re pushing really hard to make us want to be online all the time. To only edit docs in the cloud, to store our docs, our emails, our RSS feeds, etc all in the cloud. However on the other side of that “go online” agenda is the reality that wifi isn’t everywhere. Laptops don’t ship with built in cellular modems (OK some small few do), and tethering plans range from free to really expensive, if you have a phone that can even do it. The truth is, we’re offline a lot. More than I think Adobe, Google and Microsoft would like to think.

In my opinion we’re still quite a ways from a place were “being online” is a ubiquitous condition. I think the real technology winners will be the companies that can make their offerings work in both worlds. Buzzword as an AIR app. Google docs syncing locally through Google Gears. I actually saw a gDocs offline gears app, but haven’t seen it in a while, and the 1 time I tried to use it, it wasn’t remotely in sync, not sure if I needed to open it once in a while to sync or what. I assumed since it was gears it’d be in sync from the last time I was online? Guess not.

What do you think? Are you using only cloud based tools? Still using Word or Pages, etc to keep things locally where you always have access?

7 thoughts on “The Cloud isn’t all that

  1. TJ Downes

    The push to the cloud is primarily driven by companies wishing to have a recurring model that they can rely on. Installable software is less easily controlled, and users can decide not to upgrade. Not so with cloud-based apps. In regards to hosting your apps on the cloud, IMHO it is way overhyped. It's expensive and really not much more than a large virtualization platform. I understand the scaling and uptime benefits, but most apps and sites have no need for these things. I would certainly consider the cloud depending on the needs, but I am not easily convinced that everyone needs the cloud or that cloud-based applications are the way to go. Maybe I am old-fashioned, but I still like having a tangible piece of software that I control in my environment

  2. jwilker Post author

    Exactly. I like the "access anywhere" idea, but since for me, anywhere tends to be where there's no internet connection, it's not really a win.

  3. barry.b

    Saj is right. the proper alternative (especially if you're wanting to tap into online collaboration) is occasionally connected desktop apps that are easy to update (and who's update is part of the subscription price). Essentially you're leasing the sortware as part of the service with the cloud as the collaboration / globally accessible storage.

    In our neck of the woods, this means AIR and also this is where the next version of MS Office will go.

  4. jwilker Post author

    Yeah exactly. AIR, google gears etc. Light SQLite DBs for state, etc. It seems many business plays have decided to leap frog this intermediate step and just go all in on Cloud computing.

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