Google has declared war on Microsoft by coming out with its version of Office software online and the android operating system for both computers and mobile. Several other vendors have joined to offer cheap online solutions for all kinds of office software. Does it mean that computing as we know it has come to an end?
To answer that we have to look at the online computing model first. This model assumes that we have a basic computer capable of connecting to the internet and the computer need not have any other extra add ons. Everything else – including the software like OS and other applications we need like the MS Office and even Games etc and the hardware for the storage of data is available on the network on a per usage basis. This hits at the main price points of the current computing model the expensive software licenses required to do even menial tasks with a computer. There is always the piracy option but we will assume we are talking about an ideal world.These software licenses run up to really high amounts when we look at it from a corporate point of view since the licenses are usually sold per user. So taking the cost perspective the online model does look attractive.
However in several countries the internet connection has not come up to the speed required for this to work at anything close to acceptable rate. We need an extremely fast connection for the experience to simulate working with all software on disk. Besides the connection speeds we would need wireless networks to be widely available to enable working on the move. The security angle comes to play too with data integrity of the data stored online is never fully guaranteed, on the other hand the corporate intra-networks are always protected behind layers of firewalls and gateways hence the data and the network is relatively safer.
Also the kind of infrastructure needed to handle a mass migration to online computing is massive, imagine supporting millions of users working online at the same time and also the amount of data they would need to be stored, the server infrastructure needed for this is unimaginable in terms of both processors and memory requirements. However if anyone can solve the problem it is Google –that has got some of the best minds in the industry working on some of its projects.
A similar kind of computing model called Virtualization/cloud computing – where the servers needed by any company is completely outsourced to another organization. Meaning any small or medium enterprise (SME) that needs a database and a software to manage the enterprise and the hardware required to run this software is maintained and operated by another organization that leases out this infrastructure on usage basis. This has proved a huge hit with many of the SME customers as it relieves them of the IT requirements and helps them focus on their core business needs.
Several leading companies including Google, Amazon, Microsoft and Apple are working on variations on this model and there are dozens of online entities that offer inexpensive online applications for corporations. So this is a definite game changing technology that needs careful monitoring to derive maximum benefits.
[Image courtesy: http://img.thesun.co.uk/multimedia/archive/00841/Google_Microsoft_68_841642a.jpg]