Fact: data is moving en masse from PCs and enterprise networks to SaaS applications in the cloud. This trend will reshape the computing industry and change the very core of how we think about data and applications.
For example, we now think about our pictures as stored on a PC or Mac, uploaded through a USB cable and protected by an online service such as Carbonite or Dropbox. We select which pictures to put in Facebook, Flickr or Picasa Web Albums. In a couple of years we’ll think about the pictures as stored primarily online, directly uploaded there by our WiFi or UWB-enabled camera and protected by a service such as Backupify (yes, we’ll still need backups).
Our computers’ will still have our documents and pictures and music downloads but these won’t be the “master” copies but serve merely as performance optimization and offline access caches for the data, in the same way you can read your email on a plane with no WiFi access using Google Gears for Gmail and Cached Exchange mode for Microsoft Outlook. Amazon’s Kindle is another good example. I read my Kindle books on my laptop, iPad, iPhone, Blackberry and, oh yeah, Kindle. All my content is there, locally cached for fast access without requiring connectivity with the latest read position automatically synchronized without me having to even think about it.
Side note: A few weeks ago Google deprecated Gears with an eye towards HTML5 offering more standard approaches for building these types of application experiences. I would expect significant extensions–going well beyond HTML5–to show up in ChromeOS.
The change will profoundly impact both the hardware and SW industry. On the hardware side, it benefits netbooks and tablet devices as well as smartphones. On the software side, it benefits third-generation SaaS players who are targeting this deployment model as they will have a noticeable performance and user experience advantage over current-generation Web apps.
I’m even more excited about fourth-generation SaaS apps whose user experience will automatically scale up and down with the capabilities of the client-side hardware and bandwidth constraints, similar to the way some gaming engines & services work today.
The shift of master data from PCs and local networks to the cloud creates significant opportunities. Get in touch if you are working in this area–I’d love to hear from you.