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Here Come the Cloud Computers

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n810.gifAre we entering the golden era of handheld computing, with tablets connected to the Internet that make web services do the heavy lifting and let us leave our energy-guzzling, back-breaking notebooks at home?

Given some of the products being launched — or readied for launch — recently, we seem to be heading in that direction, moving one step further into the connected age. Nicholas Carr is also thinking along those lines, and sums it up best:

At this very moment, in a building somewhere in Silicon Valley, I guarantee you that a team of engineers from Google and Apple are designing a set of devices that, hooked up as terminals to Google’s “supercomputer,” will define how we use computers in the future.

Could the iPod Touch be that terminal? It’s only $299, and will only get cheaper as volumes ramp up or Apple (AAPL) introduces higher-end models.

Steve Jobs today said the company plans to release a software development kit next February that will allow third-party application developers to write apps for both the iPhone and the iPod Touch. The real reason: Apple, for all of its skills, needs the imagination of outside developers to turn the phone and music player into a viable platform.

While Apple puts together the front end of the integrated network-computing system, Google provides “the perfect back end”– the supercomputer that provides the bulk of the data-processing might and storage capacity for the devices.

For Google, the first step is the launch of the mobile version of Google Docs. Mobile GMail and GTalk are already quite popular, and one can expect the company to introduce more mobile-aware web services.

Apple isn’t the only friend Google has — the company is trying to build its own OS that will power devices made by companies such as HTC of Taiwan.
Some Asian manufacturers, meanwhile, are trying to build a platform that can pull web services off the network for basic [and potentially advanced] tasks by combining their own hardware, embedded Linux and a browser.

What will these services look like? IT/Redux has some ideas. Their vision consists of embedding Office 2.0 services right into a tablet format device. From that perspective, device that is most ready to challenge both Google and Apple is Nokia’s (NOK) N810 Internet Tablet, which was unveiled earlier today.

The new and improved device, which sports a QWERTY keyboard, is able to play host to a variety of web services, and it could become particularly useful as a computing adjunct if Nokia can make these services, and data, available in offline mode.

Nokia’s strategic mistake with the recently introduced N810 is lack of cellular/3G support — a key feature that would make this device a good option for non-Apple mobile carriers. At $479 per device, Nokia needs to get carriers to subsidize this device, playing perhaps on their fears of Apple and Google.

At the end of his post, Carr writes: “So how how long before the first Google-Apple Cloud Computer appears? I would say it’s months, not years.”

How does February 2008 sound?

30 Responses to “Here Come the Cloud Computers”

  1. Truly, the technology of computer has vastly evolved in such a fast pace. It is thrilling to know that a lot of developments are going on. However, many of us are still left behind with the technology due to budget restraints. I only hope that that the next product from huge computer companies would be able to compete with the most updated gadgets without having to cost too much.

  2. Interesting Concept. However, it needs a radical rethink in terms of the ways that websites and services are created and designed.
    Here’s an example. I can’t get docs and reader to run on my imate. Think about it. A guy with a PC or a laptop will not really think of moving to the “cloud” but a person with an always connected mobile would be the best client for these applications. And he can’t access them :(
    Life’s a bitch.
    Let’s hope software developers and website designers wake up to this huge market soon.
    One thing I like is the wordpress mobile option : it rocks. And I sometimes use it on my pc too when I don’t want a cluttered screen :)

  3. Jesse Kopelman

    No cellular for the N810, but hasn’t Nokia promised a WiMAX model that will work on the Xohm network? Of course, there’s not supposed to be any subsidies on Xohm devices . . . Still $479 isn’t that outrageous (if that price were to include WiMAX support). I paid $400 for an XV6700 and had to sign a 2-year contract to get it. How much do people pay for unlocked N95 and such, more than $479, right? I think the power of subsidies are overrated when applied to higher end phones. They don’t make the device free and is locking oneself into a contract with a NPV approaching $2,000, just to save $200 on the cost of the device, that great a value?

  4. “Cloud computing” = Microsoft’s worst nightmare. No local install. Open Source “Web OS”. Favors FireFox as default browser.

    Worst of all? That new Nokia 810 and purported HTC hardware for the Google phone are all “business-like” – the suits will use them.

  5. What if:
    Google and Apple team up to buy a piece of(partner with)the WiMAX network from Sprint, freeing them up to return their focus to their base line business-selling Narrowband (512K to 1Mbps) Cell data/voice?
    Sprint could be contracted to deploy, operate and maintain the WiMAX network, which will eventually (2010) be upgraded to 700Mhz. (of which Google and Apple will win a major piece).
    What Google and Apple both have in common is their lack of a Last Mile, which effectively limits their ability long term to compete with the incumbents (RBOC and CellCo). By teaming up Apple (Hardware & Software) and Google the Next Internet Portal, Content (Hosted Desktop)and Mobile Ad force will dominate the Broadband Wireless distribution networks.
    Both companies also have formidable competitors in Microsoft, AT&T, Nokia and Verizon Wireless which they will need to address if they are to remain leaders in their space.


  6. I have been running opera mini in a java sandbox on a nearly two year old nokia model, small screen rendering technology is awesome
    fully 90% of pc browser functionality, dont want flash anyway
    i read my google docs on my phone anywhere
    online office in my pocket anywhere

    i normally just access stuff on google or wikipedia anytime someone argues with me ;)
    RSS feeds, bookmarks, mobile gmail, facebook posts and photos n status updates;
    who is twitter again?

    i am even posting this from my mobile in bed

    i think the whole mobile space is too protected (regulated) in the US because the big boys want to milk this for all it’s worth whereas there are many good solutions out there who dont do the marketing quite right to get the eyeballs and attention that has become the new gold standard

    and of course vested interests never take well to incumbents, especially free, open and non-restrictive alternatives…

    “i’m gonna like need you to move your desk riiight to the back, mmmkay…?”

  7. Of course, you can be exited about Apple giving us an API. But why wait until February? There are Linux phones available now. Open. No DRM, no software updates killing your own devices. They can do what you want them to do, not what Steve decided you will pay for they to do.

    And did you miss the Nokia N810 comes with Mozilla Firefox browser? Did you miss Skype?