Diversified Devices Plus Cloud Data: Future of Client Computing

In my previous articles, I mainly cover server virtualization and cloud computing. Client computing, although less enterprise focused, is also a very important part of whole story. In this article, I am going to share some thoughts on this topic, mostly about the future development of how users will use computers and what it takes to get there. I know it’s a big topic, but let’s give a try.

I’ve heard many times that PC era is now over. I think it might be too early to declare that. Yes, iPad and iPhone are all cool, but they cannot yet match the richness of PC today, probably never as PC evolves as well. If you are doing anything serious like programming, you still use PC mostly. OK, programming is probably not a good example because most of us don’t program at all. How about writing a document or work with a spreadsheet? I bet you would prefer to do on your PC rather on your iPad and iPhone.

Having said this, I am not implying in any way that iPad and iPhone do not have values. In fact, they do, and sometimes they are even more important for some people in certain circumstances, for example on road.

Here comes the trend of client computing: Each of us will have multiple devices including PC, smart phone, tablet PC, e-reader, etc. It’s about diversification, and will not be the same as the revolution from mainframe to PC. The diversification with multiple devices serves different needs/tasks at different occasions.

Not convinced? Let’s take a look back at the history. How many pairs of shoes did a typical person have hundreds of years ago? Probably only one or two for all purposes. There were exceptions like royal families but they were not typical.

How many shoes does a typical person have today? I think at least several. A typical person may have shoes for home, office, beach, sports (could be many like running shoes, tennis shoes, soccer shoes, if you are lucky enough golf shoes), party, and so on. You wear the shoes that match what you do and where you are, and sometimes how you feel, for example wear different colors of same style shoes.

Same thing will happen to every user who will have PC for serious works, tablet for Web browsing and light games like angry bird, smart phones for text messaging, checking email, and tweets. The conditions and motivations for this diversification are almost here: lower costs, networking, fashionable designs. For one thing, the $99 HP touch pad has set up the standard for low cost devices.

What matters the next?

With diversified client devices, users will enjoy utmost conveniences of accessing information and communication. At the same time, they will have data scattered around these devices, which may result in frustration while trying to share them. We will need new technologies for data which is the key asset for users, therefore deserves more focuses in the future.

Here are things we need to take on with data:

  • Data sharing and synchronization: You would like your data in multiple devices to be shared and synchronized so that you can access it from any of your devices. Centralized data storage may be a good candidate for this as well. Ideally the sharing and synchronization should be transparent to you so you don’t need to worry about details.
  • Data targeting: all data is stored in one format or the other. It works well on some devices but not necessarily on others. For example, you may enjoy a video on your smart phone, but will you with the same resolution and size on your PC? Probably not. You will store one copy of video, but it should be trans-coded to different targets. Same thing for other types of data which may need reformatting.
  • Data security: With data shared, you want your data as secure as before. It involves encryption and communication. More importantly, don’t make it too cumbersome.
  • Data protection: you want your data to be backed up regularly so that you don’t lose much if you happen to break your devices or lose them.

Again, cloud computing can play a significant role in these areas. You know now why I am interested in this topic. :-)

What do you think? Did I miss anything?

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    My consulting helps clients with virtualization and cloud computing, including VMware infrastructure automation and orchestration, vSphere management APIs, and deep product integration with hypervisors. Current training offerings include vSphere APIs training, vCenter Orchestrator training, and etc. Should you, or someone you know, need these consulting services or training, please feel free to contact me: steve __AT__ doublecloud.org.

    Me: Steve Jin, VMware vExpert who authored the VMware VI and vSphere SDK by Prentice Hall, and created the de factor open source vSphere Java API while working at VMware engineering. Companies like Cisco, EMC, NetApp, HP, Dell, VMware, are among the users of the API and other tools I developed for their products, internal IT orchestration, and test automation.