Pew Internet surveyed a bunch o’ experts about where will be in The Cloud in 2020. The survey was more intended to elicit verbal responsesthan to come up with reliable numbers, but overall the experts seem to agree that we’ll be computing with a hybrid of desktop and cloud services. That seems a safe bet, especially since given enough bandwidth, all services are local. (Hasn’t distance always been the time it takes to connect?)
Several of the experts push back against the term “cloud,” Gary Bachula because it’s a “bad metaphor for broadening understanding of the concept,” and Susan Crawford because its ubiquity will mean that we “won’t need a word for it.”
Many worry about the power this will put in the hands of the Big Cloud Providers, with Robert Ackland arguing that “we need the cloud to be built using free and open source software.”
Several believe that there will be some prominent act of terrorism or incompetence in The Cloud that will drive people back to their desktops: “Expect a major news event involving a cloud catastrophe security breach or lost data to drive a reversion of these critical resources back to dedicated computing,” says Nathaniel James, or “a huge blow up with errorism,” predicts R. Ray Wang. Most agree it will be “both/and,” not “either/or.”
Many think that we’re not recognizing the depth of the change. For example, Fred Hapgood is among those who predicts the death, transformation, or marginalization of the PC: “By 2020 the computational hardware that we see around us in our daily lives will all be peripherals â€“ tablets, goggles, earphones, keyboards, 3D printers, and the like. The computation driving the peripherals will go on in any of a million different places…” Says Garth Graham: “By 2020, a â€˜general-purpose PC’ and a â€˜smart phone’ will have converged into a range of general-purpose interactive connection devices, and â€˜things’ will have acquired agency by becoming smart. “The PC is just a phase,” says Rebecca MacKinnon.
Some of the commenters point to the global digital divide, although they don’t agree on which side will be most cloud-based. Gary Arlen says that because of the U.S.’s desktop-based infrastructure, we won’t move into the cloud as rapidly as will less-developed nations. Seliti Arata, however, says, “Business models will provide premium services and applications on the cloud for monetization. However most of the world population will continue to use pirated software on their desktops and alternative/free cloud services.”
As for me, I don’t have predictions because the future is too furious. For example, the speed and availability of broadband access in this country is unpredictable and is by itself determinative, not to mention the Internet-seeking asteroid this is currently streaking toward the Earth. It’s safe to say, however, (= here comes something that in 5 years I’ll feel foolish for having said) that we’re going to move more and more into the cloud. The only thing I’d add to The Experts is that this will have network effects like crazy â€” effects due to the scale of data and social connections being managed under one roofless roof (with, we hope, lots of openness as well as security).