It’s a Cloud Services World. We just pretend it’s about the hardware…

server rack front panelsWe all like to speculate about what’s coming down the pipe, what “THE FUTURE” will look like. One thing is becoming abundantly clear however, a good chunk of what’s coming is going to be delivered via networked, over the air, services. AKA The Cloud.

I know, shocking revelation. I’m sure none of you saw that coming, which is why it’s a good thing you read this blog, as I’m pretty terrific at delivering the obvious. All joking aside, we’re seeing some pretty exciting trends, and a few concerning ones.

Storage & File Delivery
This was essentially a proof of concept that basic data intensive services could work online. Putting larger files onto a server for easier delivery than email or “sneaker-net” style solutions. From YouSendIt to DropBox and everything else in between, we’ve flirted with the cloud primarily to sync and share information. It’s only been recently that data networks have gotten robust enough to offer…

Media Services
We’ve had Youtube for about nine years now. It’s made such a profound impact that it’s difficult to remember the internet without it. Of course, the push for HD video, and then competing services like Netflix and Hulu, really took hold over the last couple years. Online streaming radio is hot right now, and improved sharing and creation tools have lead to…

Collaborative Services
It’s not enough that we can upload a document. Multiple people can now work on it at the same time instead of emailing revisions back and forth. It’s not enough that I can vlog in front of a webcam, I can now broadcast to a live audience with multiple participants and have that automatically added to my Youtube channel.

So What Comes Next?We’re going to be pushing into even more Net-centric services soon.

server rack rear cablingGaming is already leaving the boxes which run the game to connect to different screens on our home networks. The Wii U easily pulls gaming and video content from your TV to send it to its tablet-style controller. NVIDIA is building tools to stream games from your PC to portables like Shield. Steam is working on a similar functionality. It’s not much of a leap to think that soon we’ll be able to take games from streaming on our local home networks, to streaming over mobile networks. Running a game from your XBox, and playing it on the bus on your Windows Phone or tablet.

Sony’s recent bombshell, axing their PC division, further reinforces how far we’ve traveled down the “Post-PC” world. Their mobile division is also under-performing, but they held onto their phones and tablets running Android. There’s already a PSN app, and we know they’re working on PlayStation Now, a service which cloud streams games to consoles, TV’s, and other mobile devices. Sony’s next stage seems to be content delivery and services, and they’re only holding on to the gadgets which will help facilitate that end.

Microsoft finally announced a new CEO. Satya Nadella comes from Microsoft’s Server and Tools Business. At first glance, a strange choice as Microsoft’s consumer endeavors are struggling. Ditto their new Board of Directors Chairman John W. Thompson CEO of Virtual Instruments, a company offering up virtualization and server tools. The consumer implications are profound however.

Microsoft has already taken a lot if ire for ripping off the UI bandaid and moving Live Tiles forward. Now all new Microsoft products from smallest phone screen, tablet, laptop, desktop, and XBox feature the flat rectangular interface. New customers moving forward can expect a similar experience on all screens. Unifying the user interface is only the first step though.

Recently rebranded, OneDrive is being positioned as the spine which will tie all of your various screens together. Already, new devices can restore settings from older systems. Firing up a new tablet, phone, or computer, OneDrive can pull my settings and apps to reduce my setup time.

It’s not difficult to see a near future Microsoft where our gadgets are clients, and all of our data and services are accessible from some central source. One seamless user experience, any file, any program, at your fingertips anywhere you have an internet connection. Of course to accomplish that kind of synergy, you need to introduce server style tools that the corporate world takes for granted with terminals and thin clients, so Nadella as CEO starts making a lot more sense.

data center operationsOur individual gadgets and computers are insanely powerful, and in true pendulum-swing fashion, it’s time for our services to catch up. Along the way we’ll need to have some serious discussions about data security and consumer protections. We’ll need to take a hard look at how we incorporate services and data into our daily lives, and the social impact on becoming even more cybernetic with wearable tech.

Really though, the only thing slowing us down will be our need to roll out faster broadband, but I’ll save that for another editorial…

(Pics courtesy of WikiMedia 1, 2)