New devices necessitate move to the cloud
Tablet computers, smartphones and the emerging Ultrabook™ have given rise to a new form of computing that stresses mobility and connectivity. With this shift in focus, other areas -- like on-board storage and robust hard drive power -- have been moved to the side.
But users still have a need for such features even if they are delivered in new and unfamiliar ways.
This is where cloud computing comes into play. The term describes the delivery of computing functions and applications as a service rather than as a product, generally over the internet through the user's web browser. The cloud provides a range of functions, from productivity software like Google Docs™ and image-sharing services like ImageShack® to online storage and even network infrastructure.
When it comes to today's breed of mobile technology, it is online storage that is especially prevalent. Most tablets and smartphones, as well as Ultrabooks, include only a limited amount of on-board storage -- a necessary sacrifice given the constricted size of the devices. Users must then search elsewhere for their storage needs, and the cloud continues to look like the best option.
The cloud and the tablet
A report from cloud file server solutions provider Egnyte underscores the complementary nature of tablets and the cloud. According to Egnyte, the increased use of the cloud is driving more businesses to adopt tablet computers, but the argument could easily be made in reverse as well.
"The number of tablets in the enterprise has grown exponentially in a very short period of time," says Egnyte CEO Vineet Jain, adding that the combination of the cloud and mobile technology could eventually lead businesses to adopt tablets as their go-to devices for employees on the road or simply moving from place to place in the office.
This notion has not been lost on consumers either. The tablet saw its early success in the consumer market and has continued to thrive in the space ever since. And though many consumers may not be aware of the particulars of the cloud, a growing number have already adopted the technology in some way.
Web-based email is a popular example of a cloud service with which many people are familiar. Services like Gmail™, Hotmail® and others have become some of the most common email platforms and, in many cases, are responsible for giving people early experience with the cloud.
File sharing and digital locker services could prove especially beneficial to the tablet user. These cloud-based platforms eliminate the need to store files directly on the device, enabling users to access their video, music, documents and more over the internet.
Don't forget the Ultrabook
The Ultrabook made its debut in 2011 and is expected to become a household name in 2012. Chipmaker Intel® introduced the Ultrabook as a device that marries the portability of a tablet with the functionality of a laptop.
While the Ultrabook boasts the advantages of both the technologies, it also shares some of their limitations -- notably the limited storage space of the tablet.
Ultrabook users will depend more on the cloud to access their applications and to store files than desktop and laptop users do. This will ensure that hard drives stay clutter-free and do not become bogged down when reaching their capacity. It can also afford greater flexibility, as data stored on the cloud can be accessed not only from the user's Ultrabook, but also any tablet, smartphone or traditional PC.
According to technology research firm Visiongain, the global cloud computing market will be worth $240 billion by 2016, up from $77 billion in 2011. Tablets and Ultrabooks will grow during this time as well, and as both the cloud and mobile devices thrive, it is likely the technologies will become more closely intertwined.