The Problem With Consumer Grade Cloud Computing

It seems that everyday the idea of cloud computing for consumer markets gets closer and closer to being a reality. With more and more applications like game streaming services such as Google’s Stadia or Amazon’s recently announced Project Luna coming to market and finding success, it seems safe to say that cloud computing is more ready than ever before for mass adoption and poised to overtake traditional native powered systems within a few years. But these recent efforts don’t mark the first time the industry has made a major push towards consumer facing cloud computing as a replacement for native hardware. Since as early as the mid 1990s, where companies like Oracle and even Apple were experimenting with concepts like thin clients and web computers, the idea of replacing traditional laptops and desktops running off of native processors and memory with cloud based computing and storage alternatives has been a popular one, and ever since, companies have gradually been working towards this consumer grade cloud computing future that they dream of. And it’s obvious why. You don’t need to look any farther than your smartphone to recognize the benefits of the cloud on our experiences with tech. Innovations like cloud storage and synchronization have eliminated major ease of use and accessibility hurdles and streamlined user experiences immeasurably. Cloud integration brings major inarguable benefits to manufacturers as well, thus explaining the push for its development. These benefits are mainly headlined by an enabling of cheaper entry prices followed (and largely subsidized) by recurring revenue. A shining example of this is music streaming, which has completely revolutionized the way we access and enjoy digital music, as we no longer have to buy all of the music we want to listen to, and can instead access all of it and more for a much lower monthly fee, which companies would rather charge anyway due to the ever lucrative prospective of guaranteed revenue streams and the opportunities for stable growth they afford. So on the surface, cloud computing seems better for the user experience than what we already have, but the truth is that it’s much more complicated than that. Even when you peel all the layers of issues surrounding consumer facing cloud computing that have prevented its widespread rollout and adoption in the past, issues like intolerable latency, the constant need for network connectivity, and of course, the ever present question of privacy, all issues that we have either solved or are deep into solving, there is still one drawback of cloud computing that we may never be able to quell, despite all of our efforts, connection. It’s the same flaw that arises with the boom of recurring revenue services, the issue of owning things. With all of our computers, and, in most cases, our phones, today, there is an indisputable fact that we own them. Part of what makes us love devices we use everyday- and as extension of that- the companies that make them, is how we customize them, connect with them, and in a way, make them our own. Steve Jobs understood this connection, and was able to manipulate with industry leading design and marketing to build a strong foundation for Apple’s products, a foundation adopted by countless firms both in and out of the tech industry today. It’s already difficult enough to establish connections with products that become obsolete within a span of a few years, but I believe that fully removing the components inside of them, and effectively making them subscription based devices that we don’t really own would fully sever our connection to our tech and deal an unforeseen blow to user experience. At the end of the day, the thing that separates the computer from 2001: A Space Odyssey that’s in your nightmares and the computer that’s in your pocket or sitting on your desk or in the ad that you can’t stop thinking of getting is the connection that is present in the former and absent in the latter, and without computers we own, we can’t have computers we love.

2 Replies to “The Problem With Consumer Grade Cloud Computing”

  1. Very true. There’s a feeling of commitment to the things we own verses the things we use and are detached from.

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