Saturday, 16 July 2011

The Cloud? Nah, it'll never take off

The Cloud? Nah, it won't happen. People still want to have their cosy Microsoft Office environment on their tight knit and safe Corporate network.

In less than two years something odd has happened. In more then one major quoted company I have worked with, over 10% of the user community now use Apple Macs as their PC of choice. These companies are not fuzzy designers or lovey media types they are plain old IT companies with rules and regulations on what PCs they buy and what applications the company network runs. They even have rules and regulations on internet use and social media restrictions during work hours. They are completely normal.

So how the heck did these Apple Macs get in there?

That Steve Jobs is a canny sort. He reinvented a company that was almost dead, out of cash and ideas and not just saved it but turned it back into a being vibrant, successful company again. And in doing so he changed the Corporate world. Central to all of it was The Cloud - without it he could never have achieved it. You see, Jobs took gadgets and made them the must-have devices of choice of businesspeople. First iPods - no threat to the IT status quo there. Then came iPhones and suddenly we had a funky device that linked to a shop online that also backed up your data and you could buy tons of applications easily - and cheap as chips.

It was first in the wave of clever smartphones that we all wanted. But surely these things were leisure devices? These were not serious contenders as business productivity tools? By the time the iPad came and the new wave of mobile innovative computing had took hold, many vendors had woken up and smelt the coffee. Via the back door, Apple had set a new agenda for computing. By getting executives and workers alike to buy effectively gadgets with their own money, an upsurge of revolt against the IT rules occurred in companies across the globe. IT managers wept as CEOs relented and allowed iPhones and iPads to be bought and for users to express choice and buy Apple Macs as their PCs of choice.

Apple came back into mainstream Corporate computing via the back door - from left field. And nobody saw it coming. Using the Cloud as the tether not the network, Apple totally revolutionised the way in which we bought applications and the price which we paid.
Executives not only had Macs and iPads but they had tens of small applications running on them, some business, some leisure which helped them to do what they wanted. You could now just flip open your computer and quickly dash off an email wherever you may be via the phone or WiFi network while listening to music and without all the rigmarole of linking to the home network. The Cloud made it all happen easily.

Computing has got innovative, exciting and sexy again. Luddites and Victorian minded companies like Microsoft are trying to pour scorn on these upstarts like Apple and Google. They can never challenge Microsoft on business-grade computing. People love and need Microsoft Office on their PCs, USB ports to tether to devices and strict rules governing what productivity tools they use. They need Office because that's the Corporate standard across the globe. Don't they? The Cloud is what Microsoft will define it to be and it's just a bit of extra connectivity but the good old lumpy, maxed-out PC is still the business workhorse.

The revolution has already started. The Cloud - no - the internet is the platform and it's giving people the power to do things unimaginable. All those years ago, Microsoft gave us that power to be individuals in a business world full of rules by opening up possibilities. Now it's being the matronly old lady that tells us that we cannot have fun and do business at the same time. The Cloud and companies like Google and Apple say that it's different and people - business people - agree.

Apple is back in mainstream computing. Google is on the business scene. A whole new raft of exciting new companies are innovating as if we have emerged from a computing Dark Age. The future is new and exciting and it's fun.

On the same device a 16 month old kid can have fun with a 70 year old man swiping through photos and playing the virtual drums while the same machine receives corporate email and be a mobile computer. Suddenly, the world of business and leisure has merged and laptops need not be left to whir forlornly over weekends as the family goes for a picnic. The computer gets invited along too.

The Cloud has opened up the corporate network. The next logical step is for companies to reassess their use of business productivity tools in the light of what is going on around them. The Cloud isn't for everyone but every small business in the world today will be thinking how to maximise their sales not run their IT. The Cloud gives them the freedom to do just that. Being fast moving, agile, accessible, innovative and competitive is what business is all about not being restrained by networks and rules. Using The Cloud will help small businesses be leaner and win. It helped a big company like Apple to flourish again.

It's a competitive world out there and technology is changing by the minute. Companies can now share in the freedom of making decisions about IT that are not about 3-5 year windows but 6 months or less - they can adapt to the changing world much, much quicker. They can embrace social media on the fly to maximise business, they can answer phone calls on a virtual PBX while sitting in cafe at the Station just the same as if they were in the office. The power of what can be done is no longer limited by the purchase of a server or dedicated device to do it.

Just do it.

You see, The Cloud is being made out to be some mysterious, ethereal intangible plume of vapour into which data descends and gets lost. It isn't. It's a high grade network into which companies have poured billions to make it the communication vehicle for everything from voice to data for the future. It allows us to not just do business with people everywhere and make small companies look big but has given us a voice and platform to increase our personal footprints. It has also done the same for business. It has also allowed us to share in the economy of scale of expensive hardware and software by not making us purchase the whole caboodle to do it but join others who have knowing there is plenty of capacity for us all.

The Cloud has given people and small businesses scale. Use it to make yourself bigger and pay for only what you use. The Cloud is like having a high speed train service that doesn't just stop at stations but stops at your door step or wherever you are and takes you exactly to wherever you want to go, and is cheaper than buying and using your own car and getting caught in jams.

The Cloud is not just the superhighway for the future, it is the future of computing for small businesses.

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