Unless you’ve spent the last few months trapped in a cave, you’ve no doubt seen, read, or heard that “cloud computing” is on its way and is likely to affect the way many of us use our computers and interact with. Internet. in the next years. Much has been written elsewhere about the implications of cloud computing in general and whether it is indeed destined to transform the way we use the web, but, at this point, I am particularly interested in exploring what the impact of cloud computing in mobile applications. .

For the uninitiated, the key features of cloud computing are probably worth reiterating briefly. In simple terms, cloud computing simply refers to the use of powerful shared computing resources that are accessed remotely, usually via a web browser over the Internet. Users do not need to know (or worry) where the servers are located or where the programs they are using are running; they only need access to a web browser to use the service from anywhere in the world. In practice, the term cloud computing has grown to refer to a number of related capabilities that can be broadly summarized in the following categories:

I) Infrastructure as a service “IaaS” – typically virtual servers (for example, Amazon EC2, Rackspace Cloud Servers)

ii) Platform as a service “PaaS” – various services for software development and implementation (eg Google Checkout, Force.com)

iii) Software as a Service “SaaS” – fully hosted applications accessed through a browser (e.g. Webmail, Facebook, Google Apps, Salesforce.com)

It’s the last category, SaaS, that I want to focus on because it represents the visible face of cloud computing that most people have already experienced. The advantages of web-based applications such as Gmail, Twitter, and Facebook are quite obvious: there is nothing to download to your PC, you can access them from anywhere, they are constantly being improved, and whenever updates are made, they are available at the earliest. instant. to any user the next time they log in.

For business applications like Saleforce.com’s online CRM tool, there are other benefits: These services are highly configurable and scalable, so they can be tailored to many different types of customers, from very small to very large, with simple or very large requirements. complex. Additionally, the business model employed by most SaaS providers (i.e. monthly subscriptions) is attractive as the cost of entry is low (or zero) and the costs associated with acquiring and maintaining the IT infrastructure to host the application are completely removed.

So how will all this affect the use and diffusion of mobile applications? In the last two years, we have witnessed the unprecedented success of the iPhone and Apple’s App Store and this has clearly demonstrated without a doubt that there is a voracious appetite for mobile applications. Apple has led the way, but now we’re seeing a slew of competing app stores advertised by other players. Notable examples include Google’s Android Marketplace, Nokia’s OVI Store, RIM’s Blackberry App World, Symbian’s Horizon, Microsoft’s Marketplace, and Samsung Application Store.

I find it highly unlikely that all these initiatives will be successful, but at the same time, it is a healthy sign that consumers will have more choice and a wide range of applications will be available to users of many different types of mobile devices (p. Eg not just the iPhone). However, in this new world, where users of all types of devices (from the lowliest Pay-as-you-Go phone to the latest feature-laden smartphone) can access mobile apps, I think downloading them from the app stores is not. the only way to go. The cloud computing model offers a very attractive alternative that is actually ideal for supporting (relatively) low-power computing devices such as mobile phones. While power users with high-end smartphones may be perfectly happy downloading applications, the “average” user with a basic phone will likely find that using cloud-based applications via a browser is easier and much more suitable for the user. limitations of your phone. Less computing power and less storage are required, and as mobile network operators continue to increase data speeds, performance can only get better and better. There are already some good examples of cloud-based mobile applications today, such as the Gmail mobile portal, which provides a great email experience entirely through a browser.

Another important factor to consider is that as the mobile application market matures, many business organizations will recognize the need to mobilize core business applications. Unlike most “applications” that are downloaded today, most commercial applications are more complex and sophisticated and require proper integration with back-end systems. Therefore, the SaaS delivery model described above is ideal for this category of application and will work equally well for mobile devices due to the “zero footprint” required on the phone along with the flexibility and scalability available when hosting the application on the phone. cloud.

Over the next several years, we are also likely to see a number of technology enhancements that will continue to drive the development of cloud-based mobile applications. Open standards such as BONDI, OneAPI, and HTML5 (http://bit.ly/7LxXdn) will help, making it easier for developers to create cloud-based applications that can be used on a wide range of mobile devices.

In summary, therefore, I predict that cloud computing is very relevant to the world of mobile applications, it is particularly well adapted to serve a large number of mobile users who do not own a smartphone and who are likely to be become a parallel medium for mobile device delivery. apps to rival the app store approach. Welcome to the cloud!

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