To the Cloud: Why On­Device Computing is a Thing of the Past

A few years ago under the Balmer administration, Microsoft released a series of commercials with the tagline, “To the cloud.” In a word, it was awful. In another word, embarrassing. If we are allowed a few more words, this quote from Good Marketing, Bad Marketing will do nicely:

Finally, let’s talk about those three little words which I’ll be happy to never hear or see again after writing this post. In all the commercials, you’ll find an overly enthusiastic Windows 7 user who screams “To the Cloud!”. I’m sure that Microsoft envisioned thousands of people all over the world screaming “To the Cloud!” every time they share a file or start a video chat, but instead it’s only being used as the butt of peoples jokes.

So poorly were they received, Microsoft pulled those videos from YouTube, essentially, making them unavailable for viewing. They very much want you to forget that campaign ever happened.

But they did not give up on the cloud. That was Microsoft’s first, ham-handed attempt to market their cloud initiatives. And they have never been particularly savvy at marketing, especially to consumers. That particular campaign was very much consumer focused.

Microsoft had more success pushing cloud services to enterprise customers. Those commercials were much more serious and to the point. Also, Microsoft allowed those enterprise cloud commercials to live. There are a number of these commercials available for viewing on the web.

Microsoft is so committed to cloud services, they have changed their slogan to reflect that commitment. Instead of a somewhat vague, “Devices and Services”, Microsoft is now, “Mobile First, Cloud First”. They are letting us know that going forward, every aspect of Microsoft will be rooted in the cloud. Stand alone computing is an anachronism that has no place on their future roadmap. Here’s what that means in practical terms:

Cloud-based Applications

For quite some time in tech circles, it has been known that Microsoft was looking to move to a subscription service for its products and services. They wanted to cut piracy off at the knees, while creating a reliable and predictable revenue stream.

Before, a person might purchase a boxed copy of Office, then use it for the next ten years, providing no additional revenue. Under the new system, people pay for office as frequently as every month. Annually is the most infrequent payment term.

Today, a person would be hard-pressed to find a hard copy of Office. It is no longer about the bits one loads onto a machine. It is about the licenses one accesses in the cloud. We no longer pay for the bits on our machine. We pay for the service in the cloud.

Through the magic of enterprise-level virtualization, we don’t even need the bits on our machine to get SharePoint and Office 365 integration at work. Cloud-based managed systems are not just the future of Office productivity, they are the present.

Cloud-based Storage

Regarding computers, ownership has been largely defined by what is on your hard drive. But these days, your most valuable and personal information resides in the cloud. Your hard drive is, increasingly, just a backup of what is in the cloud.

Unless one has a service like iCloud Photos, or Dropbox, or Google Drive, or Microsoft OneDrive, the photos one take with their smartphone seldom make it to the computer’s hard drive at all. It is important to note that all of the above services are cloud services with functionality to automatically import all smartphone photos to their respective cloud repositories. The same is true for music and documents.

Capacious hard drives are no longer needed because the information lives elsewhere. It is only brought down to the device for additional editing. After which, it is immediately pulled back to the cloud. Ideally, the cloud version is the truth from which everything else draws. The true version is no longer whatever happens to be on your hard drive. That is a major paradigm shift.

While PCs are far from dead, the handwriting is on the wall. Your personal computer is a lot less personal than it used to be, and getting less so all the time. You are now using shared processing power, applications, and drive space. More and more, these resources reside in the cloud. And to the cloud, we must go.

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