Guest post by Joe Pawlikowski.
While the term cloud computing has become big in the past few years, it’s really not a new concept. That is, we’ve had online storage units for essentially as long as we’ve had the internet. The cloud, however, adds functionality to that storage. Not only can we upload our spreadsheets to Google Docs, but we can view and edit them from there as well. Not only can we upload our music to Dropbox, but we can play it from there as well. All of this stands to have an even more profound impact on mobile computing, particularly tablets. The only catch is that it’s going to take a while to get there.
The issues with cloud services on tablets now
Two main issues make it difficult for users to capably use cloud-based services from their tablets. In time we’ll work past these; technology always seems to develop in terms of end-user benefits, and tablets are no exception. But for now, relying on cloud services from a tablet doesn’t work that well, because:
1. Tablets are primarily WiFi-only. While there are plenty of 3G and 4G tablets on the market, most users opt for WiFi-only models. This is significant, because it signals that people are primarily using their tablets, at least while using the internet, at home. The power of the cloud is lessened when there’s another computer in proximity. It might make things marginally more convenient, but accessing files on your home computer from your tablet, when your home computer is just a few feet away, isn’t exactly groundbreaking.
2. There still aren’t sensible smartphone and tablet data plans. That is, at least in America. All major wireless carriers offer a selection of tablets and cellular data plans to go along with them. But they require a full, separate data plan. That is, there is no combining with a smartphone data plan. Since tablet data plans are tier-based, an adequate allotment of data can cost a lot. Typically, 2GB worth of data will cost $30 per month; even moderately heavy tablet users will blow past that usage level.
The ideal use of the cloud
A tablet is a great device for cloud access. It’s small, so there is a limited number of components a manufacturer can fit under the hood. Reducing the size of the hard drive, then, can make room for other gadgets and do-hickeys. Might it be neat, for instance, to get a more powerful digital camera on a tablet? There are dozens of possibilities. Unfortunately, it’s tough to fit more under the hood than we’re currently seeing. By offloading some, or even most, of that storage on the cloud, we’re able to free up space inside the tablet.
There’s also the issue of usage. Again, cloud services now are far more than just storage lockers. Cloud services let us do things. Google Music is a great example. You can not only upload 20GB of music, but you can play it right through their cloud player. The same idea applies for Google Docs. Not only can you access all of your spreadsheets from the cloud, but you can manipulate them from there as well. It means we have all our files with us, wherever we go, that is, with an internet connection. And that’s one of the problems. We need always-on data connections, which we have with cellular data. But with the associated costs and caps, it becomes tougher to justify.
What we need for tablets and the cloud
Clearly technology has to evolve before we can start having tablets rely on the cloud for storage and functions. Here’s just a small list of advancements necessary:
- More affordable mobile broadband. Again, this can be as simple as pooling many data accounts into one. Chances are, if people accessing data from their tablet, they’re using less from their smartphones. It can all even out, even considering that smartphones use less data.
- If not unlimited, than robust data caps. This presents a logistical problem, because we have a finite amount of cellular spectrum and a growing number of people and devices connecting. But in order for the cloud to work, we absolutely need to raise limits. Otherwise, we’re only limiting the technology’s potential.
- More reliable data centers. This is largely a peace of mind issues, since data centers these days are pretty reliable. But people need to understand that their data is safe and secure. Beefing up data center security and reliability will help assuage those fears.
If these three factors become reality, tablets will flourish with cloud services. They’ll essentially become a true personal computer: something we take with us everywhere, and from which we can access anything. It’s a Utopia of computing. Unfortunately, there are many barriers and obstacles in the way. It will take a while, and it will take plenty of active effort, before we see the cloud become truly useful for tablet devices.
This was a guest post by Joe Pawlikowski who is the editor of Prepaid Reviews, a site that provides information, commentary, and reviews of prepaid wireless services.