5 reasons you'll have a personal cloud by 2014

Are you ready for the era of the personal cloud? You might have to be, because by 2014, the personal cloud will replace the personal computer at the center of users' digital lives, according to Gartner Inc.

“Emerging cloud services will become the glue that connects the web of devices that users choose to access during the different aspects of their daily life,” said Steve Kleynhans, a research vice president at Gartner.

Mobile devices and apps, and new ways of delivering them, are at the heart of the changes. "Major trends in client computing have shifted the market away from a focus on personal computers to a broader device perspective that includes smart phones, tablets and other consumer devices,” Kleynhans said.

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The personal cloud will begin a new era that will provide users with a new level of flexibility for the devices they use for daily activities while using the strengths of each device, Gartner analysts say in the report "The New PC Era: The Personal Cloud." However, this new era will require enterprises to fundamentally rethink how they deliver applications and services to users, the analysts said.

The past two years have been a whirlwind in client computing, leaving many enterprises wondering what comes next and what the environment will look like in five years.

"Many call this era the post-PC era, but it isn't really about being 'after' the PC, but rather about a new style of personal computing that frees individuals to use computing in fundamentally new ways to improve multiple aspects of their work and personal lives," Kleynhans said. 

There are five driving forces combining to create this new era, Gartner says. These megatrends have roots that extend back through the past decade but are aligning in a new way.

1. Consumerization: You ain't seen nothing yet.

Gartner has discussed the consumerization of IT for the better part of a decade and has seen the impact of it across various aspects of the corporate IT world. However, much of this has simply been a precursor to the major wave that is starting to take hold across all aspects of IT as several key factors in the four other megatrends come together.

2: Virtualization: Changing how the game is played.

Virtualization has improved flexibility and increased the options for how IT organizations can implement client environments. Virtualization has, to some extent, freed applications from the peculiarities of individual devices, operating systems or even processor architectures. Virtualization provides a way to move the legacy of applications and processes developed in the PC era forward into the newly emerging world.

3: "App-ification": From applications to apps.

When the way that applications are designed, delivered and consumed by users changes, it has a dramatic impact on all other aspects of the market. These changes will change how applications are written and managed in corporate environments. They also raise the prospect of greater cross-platform portability as small user experience apps are used to adjust a server- or cloud-resident application to the unique characteristics of a specific device or scenario.

4: The ever-available self-service cloud.

The advent of the cloud for serving individual users opens a whole new level of opportunity. Every user can now have a scalable and nearly infinite set of resources available for whatever they need to do. Users can demand to make their own choices about applications, services and content, selecting from a nearly limitless collection on the Internet. This encourages a culture of self-service that users expect in all aspects of their digital experience. Users can now store their virtual workspace or digital personality online. 

5: The mobility shift — wherever and whenever you want.

Today, mobile devices combined with the cloud can fulfill most computing tasks, and any trade-offs are outweighed in users' minds by the convenience and flexibility provided by the mobile devices. The emergence of more natural user interface experiences is making mobility practical. Touch- and gesture-based user experiences, coupled with speech and contextual awareness, are enabling rich interaction with devices and a much greater level of freedom.

"The combination of these megatrends, coupled with advances in new enabling technologies, is ushering in the era of the personal cloud," an era where the specifics of devices will become less important for the organization to worry about, Kleynhans said.

"The New PC Era: The Personal Cloud" report is available on Gartner's website. Gartner analysts will provide additional analysis during the Gartner webinar "Personal Cloud and the $2T Consumer Market" on March 27 at 11 a.m. EDT. Anyone interested can register for this complimentary webinar. 

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