GCN Tech Blog

By GCN Staff

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The cloud versus the desktop

The New York Times ran a story about how competition is heating up between Google and Microsoft (free registration required). Google executives estimated that 90 percent of applications people use they will get over the network, including office productivity applications such as Microsoft Office. Microsoft execs, of course, dispute the number will be that high.

Here at GCN, we're testing how we can use Google Apps for instance, as an emergency backup system for editing stories. The nice thing about this approach is that there is no software to buy and install. Just get everyone to sign up for accounts and we're ready to go.

The potential downside is that some of our intellectual property resides on servers another organization actually owns. Is that a problem? Time will tell.

This topic is slightly similar to the one we covered in the last issue on the future of the operating system. With so much computing moving to centralized data centers, what will be left for the desktop computer to do?

Plenty, argued Bill Vass, president of Sun Microsystems Federal. For one the Web is becoming more multi-media oriented. Take a look at the popularity of Second Life, for instance. The computation needed to render these graphics will best be executed at the desktop, so that lag will be as little as possible. The data crunching needed to support these virtual worlds possible, on the other hand, will be done at the data center.

"The server side will be where the logic is, and the client side will be very much about the graphics," Vass said.

Another thing to keep in mind is the sheer convenience offered by the desktop. Sure, I could store all my bookmarks on Delicious, where they could be accessed by me from any computer. But it is still faster for me'if only for a few seconds'to call up a bookmarked page from my own browser. In computing, these minute gains in efficiency usually make all the difference.

Posted by Joab Jackson on Dec 17, 2007 at 9:39 AM


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