Earlier this month Gartner published a report, The New PC Era: the Personal Cloud, which predicts that by 2014, the personal cloud will replace the personal computer at the centre of users’ digital lives.
“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, research vice president at Gartner.
Personal cloud has implications for all CIOs because it impacts the manner in which IT services are delivered to employees; and specifically for CIOs in business-to-consumer organisations, because it impacts the manner in which consumers interact with the organisation.
Looking beyond the creation of a new buzz-phrase, the personal cloud is Gartner’s neat shorthand for the aggregation of services which users can access anywhere, any time using any device.
Each individual’s personal cloud may be different, in that it will be made up of different services, but each service will be centralised, whether it be a uniform one-size-fits-all banking app or a customisable ‘daily-me’ news feed.
Much of this is already well in train: PC sales are fairly flat – Gartner predicts a growth of 4.4 per cent in 2102 – while sales of tablets and smartphones are rising.
The installed base of PCs is huge – around 1.5 billion, depending on what is counted. But this year’s forecasts presage a shift away from PCs towards other formats in the near future. Mobiles are already the default access device in booming emerging markets where PCs and broadband infrastructure are too expensive.
Gartner identifies five “mega-trends” that are driving the shift in focus from personal computer to personal cloud.
First, consumerisation: a consumer taste for entertainment technology has bled across into the corporate world. “Infotainment” and “prosumers” were the harbingers of what is now a full-scale democratisation of IT that encompasses everything from iPhones to Facebook.
Second, virtualisation has “freed applications from the peculiarities of individual devices”, says Gartner. It also makes possible the massive datacentres on which cloud computing depends.
Third is the change from large monolithic applications to slender apps. The concept of apps – small footprint mini-applications with dedicated functionality – dates back to at least the mid-1990s when “applets”, downloaded from the corporate LAN, were espoused by the likes of Novell as a reaction against the “bloatware” from vendors such as Microsoft, whose software was criticised for using up too much computing resource.