cloud computing

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Cloudy Futures.

I was having a conversation with a friend yesterday about the cloud. He’s at a technology company in the backup business. Backup is a simple concept that insures that data on corporate networks is recoverable in the event of disaster.  Backup is good. (I recently learned that Jewish religious scholarship is passed on orally over 7 years of study, known as the Daf Yomi, which is a form of backup. Just sayin’.)

Does cloud computing make the need for backup less important? Of course not, for cloud providers it’s requisite. But for tech companies that provide back-up solutions to corporations, does backup in the cloud become a competitor? Most certainly.  

This cloud thing, done well, will chance the tech landscape by amazing proportion.  And redistribute crazy wealth.  Recently, it was reported in The New York Times that a company spending $1M with Amazon’s cloud service to host and process its data would have had to pay $5M for all the servers and surround. Como se no brainer?  And more importantly, as we bury all the complexity in the cloud and organically move toward more open systems, will not technology become less confusing? Less elitist?  I think so. 

When that happens, out engineers will be able to start solving energy problems, space exploration, and healthcare delivery. Now whose head is in the clouds?  Peace! 

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Today there will be lots of stories written about Leo Apotheker’s plight at Hewlett-Packard. And of the HP board, and potential replacements for Mr. Apotheker. One lens I like to look through when doing strategic planning is the “history” lens.  When viewed over time – a long time – will the company, product or leader have made a historic contribution?  Typically, that means looking at strategy rather than tactics.

In Mr. Apotheker’s case, it is clear to me that his PR handlers were at fault.  His moves to purchase Autonomy, shed the PC and tablet business, and stop investing in WebOS were historic moves — looking well beyond the dashboard.  One might say, and say accurately, that when you put a software person in charge of a mixed media multinational, the road to the future is paved with software.  Mr. Apotheker saw deteriorating PC sales, reduced profitability in services (the cloud is getting not only bigger, but smarter), and device manufacturing (especially sans Steve Jobs) under enormous cost pressures. Think device kudzu.  Rather than stay and fight for integration of solutions hard and soft around his OS — which code-wise may not have been ready for primetime and perhaps at risk from new OS pushes by Microsoft and Apple — he decided to retrench with eye toward the future. Very ballsy.

The cloud is the future. Device complexity will reduce over time and when it does, the cloud, run by software, will become the electricity of business. And that is where Mr. Apotheker was going. Sadly, he had a lapse in judgment and bad guidance and announced it at the wrong time and inelegantly.  Como se billions in lost shareholder value?  Some strategies (read historic) are better left unannounced. Is that not so, Mr. Jobs? Peace.    

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The cloud is the cloud.  Apps are the software we all use. Many apps are free, others are pay-for. What the cloud and apps have in common is the internet.  Apple was always a wonderful design company. First and foremost the designs were physical – about the device.  Also the designs were logical – about the software and usability. But physical design is the tangible evidence of what makes Apple graet..

As Apple moves its center, its core, away from the wonderful designs it has created over the last 8 years towards more cloud-based designs (read iCloud) will the luster come off?  Clouds are pretty to watch, but don’t offer the luster of slim, shiny touchables.  I would almost prefer to see Apple go into the car or refrigerator business than the cloud business. But that’s moi. Peace!

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