Office in the Cloud, SaaS and Internet Operating Systems

Tim posts on why he doesn’t see the value in Cloud-base applications while he sees value in having Cloud-storage (eg Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3)).  I’m not sure I particularly agree.  With the advent of various rich Internet application toolkits (ie toolkits that facilitate building Internet applications that mimic rich client applications to the extent of working offline) cloud-base applications mean that there is zero-cost for not only installation but also accessibility.  This means that you can be sitting in an airport lounge or at an Internet kiosk and still have your favourite in-the-cloud application.  Of course if you are using cloud-applications you are going to need cloud-storage, no questions there but aren’t you going to run the risk of loosing your data – not in the backup/recovery sense, more in the ability to remember which cloud-application you were using and where it was stored!

That said I personally can’t think of anything more tedious than using cloud-based applications and/or storage.  I’d much prefer to spend time installing a product in order to have a rich, zero-wait user experience than having to suffer through some new cloud-based application. Now once I have a rich client application why would I pay money (agreed not a very large amount of money) to store this in the cloud.  I might as well store it locally or on my work fileshare?  What might be useful would be if my rich client application could sync with a cloud-based storage.  That way I have my data locally but if I move to another device I can easily pull down what I was just working on.  Perhaps something like the Mozy online backup service could be tweaked to work this way?

Taking a real example, my application for a Scrybe account came through yesterday (I originally jumped on this from Scoble’s post last year) and I went through the process of setting up yet another account – why can’t more of these services use existing account infrastructure like Google, Yahoo or Windows Live accounts?  Upon eventually signing in I’m yet to work out what the big song and dance is all about.  Other than a bit of wizzy flash animation to make the calendar resize as I select a date it offers next to no benefit over Outlook.  One thing that Scrybe does have is PaperSync which means you can print it out your calendar in a format that can readily be stuffed into one’s pocket (which I seem recall is a tip from but there is no ability to Sync to Outlook?  Why would I use Scrybe when I have Exchange server that gives me Outlook Web Access out of the box and has almost seamless integration with both Outlook and my mobile device across HTTP?  Sorry Scoble, you’re wrong about Scrybe – this one is a waste of my time!

One service I thought might be of interest to us developers is the Amazon Simple Queue Service SQS.  Although you can’t appear to use this for large peer-to-peer data swapping (the message has quite a low size restriction) it could be quite useful for building distributed applications that work across a network of computers.  In thinking about it the cloud-storage mentioned earlier could be the storage for any blocks of data required by the processing units.  The queue then is used to schedule and monitor work progress.

Ok, the last thing I want to touch on are just a couple of other interesting services and links I’ve come across.

Xcerion – Internet OS –

This is here cause I’m not sure what they are going to release as their website seems quite vague.  A friend of mine says that their technology looks interesting so I’ve signed up to get the latest.

Office Live – Hosted Sharepoint/Contact manager –

I used this service in the early beta days and thought that it was quite good for small companies that want to share documents, calendars, contacts etc but don’t want to invest in Sharepoint infrastructure.  If you couple this with hosted Exchange 2007 you have most of the infrastructure a SME requires.

Connected Services Sandbox – SaaS –

Think about some of the goals set out in the early days of webservices where organisations could publish their services and other organisations could consume them – This site is helping to fulfil this objective. It is effectively a seed project to help kick off the development of applications that pull together one or more network services.  You can either use the existing services to build your application or you can use the sandbox to build your own webservices that can then be consumed.

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