Is the iCloud the end of the Linux & Windows desktop?

Is the iCloud the end of the Linux & Windows desktop?

Summary: Lion isn't a cloud operating system the way Google Chrome OS is, but you can see one possible cloud desktop future from it.

SHARE:

I think a cloud-based operating system, like Google' Chrome OS, has a bright future. But, when I look at Apple's Lion, which will only be available as an upgrade by a 4GB download, and iCloud plans I begin to wonder just how much any fat-client operating system-Linux, Mac OS X, or Windows-have if Apple and Google have their way.

As Jobs put it, the PC centric data model is broken. And, so the digital hub will move from being the PC to the iCloud and the Mac will be "demoted."

What did he mean by that? My fellow ZDNet writer, Andrew Nusca, put it well, "Mac vs. PC vs. Linux argument from the early days of consumer computing has lost a great deal of its luster in recent years with the development of cloud computing on the open web." The operating system wars are far from over though. Nusca continued, "Concept of platform wars is quickly making up for lost ground with the development of cloud computing in the closed mobile space."

I've always thought that thin-client computing has its place in technology. That's one reason why I think Google's Chrome OS has a real shot in dethroning the Window desktop in the office. By making the iCloud the center of everything, instead of the Mac, Apple is trying to wean consumers away from the fat-client PC model that's served us so well since the day the first IBM PC rolled off the assembly line.

This worries me. If you had fast bandwidth and enough room on your data cap, cloud-based computing is fine. Many of us are already using every day. Oh, you may not think of using Gmail or Google Docs as being on the cloud, but it is and you are.

It's so darn easy when all you really need to get work done from anywhere is an Internet connection and a Web browser. Forget your file at the office? Just grab your copy from Dropbox, and you're good to go. But, Jobs takes it even farther. All your data will be on the iCloud and it's automatically pushed to any of your devices.

It sounds great doesn't it? I think it sound great too, but, and this is a big one, do you really want to trust Apple or Google with all your data? What happens if you don't pay your fee to Apple? What happens if the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) demands a copyright audit of all my music on iTunes Match?

Page 2: [The bitterness in the sweet] »

The bitterness in the sweet

You see, I rather like the idea of owning all my media and having it on my servers and PC. This leads me to my other point: I like owning my operating system and applications.

Microsoft will sell me a system, with caveats, but at the end of the day I own it. I have a friend who's still running Windows XP Media Center 2002. It still works for her and she's happy with it. That's great. I'm a big believer in the idea that if something works for you, you should keep using it.

But, as I sit here my with my first generation iPod Touch and Apple TV, neither of them work well with the latest Apple software offerings. Do I want to be forever having to upgrade my Apple hardware to get the most from Apple' newest features?

At least with Google, the plan is to support the lowest common denominator. If you can use the Chrome Web browser or afford an inexpensive Chromebook, you can use the full-range of Google's cloud-based services. My friend, for example, uses Chrome 11 on her almost ten-year old PC without a problem.

The problem extends beyond just "owning" an operating system, your application and your data. With Linux, it's about having control of your operating system.

Richard M. Stallman, creator of the GNU Public License (GPL), developer, and leader of the Free Software Foundation and I disagree on many points. But, when he recently disparaged cloud computing. I had to agree.

Stallman said that in cloud-computing you're letting "any Tom, Dick and Harry hold your data, let any Tom, Dick and Harry do your computing for you (and control it). Perhaps the term 'careless computing' would suit it better." Stallman fears, "many people will continue moving towards careless computing, because there's a sucker born every minute. The US government may try to encourage people to place their data where the US government can seize it without showing them a search warrant, rather than in their own property. However, as long as enough of us continue keeping our data under our own control, we can still do so. And we had better do so, or the option may disappear."

He's right. With a Linux desktop computer, I own my data, I control my processes. While I can see the cloud having its place for some people and in some situations, I hate this trend we're seeing of putting everything into someone else's hands outside of our sight, and all too soon out of mind.

Thin-clients and cloud-computing do have their place, but it's not a place where I want my data, my work, to live under the control of corporate strangers. For all the ease of use of these methods, I'd prefer to see fat-client desktops like Mint 11 Linux, and, yes, even Windows 7, to continue on for so long as we continue to use computers.

Related Stories:

Through cloud, Apple circles wagons on ecosystem: 10 proof points

iCloud synchronization to push data caps to the limit

WWDC 2011: Apple Mac OS X Lion sports over 250 new features

Five Reasons why Google's Linux Chromebook is a Windows killer

Who Google has in mind for its Chrome OS users

Topics: Operating Systems, Apple, Google, Hardware, Linux, Open Source, Software, Windows

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Talkback

284 comments
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Has Steven flipped out?

    "I?d prefer to see fat-client desktops like Mint 11 Linux, and, yes, even Windows 7, to continue on for so long as we continue to use computers."

    Never thought I'd see the day when Steven would support Windows over any alternative, yet he dislikes the cloud so much that he'd take Windows first.

    The cloud has a certain seductive appeal, yet, there's that control thing. I don't control anything on the cloud, even if I own it. Someone else controls it.

    The cloud has some applications, but, for me, I'll keep that broken PC centric data model for the near future, until the security, legal, and technical issues of the "cloud" work themselves out. At least then I'll understand the risk and be able to mitigate properly.

    Gads, I think we agreed on something! It may never happen again -
    Cynical99
    • RE: Is the iCloud the end of the Linux & Windows desktop?

      @Cynical99

      Well put.
      josh92
      • Some of Stevens questions are totall off the mark, unrelated to situation

        @josh92: like this, for example:

        <i>"I think it sound great too, but, and this is a big one, do you really want to trust Apple or Google with all your data? What happens if you don?t pay your fee to Apple? What happens if the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) demands a copyright audit of all my music on iTunes Match?"</i>

        1. Since Apple stores your information in full on at least of one your devices -- plus, you have complete back-up on your Mac/PC -- there is nothing to fear, globally, even if iCloud will, all of sudden, stumble.

        2. There is nothing to pay to Apple for the data. iTunes Match service, the only payable, has nothing do to with documents or whatever else media and files that iCloud will store free. There is no you are being cut off of your data scenario.

        3. RIAA will order nothing in terms of audit since Apple contracted all of major music labels.

        So, as of now, your concerns are unsound.
        DDERSSS
      • And I have a bridge for sale

        @DeRSSS

        I guess you have trouble seeing where this is heading. By the time it is patently obvious to you it will be too late. You will have given up control of your system, including what you can run in it. And of course you will have to make your monthly payment for "them helping you".

        Over my dead body.
        Economister
      • Concerns unsound??

        @DeRSSS
        Actually the concerns are very sound, your view is very narrow. I don't keep music online, so not an issue for me, but when the Feds show up with a request for my documents, and with or without a search warrant, will the Cloud vendor even bother to tell me?

        What about security algorithms? RSS was hacked and it appears the seed numbers and algorithms stolen.

        Worst is performance. I work with a corporate cloud environment now. In the office, it's acceptable, but out of the office, large files are slow, slow, slow. Performance is definitely an issue.

        Your views are so incredibly narrow that they negate the value of your comment.
        Cynical99
      • Absolutes are a bad thing

        @economister:
        While I don't necessarily argue that things <i>could</i> go where you fear, it isn't set in stone. As yet Apple isn't dragging all your data out of your machine and into the cloud; you still have control of what, if anything, you wish to put up there. Personally, I'm not a fan of the mainframe/terminal concept for the same reasons they had issues back in the '50s and '60s; time share generates lag and errors as your network grows.

        On the other hand, I do see a possibility where dedicated mainframe devices--like today's supercomputers--will gradually fall to the power of distributed computing as has been seen recently with a number of medically-related projects which have seen sudden great strides in cancer and other disease control. Such distributed computing could also include more advanced weather monitoring and warning systems which could help reduce the loss of life such as we saw in Joplin, Missouri last month by detecting sudden changes in barometric pressure and wind speed and direction far more quickly and accurately than the relatively limited number of 'official' weather stations the NWS has to work with.

        The point is that while things could go the way you fear, you could also simply be fear-mongering, trying to drive users away from Apple to some other system that could be as bad or worse than what Apple develops. Personally, one thing I have to say for Apple in the long run is that their products and services have been more reliable and usable on average than any other system I've used, even if those other systems were first or more popular than Apple's. I've been accused of being paranoid--especially about my computing--but compared to other brands, Apple has rarely disappointed me.
        Vulpinemac
      • RE: Is the iCloud the end of the Linux & Windows desktop?

        @josh92
        I agree, security is far from being perfect on any platform and the cloud is a scary example to rely on. For many businesses it may be the way to go in order to keep overhead down, but for the geeks and gamers, the common pc is still going to be around for quite sometime and the need of a platform will still be there.
        grimesjo33
      • RE: Is the iCloud the end of the Linux & Windows desktop?

        All this ICloud and other clould technology sounds good, till you do not have a internet connection, your ISP goes down, your router fails, or some other internet technology fails. Then were are you, you can not connet to your online data (music, pictures, movies, even more dishearting your financial, homework, ect.) This reminds me more of when you had a dumb terminal and a main frame that store all your data. It is a great Idea but no one seem to be talking about what it would mean when you can not get to your online containt, because of a Internet outage.
        stephen2143@...
      • RE: Is the iCloud the end of the Linux & Windows desktop?

        @DeRSSS
        What planet were you born on?

        1. I can see the point here, not much of an argument for this -- so long as the consumer has a FULL backup of ALL data -- and that the programs on the OS do not *require* the cloud to function.

        2. I'm quite sure that there will be some form of limit. Apple isn't going to give away terabytes of storage for free. If you honestly believe that, then you are quite naive.

        3. I am quite certain that if the RIAA/MPAA has signed any form of deal with Apple in regards to data storage services, then there will be a clause giving them the right to search the information. The only 'contracts' that Apple has right now with the recording and movie industries is for iTunes, which barely scratches the surface. Not only that, but I have thousands of MP3s on my machine that I ripped from original CDs, which have since been lost or destroyed -- so what happens then? I would have no concrete proof to fight the RIAA off. At least while the files are only stored locally, I have control of who may access it.
        Liath.WW
    • RE: Is the iCloud the end of the Linux & Windows desktop?

      @Cynical99

      You said it best. I'd rep your post a thousand times if I could.
      The one and only, Cylon Centurion
    • the never ending revenue stream

      @Cynical99 <br>at heart steve is just a salesman for a company looking to keep it's value. steady revenue streams play much better than cyclical opportunity, shareholders are happier because they get dividends on a regular basis, so apple becomes like a treasury note, confident that no-one would want to leave the table.<br><br>I waited for as long as I could in the microsoft's software cycle before adopting, things are just more likely to work. This is like going from xp sp3 or 4 to windows 98, so the transistion will be foolish except for those who need access to data they're not afraid to lose, which reads most corporations, who will in all likelihood keep backups and severs anyway if the have any sense. also school kids, and people who don't really use a computer for more than facebook.<br><br>I doubt that the cloud will roll out with a reliable alternative to photoshop, or video editing programs for the masses that would be affordable to intermediate users.<br><br>It's a big middle, and it will be a VERY long time before they change
      sparkle farkle
      • RE: Is the iCloud the end of the Linux & Windows desktop?

        @sparkle farkle apple does not pay dividends - the people rely on share value going up. right now a lot of the value for Apple is based upon the Cult of Jobs. Once he passes away, they will probably take a big hit
        stevejg61
    • RE: Is the iCloud the end of the Linux & Windows desktop?

      @Economister Or perhaps your association with companies like Microsoft has blunted your attitude toward everybody.

      I do not want any one company with their hands on my data, but I would trust Google or Apple a Da*m site more than any others I know.

      Sheesh, Apple haters everywhere!
      OracleOfReason
      • RE: Is the iCloud the end of the Linux & Windows desktop?

        @OracleOfReason : can you explain why you would trust Google & Apple so much?... above all others
        schaffi54-comms@...
      • RE: Is the iCloud the end of the Linux & Windows desktop?

        @OracleOfReason I would not trust Google with anything! Nor AT&T. Not sure about Apple, but I don't use any of their hardware or software. I much prefer owning my software and running it locally, and to keep my data local also. I do not want to be dependent upon any cloud. I use the Internet for access purposes only, not data storage. Many ways to access the Internet also, not just by my normal connection. Backup and redundancy...most important to survive. I am not an Apple hater, but am cautious about Google and others like them.
        rollguy
    • RE: Is the iCloud the end of the Linux & Windows desktop?

      @Cynical99
      Steven hasn't flipped out... recently. It happened years ago.

      There is no question, in my mind, that the cloud is the future enterprise environment. But, that MUST be a private cloud for security reasons.

      Apple, with it's koolaid filled cups being given out by Hooter's girls and Chippendale men for free on the streets, thinks they can out do Google by offering an inferior product for more money but appear to be the best. So far our ever more amoral society has given Jobs the thumbs up on that thinking. Sooner or later the tides will turn, hopefully in my life time, and people will stop focusing on their phone and start focusing on the people standing right next to them again.
      mschauber
      • RE: Is the iCloud the end of the Linux & Windows desktop?

        @MedicNYC: You make assumptions based on no real data. At best that's poor logic and at worst it's pure conjecture without anything to back it up.
        <i>"Apple, ... thinks they can out do Google by offering an inferior product for more money but appear to be the best."</i>
        Please explain this assumption? In what way is the iCloud inferior to Google's offering and in what way is it for more money when Apple is doing it for free? Or are you talking about something else entirely that has no bearing on this discussion at all?
        Vulpinemac
    • RE: Is the iCloud the end of the Linux & Windows desktop?

      @Cynical99 I'm as surprised as you that Steven didn't go through his typical windows-bashing routine. Will wonders never cease? Yet he stuck with the usual attention grabbing yet totally misleading headline, so I suppose some things never change...
      xplorer1959
    • RE: Is the iCloud the end of the Linux & Windows desktop?

      The best is to keep hardcopy or no computers at all, since coms can get hacked, no matter how secure.

      No wait, home might get broken into. We need a vault. Yes ! That's the most secure way to protect our assets and prying eyes !
      martg
      • RE: Is the iCloud the end of the Linux & Windows desktop?

        An air-tight vault is the only way to keep ourselves safe from harm!
        orangemike