Blogger-novelist-activist Cory Doctorow is out today with a screed condemning the whole idea of cloud computing.
(Here he is in Wikipedia. Doesn't that live somewhere in the cloud?)
Here is a summary.
The Man is trying to put us down. It's all a conspiracy to make us pay for what we could do ourselves for free. The corporate shills want to control our machines and through them, our brains.
I agree with Doctorow on many things. On other things I'm sympathetic.
On this he's dead wrong.
Running a PC is a hassle. There are software updates, there are anti-virals and anti-spyware and registry cleaners to worry about. It can take five minutes for even a Netbook to boot up, and another five minutes to shut it down.
Hardware is not the issue. Client hardware is an incredible bargain. The issue here is software.
All the problems now endemic to Windows machines are slowly infiltrating the worlds of the Mac and Linux, too. This has to do with the size and complexity of modern operating systems, and the large number of very nasty people working overtime to break them.
Maybe, if you have just one laptop, you can deal with this expense and hassle. But even small companies may now have 10-20 or more PCs running at once. The expenses of managing clients are driving companies to the wall.
The idea of the cloud is to abstract this complexity, take it out of the hands of users and put it in the hands of experts. One set of experts can handle the hassles of thousands of users, and hundreds of companies, for less than those users and companies are paying now.
Or as Mark Twain once said, "Put all your eggs in one basket and watch that basket."
As to the broader market, Mr. Doctorow has one kid, a toddler. Congratulations. I have three PCs, my dear wife runs three, my daughter has two and my son has a desktop for gaming with a terabyte of storage.
We use both wired and wireless networking to keep it all together. Several times a year I lose a day of work scrabbling around on my knees, under a desk, trying to check wiring. I have a repair guy on speed dial. I'm not that unusual, and becoming less so all the time.
The complexity and vulnerability of PCs means you can't just run one. I always have my Netbook on standby for emergencies. If malware infects me, or the cable goes out, I can be at a local coffee shop within minutes.
I no longer even trust my PC for really important stuff. That goes on a USB stick. You can get a 32 Gigabyte stick these days for about $70. Next week it will be less. Wear it around your neck, plug it into the cloud anywhere and, if everything works right, there you are.
Now Doctorow has valid concerns. Networks are not yet built to handle massive use of clouds. The legal environment for cloud users is, well, cloudy.
Fact is these are early days. In PC time it's 1978. In Internet time it's still 1994.
What 30 years of experience tells me is that condemning the future when you don't know what it looks like is never a wise move.