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Cloud rising

More and more people are griping about SaaS and cloud, but that doesn't mean this trend has come to the end of the road. Instead, it's further evidence that the on-demand model has finally reached mainstream acceptance.
Written by Phil Wainewright, Contributor on

First, we learned that SaaS is facing total collapse. Now we are told that the very notion of cloud computing is end-of-life. What's next, Google falls from grace? Oh wait, that already happened (and some predict it's all downhill from here for Google).

So is it the end of the story for all things cloud? Hardly. I beamed with contentment when I opened up the (London) Sunday Times business pages at the weekend and saw how this mainstream publication presented Web computing in its write-up of Google's tenth anniversary:

"... the nature of computing is undergoing another seismic shift, and browsers are becoming hot once more as the internet becomes the delivery channel for an increasing number of software programs and services that were once sold, like Windows, in a box.

"... Instead of storing information and loading programs on to our PCs, tech firms believe that in the future all information and programming will be stored on the internet — 'the cloud' — and can then be accessed when we want it, where we want it."

This is a vision I've personally promoted for a decade now, and it's deeply satisfying to finally see it presented so matter-of-fact in a mainstream national newspaper. Fellow ZDNet blogger Larry Dignan complains that "everyone (and their mother) is in the cloud," but that simply reflects how broadly based is this move towards a world that runs on automated, Internet-based services.

Now that it's mainstream, paradoxically you'll suddenly find there's a lot less hype and a lot more gripes. I've left it to others to pick apart the flaws in Lawson CEO Harry Debes' diatribe against SaaS. Personally, I was pleased to see Debes arguing his defensive stance so passionately. The on-demand model has been ignored and dismissed by the conventional software industry for too long. It's good to see them start to sit up and take notice at long last, even if it's only to display their utter lack of understanding of the model.

And what better sign could there be that cloud is on the rise than the news that the federal government is about to go after the most visible champion of this next technology generation? Personally, I think the threat of an anti-trust suit might do Google some good. A while back I reflected on Google's make-up:

"Google's wealth doesn't come from the fact that it's a search engine funded by advertising. It comes from the fact that it’s a pay-per-click contextual advertising engine, which also happens to run its own search engine."

Google would benefit from being forced to focus on each of search, ads and apps as separate lines of business rather than funding everything indiscriminately from those massive, undifferentiated ad revenue streams. I for one would welcome seeing Google Apps obliged to stand or fall on its ability to generate revenues. I think it would only accelerate the unstoppable momentum of cloud computing.

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