Will computing become just apps in a cloud

In a cloud stack, the program is simple enough to run through your fingers, intuitively. The device defines the user interface. The computing happens on the Internet, far from you. All complexity is abstracted to the cloud.

There is a hot new trend in computing.

Apps in the cloud.

(Picture by John Blankenhorn. Used with permission.)

Salesforce.com has jan offering called Force.com. It's a system designed to let anyone build, distribute and support apps through the Salesforce cloud.

This is not just marketing hype. The Department of Health and Human Services has just given Harvard $15 million to research what it calls a "health IT iTunes project."

Medical reformer David Kibbe says that successful electronic medical record (EMR) systems will work like the iPhone platform.

As he explained it in a series of emails to me, doctors should be able to marry their workflow to a series of applications that live on the Internet, that don't lock them into any vendor, that they can mix-and-match as easily as they switch between apps on an iPhone.

This vision extends well beyond health IT. It is, in fact, a new computing paradigm.

We are accustomed to thinking of applications as large, general-purpose programs that require all 10 fingers, a mouse, and our full attention to make work. The "application stack" consists of the operating system, a Graphical User Interface, and then the program, which we have to customize.

In a cloud stack, all that changes. The program is simple enough to run through your fingers, intuitively. The device defines the user interface. The computing happens on the Internet, far from you. All complexity is abstracted to the cloud.

Of course, this means we are all increasingly dependent on reliable Internet connections. We're no longer just poking around Web sites. We're depending on systems like Force.Com to act as our operating systems, our databases, and our entire application stack.

Have you ever been in a department store when the credit card system goes down? It may not be the processor's fault. It may be just a glitch with a connection somewhere. But business essentially stop.

That's the risk with this new paradigm. When the connection goes down, so do you. Which is why many people don't trust it.

But we eventually learned to trust PCs, and client-server, and Web sites. This is simply where things are moving. Out of our hands, into the cloud.

There's an app for that. There's an app for everything.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com