The best examples of Cloud Computing are often the ones you don’t even think about as being in the cloud.
HP webOS and Veer 4G Smartphone
From personal experience this weekend, example one is HP’s webOS and the HP Veer 4G smartphone. After a long week of travel, and rushing to make my last flight home on Friday night, I left my Palm Pre+ phone in the rental car, only realizing after having passed through security with my flight already boarding. My choices seemed dim. Miss the last flight home or leave my phone, full of confidential work emails and protected by only a password, to the possibility of weekend hacking by its next [not legal] owner. Then I remembered, the Palm Profile I created months ago when I first received my Palm Pre+ has a little “I lost my phone” button. Within 2 minutes, I had popped open my laptop, logged onto my Palm Profile, and initiated a secure delete of all data on my phone. So if you found my Palm Pre+ in the Avis Chevy Cruze rental car at Monterey Airport on Friday, don’t bother trying to look for any personal information on it, and enjoy the phone, I already have replaced it with a better one.
Despite having a houseful of Mac laptops and iPods, I have somehow managed to avoid buying either of my two teenage kids an iPhone. So there I was Saturday morning, in the local AT&T store, with my teenage son eying the Android phones, and not a Palm phone in site. As soon as the AT&T rep finished explaining to a new iPhone owner how to hold the phone to avoid blocking the antenna, I asked if they had the HP Veer 4G in stock. The rep didn’t know but went into the back room to check, and soon appeared with a sealed Veer box which he proceeded to crack open. “This is really small”, was his first comment. But what really amazed the rep, after he handed me the phone, was that as soon as I typed in my Palm Profile username and password, both my personal and work email, as well as contacts and calender, started to resync to the phone. “Do you want me to transfer your contacts from your old phone” he said in amazement as he watched. No, I answered politely, its being done automatically, and remember, I lost my old phone.
Now of course, that isn’t the end of the story. My son, who has been talking about the iPhone since the first model was introduced (he is polite enough that he never asked for an iPhone), now is the proud owner of his very own Veer. He had his Gmail account synced before we reached the car without so much as opening the “getting started” guide. Truth be told, I did end up trading my new Veer to my daughter for her Pre 2, as a work device I can use the extra screen space and I’m sure I’ll be getting a Pre 3 soon, maybe I can even talk the local AT&T store into displaying them on the shelf.
The Pre and Veer phones are good, but its really the born in the cloud features of webOS that make these phones my favorite example of Cloud Computing.
A close second is Google’s Chromebook. For consumer technology trend following, it doesn’t get much easier than having a teenage son (yes, the one with the new Veer). He has been using Chrome on his Mac laptop since it first came out, its the only browser he uses. While with age comes wisdom and respect is not a common phrase in his vocabulary, I was however able to score some points when Fedex delivered a Chromebook to the door this afternoon, addressed to me. Hey, I’m the one who told you about the beta program he said. Well then, I guess I’ll have to let you borrow the Chromebook, I replied. You guessed it, several hours later both my kids and I have logged on and tested it out.
For ease of use, like the HP phones and webOS, the Chromebook gets an A. Turn it on, select your Wifi network, wait for the initial software update, and type in your Gmail username and password and you are up and running. You can select from several icons to identify your account on the login screen or take a picture with the built-in camera. At first pass, it is exactly what you expect, it runs the Chrome browser and what else do you really need for the casual user. From a few minutes of testing before dinner (when he should have been doing his homework), my son’s comment was, “pretty cool, although it seems a bit slower than my Mac”. A bit lower cost too I might add. “I still need my Mac for Photoshop too” he said, somehow sounding worried that he might be losing one of his treasured electronic devices, “but can I take the Chromebook to school tomorrow”? After dinner, my daughter tried out the Chromebook and also had very complimentary feedback. And what can I say, WordPress runs fine on it.
I have a feeling the Chromebook will be open on the kitchen table the next few mornings too. At least until the HP TouchPad arrives. Having been a Sun Ray thin client user for over a decade, the simplicity and ease of use of a thin client device like the Chromebook is not something I need convincing of. My son’s comments, however, echo reminders that for today’s consumer oriented users, the user experience is everything. Nothing adding an Nvidia GPU chip to the Chromebook wouldn’t solve. Early demos of the HP TouchPad I have seen make me think my son will opt for that at the kitchen table. Different devices for different uses, nothing wrong with that.