Does cloud mean anything to the masses?

Opinion

Does cloud mean anything to the masses?


If there is one thing that you have to give Microsoft's CEO Steve Ballmer credit for it is his very public attempts to link the vendor with cloud computing.

The vendor was criticised in the past for being slow on the uptake with emerging technologies but when it comes to the latest industry buzzword Ballmer has been quick to embrace it.

Okay so it is in a specific Microsoft way with talk of a hybrid software plus services approach. But nonetheless it is still talking cloud and has the Azure platform to show it is prepared to put its money where it's mouth is.

Speaking at an event in London today Ballmer again spoke of Microsoft's commitment to the cloud and acknowledged it is changing the industry.

Of course if he says it then others will be influenced positively towards the cloud and there can be no doubt that his recent proclamations about the future will have boosted an entire section of the industry.

The only hesitation that you might have with the whole cloud approach is that as some resellers have found taking the message out to the coalface it can confuse customers. When some channel players are choosing to avoid using the term it make you realise that perhaps there have been too many labels for the public to consume.

Those who don't work in the software world are unlikely to remember much about the ASP model but talk of utility computing has been around for a while and the lines between virtualisation and the cloud are hazy.

One of the fears that there has always been with talking in a language that the customer doesn't fully understand is that it results in the IT industry retreating into a ghetto of its own language. It's rather ironic that a simple word like 'cloud' could be part of that process.

Most of the IT press will report on Ballmer's views but what will be interesting to see is how much broad press coverage he will get. My suspicion is that it won't be very high and any of it will focus on the hardware announcements around the Slate, which is due in the next few weeks. That will be an indication that cloud talk is being done so in an echo chamber and although Ballmer is right to talk about it it's important that he does so in a language that people can understand.

This was first published in October 2010

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