Although today the words “tablet computer” instantly conjure images of the ubiquitous iPad, the tablet itself goes back much, much farther than that; the first patent for an electronic tablet used for handwriting was granted in 1888. Fast forward to 2002, when tablets running a modified version of Windows XP debuted — and immediately flopped.
Early tablets never really quite caught on. They were heavy, there were issues getting desktop software to run smoothly on the hardware, and, perhaps most importantly, there were very few applications available. When Apple overhauled the concept by releasing the iPad, it had already had an App Store up and running for almost two years. Easily downloadable applications to run games, handle productivity tasks, display maps and more had already been built, tested, released, adopted, reviewed and talked about.
However, tablet computing didn’t truly hit its stride until the widespread adoption of cloud computing.
Tablets and apps go together like peanut butter and jelly, but cloud computing is the bread they’re built on. While tablets are an ideal platform for a variety of functions, the small form factor severely limits the amount of on-board storage and processing power that can be packed in. However, that deficit is precisely what makes tablets, and the apps on them, the perfect launching pad for the cloud.
Because vital data can be stored in the cloud, nothing disastrous has occurred if the hardware it runs on is say, mistakenly left behind in an airport terminal or knocked off a kitchen counter. Not only that, but because the cloud is device-agnostic (that is to say, it will run on any platform), it can be accessed anywhere, anytime, by any device, making tablets themselves just the window we use to access the cloud. These days’ business and home users alike expect to be able to access their email accounts from any device, be it a friend’s PC, a smart phone, or a tablet.
The use of cloud computing to provide services to mobile devices also has an impact on a business’s bottom line: cloud computing saves money that would have been allocated to paying a service provider to store the data, maintaining it, providing a backup, and the power bills to run it all. Cloud computing has nearly single-handedly pushed tablet adoption to the enterprise, as workers can now tap into the cloud to increase their productivity. Employees can edit spreadsheets and deliver presentations from anywhere. Instead of being required to work from where their computers are, their computers can now work from where they are. The information we need, and demand, is always on and always available at our touchscreens.
Cloud computing essentially turns any mobile device into a hand-held supercomputer, providing a flexibility that has never been so easily available. Not only can cloud computing shoulder the load of data storage, it’s also being used to off-set processor power, helping conserve battery life. Think of the apps you have installed on your mobile device. Few, if any of them, would be possible without the cloud. The partnership of cloud computing with mobile applications is already a key factor is the movement towards mobile devices, and away from the traditional PC format. The global market for cloud-based mobile apps is projected to increase at a compound annual growth rate of 87 percent between 2010 and 2014.
You need look no farther than Gmail, a cloud-based email service, to understand that the cloud is now a vital cornerstone of our technology — particularly the advancements in our mobile tech. Amazon, Google, Apple, and Microsoft all spent a good portion of 2010 tripping over each other to see who could offer the most complete cloud music service fastest to the millions of data hungry smartphone and tablet users. Mobile use is growing faster than traditional PC use, particularly in countries like India where there are few landlines.
If the question is how has cloud computing changed technology, then the answer is: how hasn’t it?