Lying in bed last night, I had a revelation about where I can see us heading in the next few years. This is mostly reliant on better broadband though (hello NBN!) but regardless I believe my idea is where we are heading.
Firstly, if you use more than 1 PC/device then you’ll know the frustration of having to either do multiple installs of applications you use, or re-do settings. A good example of this is your browser’s favorites/bookmarks list. Sure you can type in the websites, but it’s nice to have a full list to just choose from. To fill this void, services like Delicious http://www.delicious.com/ popped up – your bookmarks in the cloud! Now it doesn’t matter where you are, you can access that same list.
Email went the same way – Outlook is nice to use, but it doesn’t help you when you’re at work and want to check your personal emails. Again, the solution was to have your emails in the cloud and sync all your devices/PC’s to that single point, or even just use a web interface and forget about using any other client.
Twitter is my third example. Personally, at home I use Tweetdeck, work I just use the webpage www.twitter.com and on my iPhone it’s the official Twitter App. They all have different options and strenghts/weaknesses, but there’s no standard to how I’m reading twitter between all these things. For those of you that attened TechEd Australia and didn’t fall asleep in the Keynote, this was one of the points Microsoft made about their future vision – consistency across all platforms.
At the moment, I’m at the stage that if I’m at work, or even in the lounge at home, I can remote desktop to my main desktop with everything set up how I like it. I’d rather do that then have to both installing a bunch of apps yet again, looking for that consistent user experience.
Anyway, I don’t see this consistency stopping with just the apps – I see it as being your whole environment/desktop. I believe this will happen one of two ways:
1. All your settings/apps/etc will be synced to the cloud on a single account. You sign in somewhere, and all these settings get pulled down. It’s almost like a roaming profile, but with a much wider reach. This may be the first step before #2, because there are many limitations with this.
2. Your own virtual desktop in the cloud. Instead of just syncing bits and pieces – your whole desktop can either be hosted in the cloud, or synced there. Differential Syncronisation would make any changes required back and forth. Think of it the same way you do email, but on a larger scope. You sit in front of a new PC, and either download or plug in your desktop – and everything’s there just how you left it. This is already in place in some corporate environments, but as far as I know it’s only doing a remote session to a server. This is the next step, where you have the option of still using your local powerful PC because you’ve got a copy of the desktop on it. If that isn’t needed, then you can still just remotely control your little space in the cloud (again, I’m hoping you see the parallels with email here).
So there you have it. My prediction. I want my personal desktop in the cloud, but also don’t want to be limited by latency or bandwidth issues.
TLDR; A personalised virtualised desktop that downloads locally on demand, with differential synchronisation for changes.