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A cloud over personal computing

I’ve got a problem with so-called ‘Cloud Software’ (e.g. here). Google has been doing it for a while, and now Microsoft is getting into it: basically it means using huge servers of Google or whoever to run applications and store information – so instead of writing your Word document on your computer, you go online and do it via a browser or something.

OK, actually I have no problem with that aspect of it, and it’s probably very useful to someone who doesn’t have a laptop/computer and so on. So good for ‘cloud computing’ in that respect.

My problem is with the name… you hear people saying ‘The data is in a cloud’, kind of like it’s floating in the ether around earth and only you can get at it. In fact, it’s not in a blinking cloud! It’s in Big IT Company’s servers! And they have access to it and can do what they want with it. And you can be sure they’ll have written something into the TOS to say that they can run various algorithms or whatever to ‘improve your service’.

So if you were writing a book, say, or keeping a diary, or planning a new company, or inventing something, and it was all in the ‘cloud’. You actually have a lot less control over it than you would over your own personal computer. It’s back to the old ‘dumb terminal’ days, and if it becomes widespread, the end of the personal computer.

Or maybe, what will happen is that only people rich enough to pay for their own better computer will not have to rely on these services, and everyone else will have to depend on using these 'clouds'. This would mean less choice and less innovation.

At least if they called it something different like… ‘Central Server Service’, or ‘Store-with-us’… or something more realistic. For me it feels like ‘Cloud computing’ is just used to mask the fact that your data will just be stuck with them, and to make it sound all virtual and ethereal, like the term ‘cyberspace’ which makes it sound like anything you do online is in another world unconnected to this one.

OK, just wanted to get that off my chest… :-)