Imagining the Internet Project

 Responses to this 2020 scenario were assembled from Internet stakeholders in the2010 Pew Internet & American Life/Elon University Future of the Internet Survey. Some respondents chose to identify themselves; many did not. We share some—not all—of the responses here. Workplaces of respondents who shared their identity are attributed only for the purpose of indicating a level of expertise; statements reflect personal views. If you would like to participate in the next survey, mail andersj [at] elon dotedu; include information on your expertise. 

8. Responses to a tension pair on the likely future of cloud computing

This page includes responses to a question about people's perceptions of the likely future of cloud computing by 2020. This is one of 10 questions raised by the 2010 Elon University-Pew Internet survey of technology experts and social analysts. Results on this question were first released by Pew Internet Director Lee Rainie and Imagining the Internet Director Janna Anderson in June 2010.

Technology experts and stakeholders say they expect they will ‘live mostly in the cloud’ in 2020 and not on the desktop, working mostly through cyberspace-based applications accessed through networked devices. This will substantially advance mobile connectivity through smartphones and other internet appliances. Many say there will be a cloud-desktop hybrid. Still, cloud computing has many difficult hurdles to overcome, including concerns tied to the availability of broadband spectrum, the ability of diverse systems to work together (interoperability), security, privacy, and quality of service.

A solid majority - 71% - of technology experts and stakeholders participating in the fourth Future of the Internet survey expect that by 2020 most people will access software applications online and share and access information through the use of remote server networks, rather than depending primarily on tools and information housed on their individual, personal computers. They say that cloud computing will become more dominant than the desktop in the next decade. In other words, they anticipate that most users will perform most computing and communicating activities through connections to servers operated by outside firms.

To download the Pew Internet briefing, click here.

To read the responses of anonymous
participants to this question, click here.

A representative sample of for-credit responses is gathered below.

OVERVIEW: Among the most popular cloud services now are social networking sites (the 500 million people using Facebook are being social in the cloud), webmail services like Hotmail and Yahoo mail, microblogging and blogging services such as Twitter and WordPress, video-sharing sites like YouTube, picture-sharing sites such as Flickr, document and applications sites like Google Docs, social-bookmarking sites like Delicious, business sites like eBay, and ranking, rating and commenting sites such as Yelp and TripAdvisor.

Cloud architectures can allow people to easily and conveniently take advantage of larger amounts of storage and computing power; they also offer easy access to centrally located information reachable through any compatible device a user wishes to implement; they can provide a back-up to locally stored data; they allow people to easily share their data with others.

They also open up a wide variety of reliability, interoperability, privacy, and security concerns, as people put their information under the control of strangers in remote location anytime they trust in “the cloud.” For instance, the corporate leaders at Facebook come under fire regularly for changing privacy settings again and again after signing up users who expected to participate under a different and more consumer-centered set of rules.

The highly engaged, diverse set of respondents to an online, opt-in survey included 895 technology stakeholders and critics. The study was fielded by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project and Elon University’s Imagining the Internet Center.

Some 71% agreed with the statement:
“By 2020, most people won't do their work with software running on a general-purpose PC. Instead, they will work in Internet-based applications such as Google Docs, and in applications run from smartphones. Aspiring application developers will develop for smartphone vendors and companies that provide Internet-based applications, because most innovative work will be done in that domain, instead of designing applications that run on a PC operating system.”

Some 27% agreed with the opposite statement, which posited:
“By 2020, most people will still do their work with software running on a general-purpose PC. Internet-based applications like Google Docs and applications run from smartphones will have some functionality, but the most innovative and important applications will run on (and spring from) a PC operating system. Aspiring application designers will write mostly for PCs.”

This does not mean, however, that most of these experts think the desktop computer will disappear soon. The majority sees a hybrid life in the next decade, as some computing functions move towards the cloud and others remain based on personal computers.

Experts generally agreed that cloud computing will continue to expand and come to dominate information transactions because it offers many advantages, allowing users to have easy, instant, and individualized access to tools and information they need wherever they are, locatable from any networked device. Some experts noted that people in technology-rich environments will have access to sophisticated-yet-affordable local networks that allow them to “have the cloud in their homes.”

The need to be hyperconnected is driving change. Most of the experts noted that people want to be able to use many different devices to access data and applications anywhere they happen to be, and – in addition to the many mentions of smartphones driving the move to the cloud – some referred to a future featuring many more different types of networked appliances. A few mentioned the “internet of things” – or a world in which everyday objects have their own IP addresses and can be tied together in the same way that people are now tied together by the internet. So, for instance, if you misplace your TV remote, you can find it because it is tagged and locatable through the internet.

It's already happening. Some experts in this survey said that for many individuals the switch to mostly cloud-based work has already occurred, especially through the use of browsers and social networking applications. They point out that many people today are primarily using smartphones, laptops, and desktop computers to network with remote servers and carry out tasks such as working in Google Docs, following web-based RSS (really simple syndication) feeds, uploading photos to Flickr and videos to YouTube, doing remote banking, buying, selling and rating items at, visiting with friends on Facebook, updating their Twitter accounts and blogging on WordPress.

The desktop will not die. Many of the people who agreed with the statement that cloud computing will expand as the internet evolves said the desktop will not die out but it will be used in new, improved ways in tandem with remote computing. Some survey participants said they expect that a more sophisticated desktop-cloud hybrid will be people’s primary interface with information. They predicted the desktop and individual, private networks will be able to provide most of the same conveniences as the cloud but with better functionality, overall efficiency, and speed. Some noted that general-purpose in-home PC servers can do much of the work locally via a connection to the cloud to tap into resources for computing-intensive tasks. Among the defenses for a continuing domination of the desktop, many said that small, portable devices have limited appeal as a user interface and they are less than ideal for doing work. They also expressed concern about the security of information stored in the “cloud” (on other institutions’ servers), the willingness of cloud operators to handle personal information in a trustworthy way, and other problems related to control over data when it is stored in the cloud, rather than on personally-controlled devices.

Trust is one of many concerns: Some respondents observed that putting all or most of faith in remotely accessible tools and data puts a lot of trust in the humans and devices controlling the clouds and exercising gatekeeping functions over access to that data. They expressed concerns that cloud dominance by a small number of large firms may constrict the internet’s openness and its capacity to inspire innovation – that people are giving up some degree of choice and control in exchange for streamlined simplicity.

A number of people said cloud computing presents difficult security problems and further exposes private information to governments, corporations, thieves, opportunists, and human and machine error.

Survey participants noted that there are also quality of service and compatibility hurdles that must be crossed successfully before cloud computing gains more adopters. Among the other limiting factors the expert respondents mentioned were: the lack of broadband spectrum to handle the load if everyone is using the cloud; the variability of cost and access in different parts of the world and the difficulties that lie ahead before they can reach the ideal of affordable access anywhere, anytime; and complex legal issues, including cross-border intellectual property and privacy conflicts.

Among the other observations made by those taking the survey were: large businesses are far less likely to put most of their work “in the cloud” anytime soon because of control and security issues; most people are not able to discern the difference between accessing data and applications on their desktop and in the cloud; low-income people in least-developed areas of the world are most likely to use the cloud, accessing it through connection by phone.

Respondents’ thoughts

Survey participants were encouraged to explain their choice after they selected one of the tension-pair scenarios. They were asked to “share your view about how major programs and applications will be designed, how they will function, and the role of cloud computing by 2020.” Following is a small selection of the hundreds of written elaborations, organized according to some of the major themes that emerged in the answers:

Cloud computing will continue to expand and dominate users’ information transactions because it offers many advantages, allowing users to have easy instant and individualized access to tools and information they need, wherever they are, locatable from any networked device.

• “We don't have to wait until 2020 for this shift. It's already happened. The browser (a cloud interface) is already by far the most possible PC application, and cloud services like Facebook are the most popular computing services, whether accessed via PCs, netbooks, or smartphones. For consumers, the cloud revolution has already happened.” –Nicholas Carr, writer and consultant whose work centers on information technology, author of “The Big Switch: Rewiring the World, from Edison to Google” and “Does IT Matter?” his next book is “What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains”;

• "It's 2010 and I could already basically use only cloud-based applications on my computer. Local storage is already increasingly irrelevant – I have my all my photos stored on Flickr, my address book is in my Gmail and I've got all my emails stored there as well. Apple will likely move iTunes online in the next few years, and streaming movies from Netflix will eliminate the need to download movie files. I use Microsoft Office and Photoshop out of familiarity as my main two desktop apps, but good alternatives already exist online. I predict most people will do their work on ‘screens connected to the web,’ There won't be any sort of ‘computer’ anymore." –Davis Fields, product manager, Nokia;

• “The cloud (a bad metaphor for broadening understanding of the concept by the way) will make it easier for individuals to have access to their data, applications, and tools ‘anywhere, anytime.’ That ubiquitous functionality will force migration from desktop PCs to the cloud." –Gary Bachula, vice president for external relations for Internet2,

• "This will bring smart machines in market with no software requirement, and no excessive RAM for separate machines, and no heavy hard-disk/data storage. Just a simple machine with WiFi and internet browser.” –Maliha Kabani, president, International Sustainable Development Resource Centre;

• “This is a no-brainer. Today most people already live in the cloud for their mail, agenda, pictures, videos. By 2020, Chrome OS or equivalent will be running on 95% of our ‘access tools’ to the Internet, all of them mobiles, with 1000 Mbps wireless networks available everywhere." –Louis Naugès, president of Revevol, formerly president at Microcost;

• “The cloud-based model is not something new. It has been evolving since the early 1990s, with the major barriers being bandwidth and latency. In addition, the PC as we know it is slowly dying due to increased desire of the marketplace to be mobile. In mobility, the key factors will be the user experience, not the underlying application. Lightweight platforms (both physically and software) are not just a requirement, they will be the expectation of the next generation of users. In addition the lifecycle of applications have become shorter with an increased desire to lower TCO [total cost of ownership] of the applications. In addition, to stay competitive, software firms need to have their users on the latest version of their application. In general most users do not maintain their software in accordance with the application vendors’ release cycles. When executed properly, cloud-based applications can resolve this.” —Tom Golway, Global technology director at Thomson Reuters and former CTO at ReadyForTheNet;

• “First, we have witnessed virtualisation and abstraction for decades now – for example, think about the operating system wars in the 1990s and thereafter. Now we have things like Java, web browsers, etc., that allow for hardware-independent and OS-independent execution of entire application suites. The second reason comes in disguise: with the advent of the 'web of data' (from microformats/RDFa over Atom to Linked Data), which started in the last two years and will continue to be of even greater importance throughout, the abilities and possibilities to generate, share, and reuse content (be it an image or a microblogging post) will increase. Applications are defined as software that is being executed. Software consists (roughly speaking) of code and data. Now, if the code is 'in the cloud' and the data is there as well – what is to be left for the desktop other than a convenient, highly customisable and smart terminal?” —Michael Hausenblas, Web of data researcher at the Linked Data Research Centre, Digital Enterprise Research Institute at the National University of Ireland in Galway;

• “The statement describes how many people are working today. Email has moved thoroughly into the cloud, and as more people work on mobile devices, the logic of keeping files on a server is increasingly compelling. It's getting harder to run complex services like email and web servers on a local computer – for reasons of convenience and security, we're seeing a shift to the cloud. Will everything run on the cloud? Probably not, but that's where the center of gravity is shifting, and will shift – well before 2020.” –Ethan Zuckerman, research fellow, Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School, co-founder of Global Voices;

• “The drive will be to make money, and the most efficient way to do that is to build cloud computing whereby vendors can charge per application's use. This is already happening in the smartphone realm.” —Bill Leikam, Leikam Enterprises, LLC;

• "There is always going to be an optimum 'balance point' that identifies the 'best' mix of local (PC) processing and storage, on-premise (enterprise data center) processing, storage and networking, as well as 'cloud' processing. That balance point changes as the relative cost-effectiveness of processing power, storage, and data communication changes. These three horsemen are in a constant race with one another. At any given point in time, the formula favors a specific mix. In 2020, with true broadband data networking, greater dependability (and availability) of mobile networking and widely distributed data storage, we'll find ourselves being much more 'cloud centric.' Among the first 'victims,' the desktop PC will be rejected for 'thinner clients,' working with private (enterprise clouds) and the more public cloud services." –Rich Miller, managing director and principal, Cumulati, director, Truedomain, advisor at CloudSoft, Genetic Finance, AeroDynamic Solutions, VEXTEC and OptionMonster, board of directors, treasurer, Hybrid Vigor Institute;

Mobile phones and other “pocket” devices are and will continue to be driving people to cloud-based services and applications.

• “No doubt that mobility is the key word. In the future, we will live in a transparent 3D mobile media cloud that surrounds us everywhere. This cloud gives us transparent information and real-time access. The cloud will consist of a white part (trusted and checked information), a grey part (question mark) and a black part (crap information: untrusted, unchecked, violent, fraudulent). In this media cloud, you are boss. The mobile phone will be your key instrument for navigating, for getting safe access, to check and self-check all claims made on the street, in the supermarket, at school, etc." –Marcel Bullinga, futurist and founder of Futurecheck, writing the book “Welcome to the Future Cloud”;

• “The boundary between smartphones and the PC is already blurring by new, better, and more powerful mobile devices coming to the market. People have now the possibility to have the same computing power truly portable in their pockets, which was previously only available them on a bulky desktop or laptop. Being always connected to the services and applications on the Internet is a must and not an option in the future. The always-on connectivity also allows the usage of online applications that weren't previously practical. This does not necessarily replace the need of having local applications on the phones, but the available applications in clouds or generally in the Internet will augment the capabilities of the smartphones.” –Jonne Soininen, head of Internet Affairs and former system engineering manager, Nokia Siemens Networks;

• “The iPhone changed everything. It accelerated the shift to cloud computing and made development of iPhone apps the next big opportunity for aspiring application developers. We may not all be using Google Docs in 2020, but we'll be getting weather, news, and sports on our smartphone, not our PC. And we certainly won't be getting weather, news, and sports on our TV by 2020. This means that Gil Scott-Heron was right when he predicted back in 1970, ‘The revolution will not be televised.’" –Ken Jarboe, president, Athena Alliance, a nonprofit exploring the potential of a global information economy

• “Driven by smart phones, information retrieval and use is increasingly becoming device-independent. 2020 will see a mix of handheld devices, public kiosks, and personal/workplace PCs, all tied into the cloud for most routine apps.” –Reva Basch, self-employed consultant for Aubergine Information Systems (online research expert); active longtime member of The WELL, one of the earliest cyberspace communities; author of many books, including "Researching Online for Dummies";

• “The better and faster the ubiquitous connection, the more widespread cloud computing and services will become. Local storage of applications and data is similar to the way of the old phone switchboard. Its time will come. Security concerns and outages will delay the process, but not stop it. Convenience and subsidized or free offers will drive adoption. The PC model will be replaced with nodes or servers at homes, distributing and syncing content to mobile devices of all shapes and forms.” –Steffan Heuer, US correspondent for Brand Eins (German business magazine);

• “The ‘desktop’ and current operating systems will be quaint metaphors the same way we look back at 8-track tapes, phones with dials, typewriters, etc. Shrinking size of computing machines, embedded smartness in everything from clothes to appliances, and more ubiquitous always-on networked devices will mean we have a whole suite of new integrated technologies that allow us to have access to tools and data when/where we need it – not that we need to go to a place or device to do computing. There ought to be an environment of small virtual applications that we easily swap in and out, rather than monolithic-like, closed, boxed software we are currently used to. The network will be the PC for sure.” –Alan Levine, VP and CTO of The New Media Consortium

• “This further begs the question, ‘What is a general-purpose PC?’ By 2020, the norm will be pocket, powerful computer devices that are networks and utilizing data and applications from the cloud. The benefit of a general-purpose PC will increasingly beg the cost. While currently in a family household there may be multiple general-purpose PCs, in the future the need for a general-purpose PC will be significantly decreased and it will be hard to find more than one in a household – why do I need a general-purpose PC when I can do 90% of my activities on my iTouch, my Wii, and my smart phone? –Robert Cannon, senior counsel for Internet law at the US Federal Communications Commission;

• “Forget PCs: we'll be wanting smaller, truly portable devices to access all the glory in the cloud. Here's another prediction: We won't call it the ‘cloud,’ because it will be everywhere at once – both local and distant, both shapeless and hard-edged. We won't need a word for it.” –Susan Crawford, former member of President Obama’s National Economic Council, now on the law faculty at the University of Michigan

Control over actions on the Internet will change with mass adoption of the cloud. When people store their information and applications on their own computers as they have been up till now, a certain amount of choice and control is distributed to the edges of the network. A switch to the cloud places users’ data and tools behind walls owned by others, and the people in control of cloud companies may take action that constricts individual choice and restricts openness and innovation.

• “Innovation has benefited a great deal from the ability of ordinary computer users to bulk up their computers with a lot of software and interact with it at high speeds using high-quality keyboards and large monitors. That kind of grassroots innovation may go away along with the systems that provide those generous resources. So I suggest that cloud application providers recognize the value of grassroots innovation – following Eric von Hippel's findings – and solicit changes in their services from their visitors. Make their code open source – but even more than that, set up test environments where visitors can hack on the code without having to download much software. Then anyone with a comfortable keyboard can become part of the development team. We'll know that software services are on a firm foundation for future success when each one offers a ‘Develop and share your plug-in here’ link.” –Andy Oram, editor and blogger, O’Reilly Media;

• Clouds are only as useful as connections permit. And right now the big cloud utilities (notably Google and Amazon) are way ahead of the carriers at imagining how connected computing needs to grow. For most carriers the Internet is still just the third act in a ‘triple play,’ a tertiary service behind telephony and television. Worse, the mobile carriers show little evidence that they understand the need to morph from phone companies to data companies – even with Apple’s iPhone success screaming ‘this is the future’ at them. A core ideal for all Internet devices is what Jonathan Zittrain (in his book The Future of the Internet – and How to Stop It) calls generativity, which is maximized encouragement of innovation in both hardware and software. Today generativity in mobile devices varies a great deal. The iPhone, for example, is highly generative for software, but not for hardware (only Apple makes iPhones). And even the iPhone’s software market is sphinctered by Apple’s requirement that every app pass to market only through Apple’s ‘store,’ which operates only through Apple’s iTunes, which runs only on Macs and PCs (no Linux or other OSes). On top of all that are Apple’s restrictive partnerships with AT&T (in the U.S.) and Rogers (in Canada). While AT&T allows unlimited data usage on the iPhone, Rogers still has a 6Gb limit. Bottom line: Handhelds will be no smarter than the systems built to contain them. The market will open widest – and devices will get smartest – when anybody can make a smartphone (or any other mobile device), and use it on any network they please, without worrying about data usage limits or getting hit with $1000+ bills because they forgot to turn off ‘push notifications’ or ‘location services’ when they roamed out of their primary carrier’s network footprint. In other words, the future will be brightest when mobile systems get Net-native.” –Doc Searls, fellow, Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School, fellow at Center for Information Technology and Society, University of California-Santa Barbara;

• “Like anything, it will be a cost-benefit exercise: What do I gain from accessing the cloud, over and above what I could do if I just rely on my own desktop and programming skills? From the perspective of the provider of research services, the cloud, in theory, promises a level playing field. However, there are two factors that might work against this. Individual developers of research services will still need to work with standards and technologies that are being developed by the big players e.g. Google and increasingly Microsoft. The cloud will possibly eventually be dominated by large corporations such as these. As long as these standards are open and the cloud software free so that an application developer could build the cloud infrastructure themselves if they wanted to (but note: they probably wouldn't want to, and would rather focus on the application layer which is the research service) then this should be OK. If the cloud gets monopolised in the same way that the desktop has been, then this will inhibit the innovative potential of the cloud. So, we need the cloud to be built using free and open source software." –Robert Ackland, fellow in the Research School of Social Sciences at The Australian National University;

• “PC applications are inefficient and resource intensive. I see most ‘everyday’ applications moving to the web, at greatly reduced cost for service providers. However, if we continue moving towards app-store mentalities that require unique development for each platform, I'm not sure that web service models are viable. We must double-down on open standards that have wide vendor support." —Fred Stutzman, Ph.D candidate, researcher and teaching fellow, School of Information and Library Science, UNC-Chapel Hill;

• “By 2020 we'll still be feeling pulled in two directions: wanting the convenience of the cloud and the enhanced privacy, security, and speed of the local. But the local won't be confined to the desktop and general-purpose PCs. That paradigm will be exploded by ubiquitous computing, IPv6, and the primacy of mobile broadband, which will define the local in terms of our personal space. Cloud computing will become important enough to transfer internet gate-keeping powers from ISPs to firms like Google and Apple. By 2020, Google's vast array of well-made (and still largely free) products will create walled gardens based on customer consent rather than lock-in. The old-fashioned concepts of the desktop and general-purpose PC will fade away, hastening the demise of Microsoft, which will continue to lose share in growth sectors like mobile broadband. The iPhone and App Store will be the models for another kind of gate-keeping, in the local space – not in the cloud through MobileMe, because Apple's consumer appeal will remain rooted in its physical products. Apple's influence over application developers will continue to cross back and forth over the line between opportunity and exploitation." –David Ellis, director of communication studies at York University, Toronto, and author of the first Canadian book on the roots of the Internet;

• “The idea that application developers will flock to the cloud is a no-brainer. Talent moves naturally to opportunity. The evolutionary migration from closed-system computing on isolated PCs to cloud-based software, databases, and gaming will continue full speed ahead. But, in ways not fully grasped by the major players – Microsoft, Google, AT&T, Sony, Yahoo – the cloud offers limitless potential for innovation by creative thinkers who operate outside the stockholder-driven mindset of corporate Internet giants and communications behemoths. If their access to networking power is not restricted by the corporate quest for full control of the web, these apps makers will create entirely new ways to float in the cloud. Yet, we as a people should approach with caution: The cloud reflects the managed drift of society into tightly controlled, centralized systems, where the individual is subservient to the collective – a thing worthy of caution, and perhaps resistance.” –Ebenezer Baldwin Bowles, founder and managing editor of, an independent online journal and cyber community with a non-commercial presence on the world wide web since July of 2000; writer, activist and teacher

Cloud computing presents security problems and further exposes private information to governments, corporations, thieves, opportunists, and human and machine error.

• “Trust not the cloud for reliability, security, privacy.” –Barry Wellman, professor of sociology and Netlab director, University of Toronto;
• "We'll have a huge blow up with terrorism in the cloud and the PC will regain its full glory. People will lose confidence as cyber attacks cripple major systems. In fact, cloud will be there but we'll be stuck in hybrid mode for the next 40 years as people live with some level of fear." –R. Ray Wang, partner in The Altimeter Group, blogger on enterprise strategy;

• “I have a lot of faith in general-purpose boxes. That said, I also believe that convenience will drive us to use special-purpose devices for things that are used frequently. I've lived through several bounces of the centralized vs. decentralized bouncing ball of computer and networking technology. I don't believe that this is a particularly important issue in itself. Rather I believe that the more important issues are those of reliability of systems and data, the responsibility for them, and the rules of privacy and security that protect people and their data." –Karl Auerbach, chief technical officer at InterWorking Labs, Inc.;

• “We'll just barely be using clouds by 2020. I think a big issue will be information privacy. How do you really control access to your valuable data if it is in the cloud? How do you retrieve your prized novel or your business records if the cloud fails?” –Craig Partridge, chief scientist, BBN Technologies, adjunct professor of computer science, University of Michigan;

• “Expect a major news event involving a cloud catastrophe (security breach or lost data) to drive a reversion of these critical resources back to dedicated computing." –Nathaniel James, Mozilla Foundation, formerly executive director, OneWebDay;

• “Those users relying on mobile devices for their access (including substantial chunks of the developing world) may well be pushed towards cloud computing by necessity rather than choice." –Axel Bruns, associate professor, Media & Communication, Queensland University of Technology and general editor of Media and Culture journal;

• It will not replace the PC, but the desire of everyone to access information from anywhere using any device drives toward the cloud. The impact on privacy may give us pause. There are almost no protections for sensitive information stored in the cloud. Privacy rules were designed with the assumption that privacy protections were most reasonable at the ends (Electronic Communications Privacy Act). Reform efforts, we hope, will be successful.” –Jerry Berman, founder and chair of the board of the Center for Democracy and Technology, an Internet public policy organization; president of the Internet Education Foundation

People will generally not be able to distinguish the difference between when they are working within their local device and when they are accessing the cloud.

• “It's not really an either/or question. By 2020, people will work on the desktop and in the cloud, never really knowing where their data ‘lives.’ They'll just expect that if they have it at home, it will be available on their tablet machine in Starbucks.” –Charlie Martin, correspondent and science and technology editor, Pajamas Media, technical writer, PointSource Communications, correspondent,;

• “In the future we will neither know, nor care where our data resides. In fact, our data will be distributed in the cloud, where it can be accessed any time, any place, on any device, by any authorized user.” –Hal Varian, chief economist of Google and on the faculty at the University of California-Berkeley:

• “The line will blur sufficiently that people won't need to know the difference, and for many, care." –Chris DiBona, open source and public sector engineering manager at Google;

• “We'll see a clear integration between local and remote online places that we will use depending on what's most appropriate and effective, no matter the platform whether it's on your desk, on your lap or in your hand. The big thing here is that we won't make that decision: the platform and the apps will.” –Neville Hobson, head of social media in Europe for WCG Group and principal of;

• “The traditional PC is a transitional form. A fish-shaped thing with both gills and legs. Too expensive. Too complicated. And too isolated to be interesting over the long haul. There may well be ‘general-purpose PCs’ doing all kinds of generally useful things, but they'll be overwhelmed by lightweight, connected devices of many shapes and kinds accessing applications and data in the cloud. Many of these may be able to work locally for those times that the cloud is inaccessible (and those cases will never quite disappear) but transitions will be seamless and nobody – with the possible exception of Microsoft – will care or even notice if they're living in the cloud or on the desktop.” –Walt Dickie, executive vice president and chief technology officer for C&R Research;

• “Long before 2020, the complexity that individuals face of managing information across many devices will become burdensome, while the techniques for providing meaningful interfaces to vast data infrastructures that companies like Google and Apple develop will improve, so that the cloud will be taken for granted.” –John Monberg, assistant professor, Department of Writing, Rhetoric, and American Cultures, Michigan State University;

• “When the hard disk on my teenage daughter's computer crashed, we went about assessing how to recover. My first question, ‘What files were local on this machine and what files were stored on the web?’ didn't make immediate sense to her. She thinks first in terms of the activities she does (homework, Facebook, Gmail, listening to her iPod) and not in terms of where the files are stored (as it turns out: on the school server,,, and synced copies on disk and iPod). By 2020 most people will work and think this way. Some applications, such as editing HD video, will not want to have communication latency in the inner loop, but most applications will, and the users won't care how they are implemented.” –Peter Norvig, engineering director, Google, former division chief of computational sciences at NASA;

• “Regardless, most people won't even notice.” –Esther Dyson, founder and CEO of EDventure, investor and serial board member, journalist and commentator on emerging digital technology;

The evolution of desktop and cloud-based computing will continue in tandem.

• “To some extent this is the wrong question. We went through the concept of large public centralized utilities to solve all problems by everyone in the ’70s. Individuals need local tools to deal with their own creative and problem-solving abilities and to prepare locally materials that could contribute to group-oriented systems. Go back to the concept of a Memex system from the ’40s and Ted Nelson’s original concept of hypertext in the ’60s (not the limited version we have on the web today). We have not scratched the surface of giving individuals the ability to do ‘structural modeling’ beyond simple statistical approaches. The PC's have just started to reach the point where they can really do this and when you add the artistic elements of visual creations this will be better served on the local computer than in a remote cloud. Have you tried to upload 100 gigabytes over most cable connections for individuals today? The communication trunks are still and will be the bottleneck for individuals." –Murray Turoff, professor of computer and information sciences, New Jersey Institute of Technology;

• “This is not an either/or proposition, with the rise of ‘low’-end applications like Google Docs, email, and bookmarks on the cloud we have also seen dramatic increases in the usefulness and abilities of video and audio applications on the desktop. Both platforms will continue to evolve in concert with each other, and over time they will blend together more so than today." –Mike Nelson, visiting professor, Georgetown University; previously director of Internet technology and strategy at IBM and formerly on the White House technology team in the Clinton-Gore administration

• “The question won't really make sense in 2020. With HTML5, we are already seeing the emergence of a hybrid form of application that loads from the Web, but stores state information and data on the local computer. So the answer to this question is really, ‘both.’” –Jeremy Malcolm, project coordinator, Consumers International, and co-director of the Internet Governance Caucus;

• “The most innovative apps are more likely to come from the web, er, cloud, mostly because of their cost and delivery models, enhanced visibility, etc., rather than anything intrinsic to cloud. I also believe there will be some OS and local apps residing on the desktop/palmtop based on speed, latency, availability, privacy issues, etc. But the balance for applications will swing more distinctly towards the cloud.” –Gerrit Huizenga, chair, Vendor Advisory Council, Linux Foundation, architect, IBM;

• “There remains a set of huge issues for ‘pure’ cloud computing, notably speed-of-light limits on data transmission that will ultimately limit virtualisation. It will make sense to offload certain tasks to the cloud, but other elements will still be best-performed ‘in situ.’ There's also a huge imperative for continued use of PCs in enterprise and education which will change only slowly, although again they will exploit cloud apps where appropriate – although possibly ‘private cloud’ rather than ‘public Internet cloud.’” –Dean Bubley, founder, Disruptive Analysis, an independent technology analysis and consulting firm;

• “The correct answer is ‘both.’ I do not think by 2020 people will want to give up the autonomy and control they get by having software and data on their own device, but many of the services that we will expect (just as we ‘expect’ Google today) will require the power of a cloud supercomputer. I do not believe that a browser will be adequate as a window into the full Internet experience. But I do think that the PC as the central platform that defines the consumer experience will be eroded (but not displaced) by mobile devices.” –David D. Clark, senior research scientist, MIT, an Internet pioneer who has been active in building its architecture since 1981, now working on the next-generation Internet;

• “It will be a mix of the two – smartphones as local-app platforms, alongside notebooks and desktops. The cloud is just too brittle, as Sidekick owners discovered.” –Jamais Cascio, fellow with the Institute for the Future and the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies and world-builder-in-chief for;

• “We'll operate both in the cloud and in ‘local’ devices, but rather than general-purpose PCs – which will still exist, to be sure – I expect to be using devices that do one or two tasks and not much else, or a set of components that might add up to a greatly extended version of today's PCs. They'll include what we call mobile phones today, and many other things.” –Dan Gillmor, director of the Knight Center for Digital Media Entrepreneurship at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication and author of “We the Media”;

• “In the future we'll all be amphibians, moving from one terrain to the other according to which is most favorable for what we want to do. For reasons of privacy, and because local apps generally are both more powerful and more customizable, some important things will remain on the desktop. But the convenience of the cloud will encourage other activities to migrate away from the desktop. On balance more time is likely to be spent in the cloud, but for concentrated bursts of heavy work, the desktop will remain predominant." –Mark Edwards, software innovator, co-director of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society and senior advisor to the dean of Harvard Divinity School;

• “Every part of the network will get smarter, but the desktop will lose ground. Clients will get thinner but not anorexic.” –Stewart Baker, general counsel to the U.S. Internet Service Provider Association, former general counsel for the US National Security Agency and first leader of the policy directorate of the Department of Homeland Security;

The current mainstream discussion on cloud computing is not figuring in the expected development of bringing the “cloud to the desktop.” It also does not always consider the potential of the internet of things, which includes a variety of networked smart appliances in smaller home and small-business networks that may also be tied into larger networks.

• “Neither of the choices frames the most probable reality. A main driving factor for cloud computing today is the relative difficulty of installing new software and updates on the desktop. Hence, people are choosing cloud not because of it being better for the task at hand, but for convenience; an example of a classical Christensen's disruptive innovation through the low market. I believe that the situation at the desktop is going to drastically change with Google Chrome OS and other, even more native ‘cloud desktop’ operating systems. They will ‘bring the cloud to the desktop,’ so to speak, providing the same convenience as the cloud but with better functionality, overall efficiency, and speed. Of course, such a ‘desktop cloud’ will still tap into real cloud resources for computing-intensive tasks, but those are relatively rare for the average computer user. A big issue in this space is also assurance about access to the data.” –Pekka Nikander, Ericsson visiting senior research scientist, Helsinki Institute for Information Technology, chief scientist, Ericsson Research Nomadiclab;

• “By 2020 the computational hardware that we see around us in our daily lives will all be peripherals – tablets, goggles, earphones, keyboards, 3D printers, and the like. The computation driving the peripherals will go on in any of a million different places, from local networks that run on your desk and in your room and building and on up." –Fred Hapgood, technology author and consultant, moderator of the Nanosystems Interest Group at MIT in the 1990s, he has written a number of articles for Wired, Discover and other tech publications;

• “This either/or question doesn't work for me. By 2020, a ‘general-purpose PC’ and a ‘smart phone’ will have converged into a range of general-purpose interactive connection devices, and ‘things’ will have acquired agency by becoming smart. I don't have time to track the source, but I recently saw a comment that what was once a building-sized device now fits in the hand. And what now fits in the hand will soon fit into something the size of blood vessel. Anyone or anything will be able to generate ‘cloud-like’ functions that simulate’ what if?’ questions at any level of scale. Applications will emerge in relation to situations and experience, not by reference to platforms.” –Garth Graham, board member of Telecommunities Canada, promoting local community network initiatives;

• "PC operating systems won't be the same [in 2020]. People will have the cloud in their homes. Storage arrays based on OpenSolaris and ZFS with RAIDZ and deduplication are just beginning to appear in geek homes. Virtualization environments such as XEN and Virtualbox have been growing in use to the point where non-geek users have this at home. In 2020 you will see people running a virtual desktop with virtual storage that resides in their own home. Externally, this won't seem a lot different from someone who only uses Google apps from all their devices. Lots of people will like this model, but will install home servers because they fear the risk of all their data being in someone else's hands.” –Michael Dillon, network consultant at BT and a career professional in IP networking since 1992, member of BT’s IP Number Policy Advisory Forum;

• “I have selected the non-cloud response not because I don't believe the cloud will be pervasive by 2020 – it will – but because some of the implications of the answer (and especially 'applications running on smartphones') will not be the primary instantiation. The idea of dividing the world of 2020 between smartphones and general-purpose PCs is absurd. We will be connecting to sound information and services with a variety of devices in our homes (from radios, televisions, appliances, etc.) and on our persons (audio, Skype-like, chat, videophone, camera, etc). Moreover, it is very unlikely that we will trust all, or even the bulk, of our data to the cloud. By 2020 we will have been disappointed enough times by online information services losing data, claiming ownership of data, sharing data without permission, etc., that we will keep our own data in our on in-home data store – a personal web server – and IT will be available (via the cloud) to our personal devices. In other words, we will all have the ultimate general-purpose PC in our homes, and much (if not more) of our data processing will take place on THAT, via the cloud.” –Stephen Downes, senior research officer, National Research Council of Canada, and specialist in online learning, new media, pedagogy and philosophy;

Cloud computing will not really take off until...

• “It will be helped if we can get more spectrum out into the market. A decade is a long time in internet time, which makes it hard to predict, but I suspect we will live primarily in the cloud. A lot depends on our ability to make more spectrum available for wireless broadband – probably the most important broadband-related policy issue.” –Thomas Lenard, president and senior fellow, Technology Policy Institute, author of many books including “Net Neutrality or Net Neutering: Should Broadband Services Be Regulated?”;

• “The scarcity of spectrum will mean that offline operation will continue to be as necessary in the future as it is today. Technological advances that allow more ubiquitous access are offset by increased consumption by an ever-growing population of internet users.” –Bill Woodcock, research director, Packet Clearing House, vice president of operations, Netsurfer Publishing, technical advisory board, Switch and Data / PAIX, co-founder and technical advisor, Nepal Internet Exchange and Uganda Internet Exchange;

• “Significant security, quality of service, and compatibility hurdles will have to be leapt first.” –Robert G. Ferrell, information systems security professional, U.S. Government, former systems security specialist, National Business Center, U.S. Department of the Interior;

• “The barriers to this evolution are many, but mainly inertia (we've been living based on ownership for the whole life) and rights (privacy, security, intellectual property, etc.) are amongst the ones that could be considered as more relevant." –Ismael Peña-López, lecturer, School of Law and Political Science, Open University of Catalonia, researcher, Internet Interdisciplinary Institute;

• “This reminds me of a correspondence regarding change that I had with Bill Baker (then of Microsoft), his point: ‘The future comes slower than we think yet change happens much quicker.’ The concept that the 'network is the computer' has been around since the last century when we first tried to move out of the glass room to what is now the 'cloud.' Porting existing applications to a new platform is unlikely to be good enough to overcome the inertia, particularly in businesses, of the status quo. The cloud will succeed when it does something different, not something better.” –Anthony Power, vice president, Studeo, author of What’s Still Missing from Web 2.0

• “The line is very blurry between the desktop and the cloud. There is a point of ‘cloud singularity’ – where access is available everywhere (via wireless, 24/7), the cost is reasonable (essentially = LAN) and there are no performance penalties for the cloud (user interface, responsiveness, capacity) – at that point it will not matter where your storage or computing resides. We might get there in 10 years but it is unlikely.” –Glenn Edens, technology strategy consultant, formerly senior vice president and director of Sun Microsystems Laboratories, chief scientist at HP, president AT&T Strategic Ventures;

There are and will be divides. Cloud computing acceptance will vary, depending upon people’s location, access, needs, and motivation.

• “While there is a long way to go before cloud computing becomes an acceptable corporate solution anywhere outside of a company firewall, the PC as a device is reaching its end in the home market, being replaced by mobile devices (witness Gen Y use of PCs vs. mobiles).” –Ian Peter, Ian Peter and Associates, Internet Mark 2 Project, active leader in Internet Governance Caucus and Internet Governance Forum

• “To a large degree this depends on where you are, geographically and demographically. Outside the US and most developed nations, the cloud will be the fundamental vehicle. Within the US, with its (by then) nearly 40-year foundation of desktop (and corporate internal) computing, the cloud will have various values, probably more useful to individuals than to institutions, although that too will depend on the changing structure of business." –Gary Arlen, president, Arlen Communications, founder of The Internet Alliance and member of the board for NTN Buzztime Inc.;

• “Business models will provide premium services and applications on the cloud for monetization. However most of the world population will continue to use pirated software on their desktops and alternative/free cloud services.” –Seiiti Arata, Internet Governance Forum secretariat, United Nations;

• “Hype runs rampant once again, with bold statements that most people will have something because some small, elite, leading-edge group has it today. Ten years may seem soon, but anyone honestly looking at the adoption of technology for the past three decades will admit that things take time until a majority of us have anything. By 2020, what's most likely is a splintering of people further into haves and have-nots. Even in a developed country such as the US, one in seven households don't have regular food as of 2008, worse than the one in nine households in 2007. Worldwide, an estimated 2 billion people are similarly situated. Income disparity is also widening. So, how will such a rapid shift to widespread internet access happen with such basic needs unmet by so many people?” –Dan Ness, principal analyst, MetaFacts;

• “Using the cloud requires broadband access. If we really want a smart and productive America, we've got to ensure that citizens have broadband access as a civil right, not just an economic choice. Populations that don't make it to the cloud are going to be a severe disadvantage. In turn, that's going to drag down productivity overall.” –Tim Marema, vice president at the Center for Rural Strategies,

• “Different markets and different parts of the world – and different types of communities – may find themselves choosing different mixes of tools for different reasons. Some bandwidth reasons, some for privacy reasons, and perhaps other reasons. Internet usage and habits are not globally uniform by any means and they certainly won't be by 2020. It's possible that the rise of cloud computing may lead to greater segmentation between those who function in the cloud and those who don't. Or smart enterprises will develop applications, software, and devices that bridge those two worlds so that they can communicate and collaborate with one another. Plus you are making assumptions about desktops. Many parts of the world will be using other kinds of devices to go online – many of them mobile – but may still not be reliant on the cloud. The PC is just a phase. Much of our computing then will be done by a whole range of devices – appliances, vehicles, clothing, accessories, what have you. But that doesn't mean that the computing done on these devices will necessarily reside in the cloud. It could reside on a local server in the home or office, for instance. For places where electricity and bandwidth are not so reliable that would make more sense." –Rebecca MacKinnon, visiting fellow at Princeton University’s Center for Information Technology Policy, co-founder of Global Voices Online and board member at Global Network Initiative;

The very essence of the idea of cloud computing continues to evolve, as does every aspect of the internet; it is difficult to predict what will happen because there are continuous adjustments to new realities and limitations, but we know that the drive to gain access to information everywhere and the rapid evolution of the tools to do this will continue to bring massive change.

• “The tension with cloud computing or client versus server side will always persist. I cannot tell which will advance more quickly, although I see positive signs from the crypto-in-the-cloud movement that makes this issue less relevant. However, recall that a lot of mundane tasks can still benefit from a local copy, and some people are always reluctant to submit their information. Persistent security breaches and data leaks will only reinforce this skepticism. Personally, I would like to see more in terms of always-on browserver technology that create a space for a third kind of relationship where everyone has their own cloud. Opera's browser has led the way in many innovations in the past, and they are moving in this direction. I wonder whether others will follow suit and lead to a broad adoption of this.” –Bernie Hogan, research fellow, Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford;

• “As the capability develops for ‘power’ in increasingly mobile devices, so does the risk of loss. It is that risk which will enable cloud, the ability to both access and protect from the trials of single-point-of-failure hardware that will drive adoption of cloud applications. However, such applications will NOT look like Google Docs, but more collaborative in nature. Google Docs is an attempt to mimic the PC model of standalone; cloud applications need to bring in more collaborative and integrated natures to social constructs.” –Dave McAllister, director, open source and standards (OSS), standards, Adobe Systems, owner of OSB Technologies;

• “The question has more to do with how most apps will be developed and deployed. The answer to that, as far as I'm concerned, is through web apps that run in a browser-like environment. The simple reason is that computing is becoming more social, and when it comes to social applications, it's a lot harder to make assumptions about the technology or apps that are available to any given user. The way around this is to deploy apps through the web – that only require a net connection to function or operate. In this sense, it seems unavoidable that most apps will become more ‘webby’ – though there will still no doubt be ‘native-only’ apps that stick around, like Mac OS 9 apps or DOS apps. It's just that the network is now becoming a computing resource that developers take for granted; without a connection, an application is essentially dead. Given that, how can you resist a complete move to web-driven and delivered apps?" –Chris Messina, open web advocate at Google and a board member at the OpenID Foundation;

• "Personal computers are an intermediate form. They are obsolescent. Once virtual keyboards and eye-oriented ‘screens’ become more common, PC's will be relegated to history." –Bud Levin, program head/psychology, Blue Ridge Community College and vice chairman of the FBI/PFI Futures Working Group;

• “We are moving to almost a science-fiction-type world in which we communicate with one another, and have access to our own past thoughts, wherever and whenever we desire. The device will be more and more like a ‘Dick Tracy’ watch with access to the world's data, and other people, with us at all times. Privacy will be an issue, as will how to make money from our original thoughts, yet we should be able to work this out. It will mean a breakdown or change to existing copyright laws, etc. The younger generation does not even worry about this; they share just as they were taught in kindergarten. Look at shared software, etc. Lawyers will delay this transformation since they are worried about their financial future in such a new world of ubiquitous information and collaborative work.” –Ed Lyell, professor of business and economics, Adams State College, designer and consultant for using computers and telecommunications to improve school effectiveness through the creation of 21st century learning communities;

• “Ubiquitous connectivity advances ubiquitous computing. Geometric increases in broadband throughput, computer processing power and capacity combined with amazing advances in nanotechnology and microminiaturization of electronic components will, over the next ten years, permit communities to create virtualized spaces using something like super-RFID chips to monitor and connect personal devices for communications and computing. I'm thinking of spaces where something like an open, non-proprietary ‘Second Life’ merges seamlessly with real life. So by all means I choose ‘the cloud,’ and much, much more." –Frank Paynter, Sandhill Technologies LLC;

• “Set aside the concept of ‘smartphones.’ In 2020, they will be viewed in the same way we look at the early brick cell phones – obsolete, foundational and good for a laugh. A new paradigm will be in place that will integrate personal communications, personal computing and personal who knows what. Look at how the iPhone has changed the mobile landscape in just a couple of years. We will definitely see two or three such paradigm shifts by 2020." —Dave Rogers, managing editor, Yahoo Kids at Yahoo, principal, UXCentric, Inc.;

• "The trend in computing is for smaller devices that run faster and more cheaply. Computers will be implanted in the body, and thought interfaces are becoming more practical. This is already a reality for some prosthetic devices. As far as cloud computing goes, we will be using encrypted high-security resources in the cloud, dedicated to our own purposes and certified for privacy." –Hal Eisen, senior engineering manager at;

• “As more and more people get comfortable with the idea of the cloud, and the enhancements to the mobile access points improve driving greater day-to-day efficiencies, more people will seek to create for and build systems for the cloud. We will experience amazing results for business, relationships and society as a result.” –Brian O'Shaughnessy, head of global communications at Skype; formerly director of global communications and public affairs, Google, director of corporate communications, VeriSign, director of policy communications, Network Solutions and director of public policy, Internet Alliance;

Following is a larger sampling of the responses from respondents who chose to take credit for their remarks in the survey; some are the longer versions of expert responses that were already mentioned above. About two-thirds of respondents chose to elaborate on the question but many of them remained anonymous (anonymous responses are published on a separate page).

“The primary driver of the move of consumers and some corporations to cloud-based computing will be economic (cloud-based services and devices will be both cheaper and require less management than ‘traditional’ solutions). The biggest obstacles will be security and service availability but the former will be addressed by competitive pressures while the latter can only be solved through federal policies and regulations.” –Mark Gibbs, contributing editor and columnist for Network World, consultant, author, speaker and business founder;

“The world is moving into the cloud – but there are two possible futures. There is a battle going on to determine the platform on which these new Internet services will be built. On one side, those who would have everything built with technology they own and control – be it Microsoft Silverlight or Adobe AIR, locked-down mobile phone platforms or patent-restricted pay-to-play video formats. On the other side is the open, participatory, collaborative, decentralised web, built on open standards on top of which anyone can innovate. At Mozilla, we want the open Web to win." –Gervase Markham, a programmer for the Mozilla Foundation since 1999, based in the UK; won a Google/O’Reilly Open Source Award as the “best community activist” in 2006;

“I doubt that by 2020 we'll be so heavily tilted toward cloud-based computing, but I'm quite sure we'll be more so than we are now. The question is not so much cloud versus desktop (a binary opposition perhaps well suited to blue sky brainstorming but not much else?) as it is about the device(s) we will use. For all the current buzz about a tablet coming from Apple, I expect there to be more convergence between large screens and the cloud. Desktops, that is, literally, desktops, will have large screens embedded, too, and it will be far more economical and energy efficient, not to mention simpler from a user standpoint, to use less hardware where screens are embedded and to provide a seamless user experience by tapping into a cloud.” –Steve Jones, professor of communication and associate dean of liberal arts and sciences and co-founder of the Association of Internet Researchers, University of Illinois-Chicago;

“The tide is turning, or maybe the cloud is forming as we write. The PC is dominant today, but great strides are being made to enable the cloud and make it more accessible to general population, offering more functionality. Greater access to broadband technologies with continue the shift as we will not be constrained by the ‘last mile,’ allowing quicker, safer information transport. This will be an economic shift from manufacturing and software development as well as a functional shift, and will provide many access to a greater array of tools at a better price point. This change will not be embraced by all, but will happen and will happen by 2020.” –Michael Burns, co-founder and principal, i5 web works;

“Most people will work in the cloud by the end of this decade. However, there will be much greater demand for privacy and security controls and general distrust of companies who hold too much information. Cloud-based applications will not be limited to specific companies, but will work seamlessly among various providers. Consumers will control their information and will be able to pass it from provider or application to another hosted by another provider effortlessly. We will also see many mini-clouds – networks setup within homes and organizations that host applications that can be accessed by authorized individuals from anyplace with an Internet connection.” –Jamie Wilson, writer/journalist and Web application developer

“Mobility and access are key. People growing up today make less and less distinction between work and home. For them, managing multiple environments is just a big pain, and drives them away from information silos, which makes management of information in the cloud very attractive. In addition, the increasing pain of losing information to poor IT management practices at home (no backups, lousy indexing) will make the cloud ever more attractive to people who cannot be bothered to do PC maintenance.” —Patrick Schmitz, semantic services architect, University of California Berkeley

“There will be more mobile devices, such as smart phones, some of which will be the new kinds of general-purpose platforms. The PC and the Internet taught us the value of generality and flexibility. Given the appeal of the cloud, I think the split may have less to do with what is innovative than with what we want most direct control over. We'll think more about what kinds of info we want where.” –Marjorie Blumenthal, associate provost, Georgetown University; previously founder and director of the National Academies of Sciences Computer Science and Telecommunications Board;

“While we have a reliance on PC-based applications today, it is hard to imagine that our access to increasingly constant and interruptable Internet will not transform our work habits permanently in favor or Web-based applications.” —Jeff Walpole, CEO and co-founder, Phase2 Technology;

“The next billion people to take up smartphones will be predominantly those at the lower end of the socioeconomic scale, and they will use those phones to access Internet services, whether or not that is what they call it. Standalone devices will continue to be important, but the cloud is increasingly dominant, particularly for mobile devices.” —Howard Rheingold, visiting lecturer, communication, Stanford University, lecturer, media, University of California Berkeley School of Information, author of “Tools for Thought” and “Smart Mobs”;

“My answer – personal PCs – is more a hope than an expectation.” —Barry Wellman, professor of sociology and Netlab Director, University of Toronto;

“To turn from the cloud would be to turn from the Web, to turn from Web 2.0 and beyond. I don’t see it happening. As cloud applications increasingly harness the value of social computing, collective production and targeted social consumption, those who retreat to the solitude of the desktop (and some very productive people will do so) will give up a great deal. There are risks in the cloud – I have personally lost data collected and stored on cloud start-ups – but the big players are already ‘too big to fail.’ Our broad social interest in maintaining these aspects of the cloud infrastructure will localize the risk so that most users will recognize and realize the benefits.” —Jim Witte, director and professor, Center for Social Science Research, George Mason University;

“Today most of our waking hours are spent away from a PC. Mobile devices will allow computation to improve all of that time.” –Galen Hunt, principal researcher at Microsoft Research Operating Systems Group, leader of the Menlo and Singularity projects;

“Privacy concerns will prevent the cloud from 'taking over' but cloud use will ultimately be predicted by the industry leaders such as Microsoft and Apple.” –Stephan Adelson, president of Adelson Consulting Services and founder of Internet Interventions, a company that promotes health and patient support;

“The emerging computer environment will be a hybrid, probably encompassing factors we cannot even imagine yet. We will do some things in the cloud, for convenience – as soon as privacy and security concerns are properly addressed. But many applications will still be PC-oriented. We cannot be tied to the Internet only. Some people in the world still do not have clean water or adequate food. People in those and other in-between areas will still need computers even though they do not always have Internet access – do not always have electricity. Internet access is NOT the only problem facing the world, and Internet access will NOT solve all of the world's problems either. AND, believe it or not... some people will choose not to be online all of the time." –Ginger Paque, co-director of Internet Governance Caucus and leader in Diplo Foundation Internet Governance Capacity Building Programme;

“I sincerely hope people start working in and generally leveraging the cloud. The Internet and the applications that run on it should be about as mundane and utilitarian as the electricity and other basic public services that come out of my walls/taps, etc." –Joshua Freeman, director of interactive services, Columbia University Information Technology;

“For years, people have predicted that software will migrate to the Internet and general-use PCs will die out. It hasn't happened, and if it does, the transition will take a long time. Consumer behavior is hard to predict, and people tend to hold onto technology they are comfortable with.” –Andrew Crain, vice president and deputy general counsel at Qwest Communications;

“The cloud provides equivalent or superior quality applications at zero cost. How can software giants like Microsoft even compete?” –Mary Joyce, co-Founder,;

“What do I know? I work from a desktop, I do not go to meetings, my commute to work is a five-minute walk, and I do not have a PDA. For people who have long subway commutes and who spend their workdays drifting from meeting to meeting, maybe this cloud computing PDA stuff makes sense. But if not, not.” —John Pike, director of, former director of cyberstrategy and other projects for the Federation of American Scientists;

“The date here seems too pessimistic. Much of the work I do today is already ‘in the cloud.’ There will always be room for ‘thick clients’ but even systems that are running heavy processes locally will also be drawing on the wider network.” –Alex Halavais, professor and social informatics researcher, Quinnipiac University; explores the ways in which social computing influences society, author of “Search Engine Society”;

“I can't agree with either of these statements. The change from centralized to decentralized computing is one that has occurred before (think mainframes and terminals, then desktop PCs), and I think it will continue to come and go. Certainly, at the moment, we are trending strongly toward Internet-based applications, but I would be very surprised if that trend continues without changing for the next ten years (that's a couple of lifetimes in computer terms). I imagine that we will continue to move toward Internet-based applications until something happens, either disaster or new invention, that prompts the pendulum to swing once more the other way.” —Rachel S. Smith, vice president, NMC Services, New Media Consortium;

“Yes, to the cloud, though many people will indeed still be using PCs, especially laptops. But wireless and mobile, especially collaborative, and cloud applications will be increasingly popular and powerful.” —Ron Rice, chair of social effects of mass communication in the Department of Communication and co-director of Center for Film, Television and New Media, University of California-Santa Barbara;

“There will be increasing numbers of programmer/users who will enlarge the software library and the ranks of users. We are swamped with information. The most needed services will help make it more accessible.” –George Cowan, founding president and distinguished fellow of the Santa Fe Institute;

“The issue is more a matter of size of display, than what kind of device will house what is actually computer hardware. SOME types of content – text, still images, motion images and sound – can be adequately displayed and utilized on tiny screens small enough to fit into pockets and purses. But MOST information - especially substantive text-based information, most-especially containing any significant content and complexity – simply MUST be displayed on screens that are at least adequate to display two pages of most traditional hardback books. Additionally, access charged by the byte or even the kilobyte is simply MUCH too limiting for MOST substantive uses. (Unless of course, we finish totally dumbing-down the population.)” —Jim Warren, founder and chair of the first Computers, Freedom, and Privacy Conference and longtime technology and society activist;

“This seems especially true of the smartphone technology. Since the phone is used far more often, the software will be there. The trend is toward mobilization, and it would be counter-intuitive to think we would go back to PCs. Trending toward more lightweight hardware footprints would also suggest that the software may be less localized. Even gaming is trending toward cloud, as is much of the music and entertainment media we consume. Though, 2020 will be here sooner than we think, and there will still be a great deal of legacy software, especially in large organizations (many of which are still running Windows XP or earlier).” –Rosa Alvarez, a respondent who preferred not to share additional information

“Most utility computing will move to cloud-based services in the future, because that is the most efficient way to provide those services. Specialist applications for professionals, however, will continue to run on dedicated devices. I imagine a future where the choice is not desktop or cloud computing, but about finding the right mix of the two.” —Dean Thrasher, founder, Infovark;

“Neither of these completely captures my estimation for 2020, which isn't that far away given that people don't refresh major technologies that frequently. (My answers would differ for 2030.) In 2020 it should be a mixed environment, with desktop and large monitor control of more sensor-based and peripheral information, while of course typical phones will be smarter and people will trust more information to the cloud. PC-driven home entertainment is just one way PCs will stay in the picture; adoption inertia is another. Many businesses are using systems that are well over half a decade old now, so systems that will be in wide use ten years from now are those that will appear over the next few years. People are not pushed to acquire new systems because they are not using all the processing and memory available now, which is a change from the past.”–Jonathan Grudin, principal researcher in human-computer interaction and computer-supported cooperative work at Microsoft Research;

“The future is, indeed, something like the cloud – though I think swarm or other organistic metaphor is better. But that future lies someway off. What will matter is the interaction between high-quality, large-screen, easy interface computers (perhaps mobilised as laptops) with massive processing power AND the mobile devices which, because of heat and batteries, will always lag in processing and display terms. The ultimate computer will be a mix – the mobile that 'drops out' of the laptop that 'drops out' of the desktop. And desktops will matter because THEY will be the swarm :)” –Matthew Allen, director of the department of Internet Studies at the School of Media, Culture and Creative Arts, Curtin University of Technology, and critic of social uses and cultural meanings of the Internet;

“Google Docs doesn't do everything that the Microsoft Office Suite does. However, Google Docs' live shared editing feature, not available in Office, trumps many of those other features. Sharing > personal productivity.” –Jerry Michalski, founder, Relationship Economy expedition, founder and president, Sociate;

“The convergence of web and desktop will continue but that the market will demand that both continue to interoperate together to serve a variety of business purposes, security concerns, confidentiality, and functions. It is and will remain to be a challenge to conduct and operate major documents, spreadsheets and the like on small viewable screens on PDAs and other devices. Netbooks offer some respite and may become mainstream, however, will still not replace the norms and work behaviors in place. An additional factor will be those who are remaining in the workforce who are older and not adept at utilizing mobile devices.”–Kevin Novak, co-chair of eGov Working Group at the World Wide Web Consortium and VP of integrated Web strategy at the American Institute of Architects; formerly director of Web services for the Library of Congress;

“The cloud would generally gain importance over desktops. But it won’t substitute them. I actually forse a different future: all terminals would be ‘dumb’ all the info, data, and software will be carried bu individuals on personal flash drives.”–Homero Gil de Zuniga, Internet researcher and professor at the University of Texas at Austin, US

“The general purpose PC will have surprisingly much longer life than most people expect – mainly because of its keyboard and large format screen. However the dominant social tool for accessing the Internet will be devices like the iPhone. While I increasingly do more and more e-mail, Twitter and Facebook on my iPhone I still use my laptop for ‘serious’ work such as writing papers, spreadsheet analysis etc. The "cloud" is useful not so much for storing stuff but keeping it all synchronized between my various devices such as laptops, iPhone and other devices.” —Bill St. Arnaud, chief research officer at CANARIE Inc. and member of the Internet Society board of trustees

“While a great deal of individual work can be done with smart phones, we will likely see teamed activities that involve enhanced interactivity taking place on the next generations of what we now call PCs. If you add enough enhancements to a smart phone, you end up with the equivalent of something like a future-generation PC.” –Gary Marx, founder and president, Center for Public Outreach;

“This was not an easy choice. Technically, I think the ‘cloud’ is the right answer – we can do it now, so devices and applications in 10 years from now will be much more effective. The real challenge is the network and the need for ‘always on,’ affordable and ubiquitous access. Those are likely to be the constraints that prevent ‘most people’ from going this route.” —Adrian Schofield, manager, applied research unit, Johannesburg Centre for Software Engineering, president, Computer Society South Africa;

“Most people in which country? The patterns will differ but cloud computing will probably spread more in US (and maybe China) than in most other countries for many reasons, one of them being increasing awareness of political and cultural aspects and dominance.” –Niels Ole Finnemann, professor and director of the Center for Internet Research, Aarhus University, Denmark;

“The horse is already out of the barn on this one. Mobile devices including netbooks and smart phones have us taking it on the road. No one is missing their desktop, especially developers and designers.” –Paul Jones, conference co-chair, WWW2010, clinical associate professor, School of Information and Library Sciences, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, director, ibiblio;

“The desktop app will still have a place, even if most users will be using ‘software as a service’ and ‘in the cloud.’ Also, cloud apps will rely on local storage, too.” –César Córcoles, professor at the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya, Barcelona, Spain;

“Some of us are already running cloud computing software and with the speedy development of useable, fast, handheld devices, I suspect we will use desktops less.” —Daniel Schindler, professor, aquatic and fishery sciences, department of biology, University of Washington;

“The fundamental assumption behind this question is wrong. Smartphones are becoming (or already are) general-purpose PCs. Browsers are just one of many mechanisms for developing software that can be updated with each use, or even during use.” —Stuart Schechter, researcher, Microsoft Research, former technical staff at MIT Lincoln Laboratory;

“Scott McNally was wrong about network computing and the cloud won't replace the PC, or the smart phone. My typed words and numbers are most accessible locally. Time-to-value is shortest when the (personal) data are close.” –Don McLagan, board of directors member for the Massachusetts Innovation & Technology Exchange, consultant to digital entrepreneurs, retired CEO of Compete Inc.;

“Actually both answers are correct, in my view, because people do different kinds of work on their computers. For creatives who are doing video editing, animation, graphic illustrations, game design, etc., memory-intensive applications will continue to reside on local systems. For the average person using e-mail, text editors, spreadsheets, etc., it will be more convenient to have both apps and data in the cloud. Of course, data security will be a big concern.” –Mindy McAdams, Knight Chair in journalism, University of Florida, author, “Flash Journalism: How to Create Multimedia News Packages,” journalist,

“Many who herald the end of the PC do so simply because such the machines are increasingly unfashionable and because online software systems and hand-held devices are much more exciting and fast-moving; it is usually forgotten that by 2020 the world economy which allows the production of these hyper-compact and – crucially – disposable IT products will be struggling against shortages of those non-renewable metals and petroleum products which are used in their production. Against this backdrop of exponential technological change and increasing scarcity of resources, one should avoid thinking in terms of ‘PC’ vs. ‘handheld’ because both these products will necessarily change beyond present recognition, but rather one should think instead about what SORT of product will be most successful in meeting the needs of 2020. To characterise the future use of PCs as ‘business as usual’ is a serious mistake, because everything in the world of information technologies will necessarily be so different, and because in such a competitive but resource-poor global market the superior capacity of PC-type technology for upgrading, reconditioning, component replacement, and task specific optimisation will have placed it at the centre of most future workplaces whilst the hardware which supported cloud computing becomes uncompetitive.” –Francis J.L. Osborn, philosopher, University of Wales-Lampeter

“I chose the PC example only because we have to have reliable systems for financial and retrievable data. I think both will be the case, however. I truly think that we will do with computers what we've done with all our past tools. We will use those most elegant for design and innovation solutions for design and innovation solutions while we will use the hard wired data solutions for data solutions. The ultimate solution is not either-or but both-and. Humans need many tools.” –Laurel Butman, management analyst, City of Portland, Oregon, US

“There are clear benefits to doing most, if not all, work in a cloud-based environment. Local PCs and networks are just not resilient and reliable enough. A remote software development environment, perhaps web-based, that is responsive enough for productive use is a holy grail that will hopefully be achieved by 2020.”–Obie Fernandez, founder and CEO of Hashrocket, blogger and editor and author of a series of books for Addison-Wesley on Ruby and Rails;

“We're already in the cloud. We are already there with the Internet, remote access to databases, social networking, email, collaborative, distributed teams. Smartphones are becoming as ubiquitous as the cell phone. Infrastructure for wireless connectivity is gaining hold in all major urban centers. Caveat: (1) infrastructure for rural areas, low-density population areas, low income areas; (2) security and privacy of data over the wires. I predict better and more pervasive encryption techniques by 2020, but I doubt that people will be smarter about using them.” –Caroline Haythornthwaite, professor, Graduate School of Library and Information Science, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, research focuses on how information technologies support work, learning and social interaction;

“The trend is toward Internet-based applications linked to various devices, likely more mobile devices. Users will prefer that ‘others’ manage the complexities of hardware/software/security and so the cloud will offer the possibility of useful functionalities in an easy-to-use and easy-to-operate environment. The general-purpose PC, as one of many devices, will still be used by those who prefer this mode.” –David Olive, vice president of policy development support for ICANN; formerly general manager, Fujitsu America, Washington, D.C.:

“I don't think most people will do their work online but more people will than do today and that is why I answered as I did. As with most technology trends, we overestimate in the short run the impacts of technology trends and in the long run we underestimate it. For many things, like collaboration, online tools are great. But security, privacy and just plain being left alone are great influences on people. Always being connected is not necessarily the right thing for many types of work and it is far easier to customize on your desk top than over the web. So, I think both will survive although being able to find documents anywhere and consult anywhere will likely be very important in many instances.” –Link Hoewing, assistant vice president for Internet and technology issues, Verizon;

“Cloud computing will continue to evolve. Your examples of platforms, however, may be too limiting. Other appliances will emerge by 2020 that will compete with or displace current platforms like PCs and cellphones. Television is already starting to connect to the Internet and other new ideas will be readily available.” —Charles M. Perrottet, founding principal, Futures Strategy Group LLC;

“It makes the most sense to write software for one platform. So vendors and developers will want to write code for the Internet. That's where the most innovative products and services will be. But there are also security concerns. So the heavy lifting will still be done on desktops." –Peng Hwa Ang, dean of the School of Communication and Information, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore;

“I'm already working in the cloud as much as possible. I write primarily in Google Docs – whether or not I'm sharing the file with another person. I have all my important bookmarks online. I'm moving toward getting my photos into the cloud so I can access them anywhere. While I want to back up anything important, the cloud is far more convenient than even those little flash drives.” —Amy Vernon, open source blogger, Network World;

“We cannot be chained to our laptops – we'll all get back aches! The realistic scenario is that the Internet extends to our TVs, our phones and special purpose book readers and kitchen appliances. The value having access is too great. Given the choice between a TV with cable and a TV with 10 million channels people choose the choice. Given the choice between a car with a paper map and a car with a networked GPS direction/traffic finder, people will vote with their wallets and industry will respond.” –John Baker, regional digital director for Americas at Iris Worldwide, formerly managing partner at OgilvyInteractive;

“Maybe 51% of people will still do their work with software running on a desktop rather than a cloud. The power of keeping some work private by not sharing it on a cloud in some cases far surpasses the convenience of sharing. Clouds force us to have reliable Internet connections, and many people in the world to not have a continuous connection. By 2020 we'll see a huge increase in the number of people using computers, but not all of those people will have constant Internet access.” —Elaine Pruis, vice president, client services, Minds + Machines, liaison, Council of Country Code Administrators;

“The PC-based software applications will continue to be the dominant way that people will work in 2010. As long as users purchase new computers with built-in software and operating systems, they will continue to utilize these built-in programs and systems. There may also be privacy considerations that will inhibit people from adopting Internet-based applications.” –Gary Kreps, professor and chair of the department of communication, George Mason University

“By 2010 we will have even moved beyond the notion of software applications as we think of it today. Most of the work we do will be in social collaborative applications not in word processing or spreadsheet applications.” –Tac Anderson, blogger at New Comm Biz, taking a critical look at social media and the future of business;

“There will be great variance on this matter because of the wide range of uses of these services. Yes, there are twitter novels, etc., but those for whom the creation of full documents, images, and other content is a part of their daily professional lives will continue to need more sizable screens. I'm an example of someone who went to a netbook for backup emergencies during extended travel, but really can't get smaller than an 11" notebook screen because I will always need to be able to have two complex documents or databases on the screen at one time.”–Sandra Braman, professor in the Department of Communication, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and expert on the macro-level effects of new information technologies;

“This will stratify among various ages. For those over 50, the PC with its more familiar keyboard, larger fonts and screen will remain technology of choice.” –Tobey Dichter, CEO at Generations on Line;

“Web content to migrate to numerous screens most notably handheld devices which could be the second screen by 2020. The PC and TV could very likely be one device by 2020.” –Brad Adgate, senior vice president and research director at Horizon Media;

“I think the categories offered (‘general-purpose PC’ vs. ‘smartphone’) are really limiting, and that the line between them increasingly fuzzy. Certainly ‘web applications’ (software delivered just-in-time where processing is done locally) is growing radically.” –Larry Masinter, principal scientist at Adobe Systems, TAG member at W3C, formerly Internet architecture director at AT&T;

“No matter how optimistic our vision of the future might be, the reality of technology is that machines always break down. In this case, I suspect that users will be very reluctant to completely offload to the cloud and in fact the offline features of services like Spotify and Google Gears point to a hybrid position that is much more likely. I think much more likely will be the seamless experience between desktop and cloud taking forward the best of both worlds.” –David M. Berry, author of "Copy, Rip, Burn: Copyleft!" and a lecturer on sociological and philosophical research into technology;

“Portability of computers and smartphones is driving all but the most monitor-computer-software intensive tasks toward the Cloud.” —David R. Hughes, EFF Internet Pioneer Award winner and advocate for connected communities;

“Device and communication technology moves so fast that it doesn't make sense in most cases to be tied to a particular device in order to do a particular task. The exception – for a while, anyway – is tasks that are extremely processor-intensive or with files that are very large.” –Amy Gahran, contributing writer at eMeter Corporation, senior editor at Oakland Local, co-creator and community manager at Reynolds Journalism Institute;

“Beginning in the first decade of the 2000’s cloud computing became normative throughout the social system by the year 2020. The omnipresence of smart everything long ago surpassed the infantile steps of the early century (early 2000’s). The concept of ‘desktop’ (antiquated in the last decade of the 1900’s) became a relic for cyber museums.” —Stephen Steele, professor, sociology and futures studies, Institute for the Future, Anne Arundel Community College;

“With advances in computational and networking speed, cloud computing and thin clients will become more practical. Issues of network management, access, and policy are greatly reduced by centralization. 2020 is ample time for this shift.” –Chris Dede, Wirth Professor in Learning Technologies, Harvard Graduate School of Education, emerging technologies expert;

“I'm having some trouble with this question and the choices. First, I don't ‘live’ in either. I'm still living in physical space and "using" technology to help me. Second, much of what I do requires some software both in my device and on the net, so it isn't either-or.” –Dorothy Denning, distinguished professor at Naval Postgraduate School, former director of the Georgetown Institute for Information, ACM Fellow;

“Already, I have too many computers and find myself forgetting on which terminal I left particular files. It's like having too many file cabinets at home and at work. Eventually, I will need to consolidate, although whether I will have my own personal device or rely on a ‘cloud’ is still unclear to me.” —Irene Wu, director of research, International Bureau, Federal Communications Commission, adjunct professor, Georgetown University, Yahoo fellow in residence, Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service;

“I don't fully agree with either but mostly with the former. Ubiquity will be a must and "the cloud" (whatever that will be) would likely provide us with it. I believe there will be numerous desktop applications by then, too. Not to mention places with lack of connectivity and the developing world.” –Jose Manuel Alonso, eGovernment lead, World Wide Web Consortium;

“Over the past 20 years, software evolution was very rapid … But recently software evolution became slower. In addition it is difficult for CPUs to raise the frequency because of thermal problem, and now CPUs try to upgrade by supporting more and more cores, so their multi-thread performance is higher. At the same time, companies are suffering from the recent recession and wishes to reduce costs for IT. Ten years have passed since most workers have had their own PC in their office, and using style has almost fixed. Most of them use a word processor, Excel, and PowerPoint. So now the conditions for the cloud to become popular are satisfied.” —Toshiyuki Sashihara, engineer and innovator for NEC Corporation

“It seems that cloud computing will still be intended for limited amount of computer gurus, but not for most people until the traditional computers will not be replaced by more intelligent devices and interfaces, for example, based on voice recognition.” —Andris Virtmanis, director of Department of Telecommunications and Post of the Public Utilities Commission of Latvia

“This is a false dichotomy; the smartphone will become a general-purpose PC by 2020.” —Dmitri Varsanofiev, chief technologt officer at IP Cores

“The question needlessly conflates cloud-based apps with mobile apps. There's significant overlap, of course. I predict that reliance on cloud-based apps will grow, that reliance on mobile devices (using those cloud-based apps) will grow, that the distinction between mobile hardware and desktop hardware will become more a difference of degree than a difference of kind, and that many of ‘the most innovative and important apps’ (to quote the question) will still require the larger screens, keyboards, or peripherals at the ‘desktop’ end of the scale.” —Peter Suber, fellow, Berkman Center at Harvard Law School, visiting fellow, Yale Law School, open access project director, Public Knowledge, research professor of philosophy, Earlham College;

“I picked the cloud because we were instructed to make a single choice, but there will be many desktop applications as well. The trend today is definitely toward the cloud (public and proprietary) as computing, storage and communication technology improve, but there are many applications that require the computation and interaction speed of a local machine. The boundary will shift. For example, today, may be good enough for removing red-eye from a snapshot, but a professional graphic artist would use desktop Photoshop for image processing. At some point in the future, cloud latency may drop to the point where begins to displace Photoshop on the desktop, but, by that time, we will be running other desktop applications that require local processing and storage.” —Larry Press, professor of computer information systems, California State University Dominguez Hills

“Well, it's clear where Google's betting: The Chrome operating system makes all applications web applications. One wonders what happens to application stores – whether that's the iPhone app store or stores that sell Microsoft products. In applications, as in content, there is likely to be a race to free.” –Jeff Jarvis, author of “What would Google Do?”, associate professor and director of the interactive journalism program and the new business models for news project at the City University of New York’s Graduate School of Journalism;

“I am unconvinced that the promise of cloud technology – especially security issues and new problems that inevitably crop up – will revolutionize the hardware we use. I also think companies like Microsoft and Apple have too much invested to let this proceed unchallenged. American industry is never more proactive than when it delays or sidetracks advances that threaten its product stream.”–Jack Hicks, senior lecturer, department of English, University of California-Davis, a founder of the graduate creative writing program and undergrad creative writing sequence;

“If I had responded to this survey last year, I might have been tethered to the PC-based response, but the more time I spend with Google Docs, the more the idea of netbooks make sense to me. While innovations will still spring from authors and their desktops, my sense is that innovations that benefit from collaborative efforts will come together in the clouds.” –Oscar Gandy, author, activist, retired emeritus professor of communication, University of Pennsylvania;

“Privacy concerns will keep us wanting to control the critical functions of applications and information storage, so we'll still want those in our hands or encrypted (preferably both). We may outsource many of the processing steps, though.” —Wendy Seltzer, visiting fellow, Oxford Internet Institute, fellow, Berkman Center for Internet and Society, Harvard Law School, fellow, Silicon Flatirons, University of Colorado Law School;

“I'm not sure that either of these choices is quite right. I envision a future where both the desktop and the cloud are more innovative than ever before. While we will likely see an expansion of the cloud, desktop applications will always be important.” –Alissa Cooper, chief computer scientist, Center for Democracy & Technology, IETF;

“In fact it will depend how much nomads we are, and level of interaction with others. The more we need to collaborate and cooperate, the more we need cooperative solution-enabling knowledge sharing. Ubiquitous computing will be widespread, as we will need to access to data anywhere anytime through any handled device.” –Rafik Dammak, CAD engineer, STMicroelectronics, Tunisia; leader of the Youth Dynamic Coalition of the Internet Governance Forum;

“Innovation will always remain as innovation, and in whatever format it may come, perhaps will remain as platform independent, and then may find its place in a common category. Sometimes, working in a common platform, like Google Docs seem a bit out of focus, when too many interventions come from too many angles for a single note of issue.” —Hakikur Rahman, founder-principal, Institute of Computer Management & Science, founder-chairman, Internet Society Bangladesh, executive director, Bangladesh Advanced Education Research and Information Network Foundation;

“As is too often the case in this survey, the above statements are mixing issues, unless they are restricted to software development. The expansion of mobile applications and use will continue but most people will keep using both mobile and desktop/laptop based facilities.” –Michel J. Menou, information science, independent consultant in ICT policy, visiting professor and associate researcher, School of Library, Archives and Information Services, University College London;

“Most business applications will run on the Internet, and we'll access them with mobile devices or thin clients. Desktop workstations will continue to be used for processor-intensive applications.” Chris Minnick, independent information technology and services professional;

“With the pace of convergence, by 2020 there will be no difference between phones and computers, but between mobile and stationary communication tools. Already today, 10 years before 2020, I can use my computer as a phone and my phone as a computer.” –Rui Correia, information technology consultant, Johannesburg, South Africa;

“Desktop applications will still be used, but cloud applications will grow, leaving them both with a significant market share by 2020. Therefore, I can't select either one.” –Peter Bishop, associate professor of strategic foresight, coordinator of the graduate program in Futures Studies, University of Houston, Houston, Texas;

“The intrinsic virtues of cloud computing (ubiquitous access, vast memory, archival integrity and reliability) will surely persuade most people to favor it over local systems and memory. However, the issue of privacy will, however, very likely convince most people to keep all their most personal documents, intimate correspondence, medical and banking records in their personal computers.” –Frederic Michael Litto, retired professor, School of the Future, University of São Paulo, president of ABED-Brazilian Association for Distance Education, former consultant for distance education projects for the World Bank and the Commonwealth of Learning;

“The intersection of air safety regulations which may severely limit use of portable electronics will almost necessitate cloud computing for business travelers. Airlines are notorious for mishandling baggage. Checked bags with laptops equals broken laptop. Since most consumer travelers are also laptop travelers, demand will be further increased.” –Joshua Fouts, leader of Dancing Ink, fostering the emergence of a new global culture through virtual worlds, a digital diplomacy expert, senior fellow at the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress, Web activist and founding editor of Online Journalism Review;

“The answer is likely to lie in the middle. I think it is possible that cloud computing will be used increasingly by organizations, including higher education. Cost will likely be a factor. Will we be ‘renting’ those applications or paying by the hour? Will the Google applications remain freely accessible?” —Cecelia Rabinowitz, librarian and educator at St. Mary’s College of Maryland

“This is maybe not so much a prediction, but a desperate hope. Smartphones are wonderful, and applications will be developed for them, but I do not see corporations living there or conducting most of their work there, or on Internet-based applications.” –Teresa Hartman, librarian, University of Nebraska Medical Center

“Both will co-exist and the applicability of the application to the job will determine its location. The biggest advantages of the cloud – automatic backup, access from anywhere etc also provide the biggest determent – security and privacy." –J. Dale Debber, CEO and publisher for Providence Publications LLC in California

“From pure economic forces, cloud-based applications will continue to gain dominance. It should be noted that this will not just be 'Internet-based,' but will likely include intranet-based installations of Web applications within the enterprise environment.” –Roarke Lynch, director of NetSmartz Workshop, US National Center for Missing and Exploited Children

“The shift from general-purpose PCs to smartphones will take at least 10 years. Some 25 percent of people are now using smartphones, but even for this 25 percent, full applications for all Internet-based applications has yet to be achieved. In terms of uses and gratifications, smartphones continue to be predominantly entertainment devices. A minimum of at least 10 years will be needed to make the necessary shift in the psychological use/gratification of smartphones to more fully functional reality-based computing systems.” –James W. Chesbro, distinguished professor and director of the master’s program in digital storytelling in the department of telecommunications at Ball State University

“Probably a combination, but the vast majority of people will use mobile devices that work in the cloud. I would expect to see some type of flexible keyboard that can be attached to a mobile device along with inexpensive heads-up-display glasses based on technology used in fighter aircraft.” –Robert Hess, senior fellow at the Center for the Digital Future, Annenberg School, USC, and president and CEO of TSG (a consulting firm)

“I can see tech getting smaller, smarter, faster. I imagine a smart phone like device that is a mobile computer that can be folded to be worn on a belt or wrist, or expanded into something like a current laptop. And I predict more freeware and shareware and open source, and the devise of the windows PC.” –Beth Gallaway, library consultant and trainer, Information Goddess Consulting

“The nature of mankind is to employ tools. By nature, most people gravitate towards better tools. The more benefits attached to a tool, the more readily the tool is assimilated into general use. The advent of new tools and their ready adoption usually comes with a cost, however. Surrender of some personal mark of identity is the most common cost. Lost becomes the mark of the maker. Lost becomes a personal identity with a process or product. Lost becomes some evidence of human attachment and pride in creation. There always will be those who will seek to maintain these assets, rather than surrender them. The personal PC will definitely survive a decade as a tool of preference and choice for creation, application, and administration. Beyond a generation, though, the PC will have become a museum artifact, employed by historians as an early tool of mankind's curiosity.” –Eric James, president of the James Preservation Trust and publisher of Stray Leaves, author and lecturer;

“Cloud computing is on the rise. If they can make it reliable and accessible, it will eventually take over desktop PC software. We are already seeing this in the Web design world. With the onset of CMS systems like WordPress and Joomla, you can build a template and modify the site with multiple add-ons.” —Mark Walter, chief executive officer of J-Angel Productions

“Form will follow need, and need will shape functionality. As we have watched each generation of input and output device get smaller and smarter- manual typewriter to electric to Selectric(tm) to dot matrix, to ink jet to laser as an example. The traditional general purpose PC will morph and evolve also, and with that evolution we will see a move to centralized common cloud-based applications that will be customized with end user ‘flare’ applications/accessories. We won’t lose the PC operating system we will ‘loosen’ it and give it the freedom to roam, explore and grow as a niche need is seen, as compared to the current model of here’s what we have designed here’s what you get shut up and use it.” –Cameron Lewis, program manager, Arizona Department of Health Service

“Automotive Internet Technologies: Collaboration advantages aside, people will continue to work primarily in an individualized environment, and the most important applications will probably continue to be PC-based. Laptop PC's are the norm and their use negates the appeal of online accessible business applications.” –Al Amersdorfer, president and CEO of Automotive Internet Technologies, a provider of Internet marketing solutions for the retail automobile industry

“My assumption is that universal broadband access and high penetration of multi-function smartphones (and other smart devices) will lead the market to favour these functions over the PC on the grounds that returns (in a world still recovering from the 2008/09 financial meltdown) will be greater and more quickly realised. Corporate networks of PCs will in any case be slower and more cautious in adopting these new applications.” –Peter Griffiths, independent information specialist and consultant and former president of the UK Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals;

“Internet-based applications allow will allow us to transfer knowledge more effectively in a operating-system agnostic environment. Personal computers and other devices will continue to allow us to become better personal communicators.” —Brian Prascak, chief innovation officer, InReach Commerce Inc.

“How we work will change as dramatically in the next ten years as it has in the past ten years. A decade ago, pretty much everyone's primary computer was a bulky desktop. There were no smartphones. Now, everyone's primary computer is a laptop or a netbook and smartphones are fast catching up and taking over tasks that only a couple of years ago required a laptop. Even talking on the phone, according to a recent survey, is losing ground to text communication. All this points to the cloud." –Ronni Bennett, founder of, a blog about aging

“As cloud applications become more sophisticated and more accessible individuals will move away from desktop machines as we know them now. The ability to access your files from anywhere will have wide appeal and accept for security issues, most will find the convenience to be a big winner. This of course assumes that all people will have access to broadband Internet connectivity and have reliable fast mobile access. If that does not happen, then the cloud will evaporate.” —Elaine Young, associate professor, Champlain College;

“The accessibility factor will force business to develop tools for their customers that are available on the go. Smartphones will get smarter, cheaper, and more powerful, and will become the norm for connecting to the world. Broadband should get faster, making access even quicker and transparent. However, PC desktop apps will still exist, but on a smaller scale, and for specialists who design and develop." –Nick Greene, founder of

“The accessibility of smart phones will give a faster increase globally thus outpacing the PC and a generation of upcoming users will ‘set’ themselves on the Google type of apps which are more accessible on phones, etc. In the end, it might be a matter of convenience while living in a ‘bi-cultural’ world.” –Joe Hernandez, retired from the Southern Baptist Missionary Organization

“Ten years from now, doubt there will be the type of computers in use today. More likely they will be highly portable with instant Web access, thus encouraging ‘cloud’ technology.”–R.L. Monroe, retired after 35 years in the US Department of Defense

“On the one hand, mobile computing is spreading all around the place. On the other, major players such as Amazon and others are hugely investing in cloud-based information spaces. At the intersection of such trends, we can expect cloud computing to continue spreading.” –Giovanni Arata, PhD, APT Servizi Emilia Romagna

“In Canada, at least, the monopolistic mobile phone providers have set rate structures that make cloud computing via mobile devices prohibitively expensive. Unless these rates can be regulated, or competition introduced, cloud computing will remain a novelty for occasional use (e.g.,airports). I would anticipate much higher usage in say Japan. I'm unfamiliar with American rate structures but would assume that mobile usage will follow class structures with rich using mobile devices extensively, while less wealthy continue to use independent desktops.” —Robert Runte, University of Lethbridge;

“The choices here are too extreme. The general-purpose PC still has a decade of utility, and the cloud has many security and reliability issues to be worked out. However, that's not to say that aspiring application designers will write mostly for PCs.”–Perry Hewitt, director of digital communications and communications services at Harvard University;

“Already, many of the software packages and information databases that I use on a daily basis are hosted in the cloud. This allows me to easily access them anywhere that I have access to the Internet, someone else is responsible for server uptime and data security, and service providers can push out upgrades whenever they wish without me having to do anything. I strongly believe that applications in the cloud will continue to proliferate.” –Lori Langone, research specialist, Michigan Economic Development Corporation

“I don't see any reason why software will run on general-purpose PCs, or tablets. Things are progressing so quickly with the smart-phone model, I don't think there's any going back. It does make sense to think about what comes after the cloud." –Pam Heath, principal with Jensen Heath (communications consulting firm), trustee for, the first online history encyclopedia created for the Internet

“Clearly the most innovative applications today are being developed for the cloud/Internet space. Although security will remain a concern, the ability to work (or entertain yourself) from anywhere will trump that.” –Jon Faucette, manager of in-house design for The Segal Company, New York

“The ‘cloud’ will never totally replace the user owned and controlled computer. Security and control of "my content, personal network, passwords and connections, financials, pictures and other personal information – will always be in the back of people's minds. However, there is always going to be an ebb and flow between distributed/local and centralized computing, in part driven by the current technology and economics of running it – but also in part driven by control and privacy.” —Heywood Sloane, managing director, Bank Insurance & Securities Association Diversified Services Group, US

“Smartphones and other mobile devices will be where most work gets done ... eventually. I'm not sure it will happen by 2020, but that day is definitely coming.” —Bill Sheridan, e-communications manager and editor for the Maryland Association of CPAs

“Bandwidth and storage demands will far exceed the capacity of individual devices. The cloud will become the repository of everything. The only anxiety will be reliability and security.” –Daniel Flamberg, blogger at iMedia Connections and senior vice president of interactive marketing at Juice Pharma Advertising;

“Vannevar Bush lives! It wouldn't surprise me at all if we jump ahead to Internet based apps, although personally I find Google Docs appalling, I expect that in the future people won't want to be tied down to a machine much in the way that cell phones freed us from plugged in phones, wireless will free us ever more from PC based work stations.” –Melanie Kimball, assistant professor, Simmons College

“It is inevitable that most applications will be Internet-based or designed for smart phones. I currently have a blog and regularly post on Twitter and LinkedIn as well as checking and responding to email (and texting) on my phone. I'm a boomer and these applications have not come easily to me, but I recognize that I must use them. My parents, who are in their 80s have finally given up on understanding this online world, but for my Gen Y kids, it is part of their ambient atmosphere. As more of us boomers retire, the younger generation will expect cloud computing to be the norm.” –Christine Hamilton–Pennell, president of Growing Local Economies Inc.;

“Cloud computing is already very capable, and I see it getting more robust. We will need to have some backups in the event our web access goes down. I think we are just getting started with Web-based applications.” —Gerald Sweitzer, principal at Non-Profit Success, a consultancy providing support and visioning or non-profit and community organizations

“Whether you're a Mac or a PC will be irrelevant by 2020. But the cloud will face two major challenges. First, software giants will do whatever they can to prevent this move by making software more complicated and capable, and by convincing us that we need said software. Second, the ‘office’ will have to be reinvented. With access to software and documents available from any location at any time, will the 9-5, cube farm office environment make sense? That said, there will still be the need for powerful desktop computers for a few individuals. Programs for image editing, animation, and other graphic intensive activities will not be replaced by the cloud unless the Internet gets significantly faster. But by and large, most of us will be able to live in the cloud." –Andrew Burnette, a survey participant who preferred to leave his work identity out of his responses

“The two scenarios are flawed and cannot be chosen without contradictory thinking. Most people are not innovative. At the same time, research and development applications and high-level written communication cannot easily be done on smartphones. Perhaps most people will use things like Google Docs and smartphones but these are not very intelligent people to begin with. Innovative work is not designed for large masses of dummies but for the elite. The information gap will continue to widen, fortunately, because there are too many mentally mediocre people in colleges and universities getting degrees.” –James A. Danowski, professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, founder of the Communication and Technology Division of the International Communication Association;

“Mobile devices that work through the web are clearly growing in prominence and sophistication. It makes complete sense that they will continue to evolve in this way since mobile web access supports people's ongoing integration into the Web. The simplicity of using Internet-based applications goes hand-in-hand with this vision of ongoing web integration. Privacy and security concerns must be addressed in these apps however so that they can be secure and trustworthy. I don't buy into the idea that mobile devices will be the only access to the Web – I believe there will be a plethora of access methods perhaps individually tied to separate demographic or cultural sectors of the user population. As to application development, it will follow the money and be focused on mobile devices but there will always be people working on converting applications from one medium to another.” –Tom McGreevy, independent contractor

“The business aspects of using smartphones and the mobility afforded by them will probably take people away from the ‘old’ PC and the number of vendors who develop specialized business applications will proliferate, driving the system to a more mobile format.” –Jarice Hanson, professor at Temple University and the University of Massachusetts-Amherst

“The Information Economy and the Creative Class structures have put the highest value on coordination, cooperation, and real-time connection and collaboration. Moreover, with the time and cost involved in software updates, the relative ease of signing on to the cloud will be too tempting for most large organizations to resist. With the success of Salesforce et. al, it's been demonstrated that especially for larger organizations, it's just easier to stay in the clouds. This will only become more prevalent in the coming years.” —Steve Rozillis, senior digital marketing manager for a major US insurance company

“Smartphones and the like are great, but their screens are to small for what we consider complicated (or at least, complex) work. The desktop metaphor made the transition from programming language to manipulating objects rather easy, exactly because we could see what we were doing – with small screens we'll probably lose the sense of mastery again.” –Stine Gotved, professor and cybersociologist working with several universities in Denmark and owner of Net:Work;

“The mobile phone has revolutionized the way we live our lives. Farmers in rural India sell their produce over the mobile phone. Phones are now mini-PCs and I think we'll see a convergence towards mobile technology. PCs will be around but most people will work off their mobile phones, or laptops.” —Nikhat Rasheed, project manager, researcher and evaluation consultant at XCG Inc.;

“Collaboration does provide for the most innovative work but this will only come to fruition if such applications are secure. There are a range of academic and scientific communities that will use such applications and be innovators, whether other groups join the cloud will rely on security and stability.” —Darren Lilleker, senior lecturer and director of Centre for Public Communication Research, Bournemouth Univeristy, UK;

“As access to Internet everywhere grows, the need for a self-sufficient systems diminishes. While there will remain a number of situations in which software running on standalone system will be ideal, most of the day-to-day action will be in the cloud.” —John Pearson, senior manager of digital services for Minnesota Public Radio and American Public Media;

“I have been reading about the imminent death of the personal computer ever since I had a TRS-80. I will believe it when the AI in my fusion-powered aircar tells me it happened.” –Carl Henderson, a respondent who chose not to share his place of employment

“The virtually limitless access provided through cloud computing (or whatever technology may replace it in the coming years) affords us an opportunity to have and use our information and files whenever and wherever we need to; this will be an irresistible feature.” –Jeff Branzburg, consultant with Teaching Matters, Inc.

“My predilection is to say ‘smartphones.’ My hesitation is in imagining how this could be convenient. But I recall a time when I was certain that I would never text message, and it is now very convenient for me. I still think it is possible that short jobs will be done on a type of smartphone while jobs that require hours of labor will be done on a PC or something more akin to it. Maybe people will do shorter jobs on the move and save the longer tasks for when they are in their home or office (if they even have an office). I personally can't imagine choosing to use a smartphone if I am working on a spreadsheet or a long paper, but I am also sure there will be technologies coming that will make that a no-brainer.” –Sandra Kelly, market research manager for 3M Company

“Convergence of fixed and wireless networks and users desire to access their information anywhere will drive things to the cloud. By 2020, it's possible that people will view the cloud as their primary data and application location, with the home/office PC becoming the backup solution in case of a failure with the cloud, i.e., a reversal of today's situation.” –Heath Gibson, competitor intelligence specialist at a media communications company

“While there is a move by Apple and Google to move work to clouds, there is the concern for privacy. Having a personal data remotely stored by a corporation provides the opportunity for privacy to be violated through cyber terrorism, hackers, and government intrusion. Such clouds would provide a one-stop-shop for voluminous amounts of data which would make it much easier to get into personal data. If data is place on a PC, then access is much more difficult to obtain. There are considerable ethical implications to cloud type application that need to be thought through." Thomas Creely, associate director of the Center for Ethics and Corporate Responsibility at the Robinson College of Business at Georgia State University and principal at Creely Consulting, LLC

“Just look at the trend. Technologies such as AJAX are allowing Web applications to provide the same or better experiences as desktop apps. Users don't care about the technical underpinnings. They care about ease of use. Apps and data in the cloud is simply easier for users, likewise apps and data on mobile phones. Nobody wants to be a mini-IT department and deal with the management of a PC or Mac. The only applications that will reside on the desktop are those that require more computing power than the Web can provide. Today those apps are video and audio editing, etc. And it's conceivable that, with increases in bandwidth and more powerful netbooks, even those apps will migrate to the Web.” –Rich Levin, senior vice president and editor-in-chief of Gregory FCA Communications;

“Privacy concerns and control will lead to a hybrid of the two. Most computing and data probably in the cloud with some general-purpose computers as well as specialized devices not really perceived as computers. Operating systems will be invisible.” –David Moskowitz, principal consultant at Productivity Solutions Inc. and lead editor of OS/2 Warp Unleashed is a consultant and editor on new and emerging technology

“People like to be more portable and as the technology allows for that, consumers go for portability. This is a sad development because it caters to a workaholic nation.” –Liz Miller, University of Massachusetts-Amherst

“The cloud concept reminds me of an older concept called time sharing. The cloud suffers from the same weaknesses as time sharing. The responsiveness of network computing is not under the control of the user. The security of the user's information is highly questionable. And if the network is down, you are down. In addition, what do you do if you want to run an application that is not available in the cloud? It might be fine for a casual computer user, but serious computer users will always want their own machine.” –Robert Lunn, principal of FocalPoint Analytics and senior researcher for USC Annenberg School Center for the Digital Future, formerly executive director of survey research operations at J.D. Power and Associates;

“By definition, a personal computer is personal. To rely solely on a vague and amorphous 'cloud' will still be seen as giving up your independence. More interesting perhaps, the definition of a 'general purpose PC' will continue to evolve over the next decade. Smaller and more powerful, they will continue the inevitable march to ubiquity, and eventual invisibility.” —Mark Richmond, technologist for US District Courts, founding board member of the National Online Media Association (1993)

“Ease of access is a dominant criterion or driving force behind both business and individual purchase decisions. Apple's remarkable success with the iPod and iPhone were based on the development of the iTunes infrastructure that made access to MP3 files easier than even file-sharing networks. We already had plenty of MP3 players before the iPod and plenty of ways to acquire MP3 files. The cloud is analogous to the iTunes store. It is everywhere you are. So long as it either remains free OR requires only a nominal cost for use (like a 99-cent iTune download) it will come to eclipse the desktop environment as we know it. There will still be a need for the desktop, if for no other reason than the fact that an off-network desktop device is secure, whereas anything on the net is much less so. The desktop environment will not disappear, anymore than television made movies and radio disappear.” —Gregory Zerovnik, marketing and public relations director for the San Bernardino County Library;

“The PC like every other particular instantiation of a computing platform will be superseded by a new approach. For now we can describe it as ‘the cloud’ but what the specific implementation will be is not possible to determine this far out. After all, it was more than 20 years ago that we talked of ‘the network not the computer’ as the system and meant mini-computers and PCs.” –Chris Jacobs, chief operating officer, Solutions for Progress Inc.;

“We will live pretty much where we do now. In my case, filling out this survey in my kitchen. For someone else, in a coffee shop, bar or airport terminal. For someone who can't spell or punctuate they may be doing it on a smartphone. Absent some persistent high profile cloud disasters, over the next 10 years people will move or share many aspects of their social lives, scheduling and so forth via the cloud. Storage of data will reside in the cloud and the desktop. Serious work, specialized work, will largely be done on the desktop where people will still have considerably more power, flexibility and control. Also, absent technological breakthroughs in display and interface an aging cohort will discover small and mobile has serious drawbacks.” –David Jensen, self-described as an “aging hippie generalist”

“Between cost, mobility, improved security, higher & more reliable access speeds and worker/employer desires; the cloud will become a dominant utility for work. The cloud will enable cross-organizational collaboration in a way that has yet to be fully actualized. Mobile devices like netbooks, smartbooks, smartphones, lightweight laptops, etc will help enable this trend. Many of these devices will not have any removable media making access to programs, content, etc all through the cloud.” –Paul Gibler, principal consultant, ConnectingDots;

“While I suspect the cloud will win as an option, I think its supremacy will be rooted in the tendency of much of the Internet populous to feel entitled to free everything. My personal feelings about the cloud are clouded by its potential role as yet another point of access to continue the encroachment on our shrinking sphere of privacy by corporations and government.” John Beam, principal at Pumphouse Project, providing services for organizations involved in education justice, human rights and youth development;

“Both trends will increase. An increasing amount of work will be done in shared space because businesses will increasingly adopt shared space architectures as both cost-cutting strategies and for collaborating across time and space. These shared spaces and shared software applications will be increasingly used by individuals interacting with each other in both real time and over time. Part of a whole generation has grown up expecting to use ‘apps’ to integrate their communications and work and an older generation has adapted to adapting to technological change. The trend towards increasing use of shared space and shared applications will increasingly be used by more and more people, especially in societies with developed technological infrastructures. (Indeed, societies just about ready to launch advanced technological infrastructures may be the best positioned for the new technologies because they will have the least costs associated with maintaining and eventually ‘sunsetting’ older infrastructures. This is a common theme in technological advancements.) And more and more work will be done with stand-alone computers and single-application hardware with intermittent ability to connect to larger networks. This trend will be made up of at least the following three segments: (1) Those in advanced technological societies who choose not to purchase or use the latest technologies either because they don't want to spend the energy learning and/or don't have the money to buy the newer technologies; (2)The poor in advanced societies who do not have access to the newer technologies and are forced to work with the older technologies and systems with minimal integration into the newer networks or systems; (3) Those is lesser developed nations who do not have access to advanced technological infrastructures because they simply have not been built in their areas (or extended to their areas). The choices given are overwritten to an either-or position. It may actually tend to a balance between the two. I favor my choice simply for the sense of independence and personal accomplishment. If the end-to-end principle becomes better known for its real value then my choice will hold out.” –Benjamin Mordechai Ben-Baruch, senior market intelligence consultant and applied sociologist, consultant for General Motors;

“By 2010, technology won't have the discreet boundaries that are the basis of this question. Applications will run across media using technology that hasn't been invented yet.” —Pamela Rutledge, director of the Media Psychology Research Center, instructor of media psychology at the University of California-Los Angeles Extension;

“Already many people are living ‘in the cloud’ without knowing they are – they leave email messages on servers, they post files to Facebook, and save documents to blogs and websites – meanwhile the original PC or Mac that stored the work is thrown out, donated, given to children and newer PCs or Macs are bought – without all those files transferring from the old to the new hardware. This means we are already relying on the cloud as our storage space. The natural evolution will be more Internet use, not less, and applications are the next natural step, and we will soon wonder why we need the PC or Mac operating systems at all. This will all occur much sooner than 2020 – maybe by 2015 in some parts of the world (Japan where young people never use anything other than their cell phones for computing and do not even own PCs).” —Margaret ‘Molly’ Takeda, lecturer at California State University, San Bernardino

“Most of the work I do each day is in the cloud. But there are many very important things I must do on my computer because the cloud simply does not have the capacity to allow me to create large videos, share large spreadsheets, etc. Google docs is the best thing to happen to my organization, North Carolina Virtual Public School, but the recent sharing of a very large spreadsheet put and end to my patience. I had to download it to my computer so I could manipulate it. I couldn't sort it in the cloud, way too slow. When the cloud reaches the speed of a desktop we will be on our way. It will be interesting to see what the fee structure will be. I have no illusions that Google services will remain free.” –Deborah Pederson, chief Learn & Earn Online Officer, North Carolina Virtual Public School;

“Improved network technology will allow for bandwidth intensive applications to run in the cloud for the majority of their use. Much like having a thirty room house for one person, the vast majority of a computer’s functions (processing power, disk space) is wasted for the better part of its life. It makes more sense for such resources to be stored on a central system and pulled on demand when requested by the user. For most people however, they won’t actively be choosing between the cloud and a desktop (or smartphone) as they do now. Applications will, over the next few years, become hybridized, with some components installed locally and others pulled from the cloud. Similarly, media (movies, music) will increasingly be pulled via high speed connections, often wireless, from the cloud.” –Darren Krape, new media advisor, U.S. Department of State, web coordinator, World Bank;

“User static-content static=>user static-content dynamic=>user dynamic-content dynamic. Contents will follow Internet users finally.” —Freddy Linares, Web and business strategy professor, Universidad del Pacifico, director, Interaxión, director, CI Interactive Media, director, The 10Blog Initiative;

“Short-term growth will be in strengthening and expanding the ties between the nodes on the Internet. Expanding the ties to mobile applications increases the opportunity and the speed at which we can work.” —Jack Holt, senior strategist for emerging media, Department of Defense, Defense Media Activity, chief of new media operations, Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs;

“This is The Return Of The ‘Thin Client.’ Every few years, some company gets the bright idea that simple access to high-powered back-end processing is the wave of the future – and of course, the company is going to get rich by providing those clients and matching back-end processing. It's great in theory, not so great in practice. Maybe This Time It's Different, and it's finally going to happen. But network delays and outages have always killed this idea in practice.” –Seth Finkelstein, anti-censorship activist and programmer, author of the Infothought blog and an EFF Pioneer Award winner;

“Just a few months ago, I would have said that everything will still be PC-based. However, since I upgraded from a standard flip cell phone to my current Palm WebOS-based smartphone, my perception shifted. I've found myself less reliant on my laptop and more reliant on my cell for standard communications. That being said, some specialized applications – like desktop publishing, statistical analysis, database and spreadsheet apps, etc – will still probably be run from high-end PCs. There's going to be a balance. Is Google Apps the answer? I doubt it. Microsoft will likely continue to be the key player with all productivity software.” —Colin Walker, marketing coordinator for the City of Bellevue, Washington

“The bandwidth is still the bottleneck for the cloud. There are lots of places we don't have access to fast enough Internet to seamlessly access complex web applications. However even with that being true the personal computer is becoming more and more a portal to the Internet. In the future I think we will see more application running in the client server model, but we won't be living in the browser." —Matt Schnall, a participant who preferred not to share the name of his employer

“The hardware will continue to become more versatile, but meaningful work will continue to be done on a general-purpose PC. Security issues will continue to make most intelligent people uncomfortable with ‘cloud’ computing. In the end, for corporate applications, management will always reserve the right to make stupid decisions. Cloud computing will lead to much less innovation. Innovative people will reject cloud computing.” –Alexis A. Chontos, faculty in the online division of the Art Institute of Pittsburgh

“I think we've already seen a critical mass of people shift to the cloud for communications purposes via online social networks. The transition to ‘work’ residing in the cloud would be a seamless one, and one that offers far too many efficiencies and advantages over offline computing to be avoided.” –Matt Gallivan, senior research analyst, audience insight and research, National Public Radio (US);

“Certainly the predominant architecture of the Internet will soon be what's now being called ‘the cloud.’ But the cloud will be a huge network of computing devices of all sizes. Just as ‘mainframes’ didn't disappear, neither will desktops. If anything the Internet is becoming a mish-mash of information devices of greater variety: smartphones, netbooks, tablets at the same time ‘supercomputers’ of a great variety of multi-machine configurations continue to come online. However, to my way of thinking, the most revolutionary Internet device in the next decade will be the human-being-as-platform. The incredible rate of adoption of smartphones like the iPhone indicates how much people want their information/communication devices with them 24/7. The wave of innovation from mobile devices is really only at its beginning. One nascent aspect of mobile/wireless development is the development of monitoring devices that can read bodily parameters, store the data and graphically display trends. Most of these devices are special purpose appliances that require their own receiver and interface. But that will go away. Why would people buy a special capture/relay device when a sensing device could utilize a smartphone they've already paid for? The iPhone already has an accelerometer built in for motion sensing and thousands of health-oriented apps are available already for recording personal data. Future devices that can be strapped on, sewn into clothing and perhaps eventually even embedded in us that will greatly increase the current early steps. The human body is a complex, multi-layered group of systems that run on information. The next decade will make a lot of progress, tapping into this information and extracting it for various purposes. I like to call this the ‘outing of in-formation.’ It will be both personal and shared data.” –David Collin, retired, formerly director of the American Cancer Society

"Dumb question. Both cloud and desktop have their place. People are different, some use web based email others stick to their desktop program. Some mix it up. An average ‘ideal person’ is utterly non-ideal in this case. People are going different ways. (Those who use free services are exposed to considerable danger that will cause mayhem for some of them.) The interesting question is what styles of computer use are emerging.” –Mike Gale, director of decision-support systems, Decision Engineering Pty Ltd;

“As broadband access becomes more available across the world, the Internet will take an increasingly larger role in all aspects of day to day computing. Most business and productivity applications designed for use in places with ‘access’ will integrate web components in various aspects of its design. These components will mainly be aimed at supporting collaboration and in making the work-flow more transparent. On the other spectrum, new applications will be designed for use in places with ‘limited access’ that fosters collaboration via ad hoc network systems. Newer, more efficient and reliable ad hoc systems will be developed for this purpose.” –Clement Chau, vice president at Ponte and Chau Consulting, Inc. and researcher in the Developmental Technologies Research Group at Tufts University;

“Security and privacy issues will be a primary factor in determining this process. The question people will have to decide is – whether the value of a collaborative online process outweighs the vulnerabilities of an open-ness in which claim-jumping hackers may stake a claim on your intellectual property. Only slightly secondarily, the question of speed of access and the questions surrounding high-speed broadband access over the Internet will impact this as well.” –Michael Castenegra, senior lecturer at the Grady College of Journalism, University of Georgia, and president at Media Strategies and Tactics Inc.

“By 2020 people will work with devices attached to the brain and thinking will be the most reliable source.” –Jorge Alberto Castaños, specialist in implementation of platforms at Botón Rojo;ños-celaya/8/118/486

“Unfortunately, I believe the titans of the information industry will be able to maintain a stranglehold on a wholescale move to the cloud. Historically, there has been a tremendous amount of resources poured into preserving the current state and toward incremental improvement rather than drastic innovation. Unless the economics change to match the technological capabilities of the cloud the migration will have a bit of a longer tail than 10 years.” –Ed Matesevac, consultant for State Farm Insurance Companies;

“Going forward, the drive will be to make money, and the most efficient way to do that is to build cloud computing whereby vendors can charge per application's use.” —Bill Leikam, Leikam Enterprises, LLC;

“2020 is too soon for the computer hardware/software industry to release its hold on the existing business model requiring powerful machines that run client-based, processor-heavy software. While there will be innovations and increased use in cloud computing, anxiety over moving all one's documents to the clouds will prevent the masses from using them to the fullest potential. Instead, better tools will be built to share and collaborate online, while the meat and potatoes remain on the desktop.” —Michael Zimmer, assistant professor of media, culture and communication, School of Information Studies, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee;

“The smart phones are too small, too isolated, and too limited for in depth comparative analysis and collaborative development. Perhaps the smart phone will connect to any larger screen – even the TV – from any location thereby breaking away from itself.” –Nancy Bauer, CEO and editor-in-chief of WomenMatter Inc.;

“The PC as a box is increasingly irrelevant to the casual user at home, the fastest growing segment. Here the critical feature is simply the screen and the method of interaction, and whether that screen is a computer screen or TV screen the average person couldn't care less. They simply want to connect to their photos, videos, letters, etc. and have little real interest in where these physically are. Younger users in particular often have little grasp of the reality of their data storage, as they have grown up in a world where storing things online is simply the way it's done, on sites such as Bebo, Facebook and Flickr. The idea of keeping everything on a box at home will eventually seem outdated and downright dangerous, especially as the value of what is kept digitally continues to increase.” –Rich Osborne, Web manager and Web innovation officer, University of Exeter;

“Change is inevitable so the status quo of traditional desktop applications will not survive. It is impractical and inconvenient. The public does not realize it in these terms despite already contributing to the change, often unknowingly. The ‘most innovative work’ being done this way may be dependent on security and privacy issues that will become more concerning.” —Andrew Stulac, account manager, ISL Web Marketing & Development;

“We will have probably created robust technology that blurs the line between a desktop and Internet application. Internet access will be ubiquitous, so the power of that access will be utilized by both ‘desktop’ and ‘Internet’ applications. In some sense it is easy to foresee the technological innovations; what is harder to predict is the role of privacy. Will we keep copies of all or a subset of our documents locally, on a hard drive we own? Will new laws have to be drafted laying out the rights of Internet users, with respect to our files? Will we all (continue to) trust companies like Google with sole access to all our files?” —Nick Violi, research assistant, University of Maryland

“If the first decade of the millennium was about the speed of information, the next decade will be about the universal access to it. Cloud programs and applications that are truly device agnostic will be the most useful and most important for sharing data and for collaboration. Twitter is the example, here, as the most important thing about the program was not merely its mobility, but the fact that it can be – and often is – on any device imaginable. Confining information to PC-based software would be a step in the wrong direction.” –Dave Levy, senior account executive and media trend researcher in digital public affairs at Edielman (public relations)

“I suspect that this will be enough time to liberate us from the need for physical hardware-based screens as well. We should graduate to a connectivity device (call it a smartphone if you like) that will be able to project an interactive screen on any surface.” —Sam Punnett, president, FAD Research Inc., analyst, Bell Broadcast and New Media Fund;

“The cloud is nothing new. It's been 20 years in the making. The distinctions between a data centre and an exchange have blurred over decades; as IT and telecoms continue to converge, distance becomes irrelevant and it becomes possible to shift time. The future has been here in a William Gibson sense, just unevenly distributed. By 2020 the distribution will be more even, and the cloud will become the natural way people do things.” —JP Rangaswami, chief scientist, British Telecommunications;

“Data where I work is private. We will not in the mere space of 10 years change this. We do not work online period. Anything online we manage from our own servers. I use Google Docs to share game documents I create and the game in an imaginary world. These are successful. Sharing documents with community groups using google docs does not seem to work. Again with community groups we have more luck with older methods not Google docs.” —Peter Timusk, webmaster and Internet researcher, statistical products manager at Statistics Canada;

“Cloud-based services enable the next generation of intelligent services. These services could employ huge databases and run on very specialized architectures (e.g. map-reduce) as well as require large-scale communications bandwidth. These cannot realistically run on a single PC, connected on a consumer broadband link, even in 2020. However, intelligent clients that connect to intelligent cloud-based services will be ubiquitous, running in browsers, smartphones, tablets and set-top boxes.” –William Luciw, managing director at Viewpoint West Partners and director at Sezmi Inc., and formerly senior director of products and stand–up philosopher at several other Silicon Valley companies;

“More and more we are seeing that users are willing to sacrifice certain aspects of privacy and security (see for certain types of social convenience. I think this will only continue, and I see the cloud as the perfect breeding ground.” –Jillian M. Ketterer, information analyst for the Center for Innovation of the National Board of Medical Examiners (US);

“I could very well be wrong in my prediction that most applications will remain cloud-based because it assumes that three significant issues will be successfully addressed: efficiency, security, and compensation. Efficiency seems to me to be the most immediate and obvious benefit of cloud computing. In today's environment the amount of waste associated with loading and updating applications and negotiating issues of compatibility is staggering. This provides the motivation to go to a cloud. But, issues of security and compensation are not yet fully resolved, although applications such as Intuit's Quickbooks Online show that they can be and I expect will.” –Sean O’Leary, president of MarketLab Inc.;

“First we have to make sure the cloud is much more secure than it is now. After that happens, we need to secure the PCs as they are more vulnerable to wireless attacks than to an attack when they are behind a wired server and/or firewall. Finally, the applications must be designed so the PCs can still run them and the user can still work when there is no or limited access to the cloud.” –Thomas Lenzo, business and technology consultant;

“Screen size will still be a determining factor in 2020. Data will flow across devices, so none of this will be either/or.” —Kevin Werbach, founder of the Supernova technology conference and assistant professor at the Wharton School of Business, former counsel for new technology policy at the FCC;

“What we think of now as the cloud will be commonplace by 2020. Ubiquitous access, to public and private clouds, via handhelds or all sorts of smaller devices (roll-out keyboards, etc.) will make portability and accessibility the manner of the day. It will also increase the global reach of data, and make marketing via digital means a worldwide endeavor. The tools for computing, sitting in the cloud, will enable innovation and collaboration in ways far beyond what we know now. The US will adopt (after great lobbying against this by the telecom powers that be) more open access and less predatory pricing. This will be a necessity, in order to compete and interact on an equal basis with other countries that have long since broken the digital barriers and ‘digital divides.’” –Dean Landsman, president of Landsman Communications Group, board member at TeleTruth and participant in project VRM;

“We're well on the way to this future already. Fewer and fewer standalone applications provide much useful functionality without network connectivity, and more and more software is being delivered as a service. By 2020, there won’t be much distinction left as the two categories will be completely blurred.” —Anthony Townsend, director of technology development and research director at Institute for the Future;

“Unless we effectively deal with intellectual property and information security concerns, few large, multinational companies will choose to work in a global cloud. They may choose to operate in a cloud within their own company. However, I do believe that individuals (and small businesses) are very likely to increase their use of Internet-based applications.” –Allison Anderson, manager of learning innovations and technology at Intel Corporation;

“While I'd like to believe that software will be network-based, I believe network bandwidth and the footprint for fiber-optic type network infrastructure still being a limiting factor. There are great Internet apps out there now, but it is a drag to wait for pages to reload.” —Andrew Richardson, owner and CEO of Lucidity Research LLC;

“In 10 years, the whole landscape of running apps will change. Not so much with smartphones either. Other smart appliances will exist, like digital imaging projected from a wristwatch type of hardware. More digital signage and kiosks will exist, giving us the opportunity to be more mobile.” –Carol Marak, founder, Carebuzz, founder,;

“The trend is clear – Internet-enabled applications that use standardized formats like HTML and Javascript (and their successors) will be where people will spend most of their time. Different devices and form factors will enhance these experiences, and the traditional PC will certainly morph as larger and cheaper screens become more affordable, but with today's smart phones carrying around 1GHz CPUs (which is what a high-end laptop had in its core just a few years back) the key limiter to usage will be screen size and battery life. Internet-based applications will continue to get more and more powerful, and will benefit from the significant network effects of being able to share easily and aggregate the work of thousands or millions of people who use the application (e.g. spell correction, transalation, speech-to-text).” —Dave Sifry, founder, Offbeat Guides, founder, Technorati, co-founder, Sputnik, co-founder, Linuxcare, Inc.;

“We've already moved to the cloud for things that matter most to people. Email. Social networks. And so on. The complete switch of 'traditional' desktop apps in the cloud is just a matter of time – assuming these apps survive at all.” —Mark Surman, executive director, Mozilla Foundation;

“Now that my staff uses Google Docs, i can't imagine how we collaborated so efficiently before then. For our current film, we have team members across the country and are able to seamlessly share ideas. From this experience, I can extrapolate that cloud applications will be all that companies and organizations use in 2020. It has opened new ways to collaborate and is the future of productivity.” —Tiffany Shlain, founder of the Webby Awards and co-founder of the International Academy of Digital Arts & Sciences, filmmaker, director, Moxie Institute;

“It is increasingly the case that a computer without connection to the cloud is just a typewriter without native functionality. I think, though, that there will be a core of people who will want to own their information, no matter where it is.” –David Pecotic, officer, Australian Broadband Guarantee Policy Section, Australian Broadband Guarantee Branch, Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy;

“The convenience of cloud computing will tempt most of us to move our data into the cloud. People who keep their back-ups on disks will eventually be regarded as backward and quaint. With data residing in the cloud, application developers will be forced to deliver access from mobile as well as stationary computers. Mobile applications will offer more opportunities and be more rewarding for innovative programmers to work with.” –Charlie Breindahl, webmaster and lecturer, Danish Centre for Design Research;

“By 2020, extremely secure quantum cryptographic methods will be merged with biometric security for all individuals & organizations to use, thus eliminating one of the impediments to full-scale adoption of cloud computing. By 2020, IPv6 and other infrastructure mechanisms will finally provide metered scaling of compute and bandwidth resources, enabling resource-intensive applications to finally migrate to the cloud." –Steven G. Kukla, product planner

“The moment application providers figure out a method to scale performance for personal computing, then cloud will be a reality.” –Prasad Ajinkya, senior associate, Illumine Knowledge Resources Pvt. Ltd. and Career Knowledge Resources Pvt. Ltd.;

“Whether or not it makes more sense, the technology majority will be carried along by the major Internet players such as Google and Amazon in having all of their data in the cloud, whether they know it or not (or notice it for the first time when a server is down) – sheer practicality of having access to the same data and metadata where ever they are, on whatever device and across applications will wipe out better thinking about data ownership, privacy or all the things large scale data processing will work out about you.” –Lyndon Nixon, senior researcher and consultant working on future Internet and semantic television, STI International;

>> Click here to return to the 2010 Future of the Internet survey homepage
>> Click here to read anonymous respondents' responses to this question

>> Click here to read the news release prepared to announce this report
>> Click here to read brief biographies of some of the survey participants


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