Elon University

The 2010 Survey: Anonymous responses to a tension pair on the likely future of cloud computing

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.

Cloud Computing Survey CoverThis page has anonymous responses to a question about people’s perceptions of the likely evolution of cloud computing by 2020. This is one of 10 questions raised by the 2010 Elon UniversityPew Internet survey of tech 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 PDF, click here.

Cloud Computing predictions

Following on this page is a selection of specific elaborations to this question that were made by survey participants who preferred to remain anonymous. About two-thirds of the respondents chose to elaborate on this question.

To read the responses of participants who took credit for their remarks, click here.

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.” What follows is a selection of the hundreds of written elaborations from those who did not want to be credited with their remarks:

“As technology marches forward the machine becomes less distinct. Compare an IBM 360 with a PC with an iPhone. People want to get a task done and they want to be able to do it wherever they are. When the power of mobile computing can rival that of fixed computing, the former will prevail.”

“The laws of connectivity and principles of economics will accelerate cloud computing as long as there is not a disruptive force that impacts connectivity and broadband speed continues to improve at the current pace.”

“Cloudware will win out by offering low cost, then gradually increase monthly charges just as have cable TV companies. So I’m kind of 50-50 on this one, suspecting that people may maintain both for flexibility of use and purpose.”

“The security issues that now plague PCs and operating systems may become more manageable (they may also be a different class of security systems). But most important of all, to the average person a PC will be the equivalent of a horse-drawn carriage. Our lives are mobile, our needs more immediate and location-sensitive and thus the handheld devices will likely become more than just computing and communication devices. They can become our wallets, our identity cards, etc.”

“Work is different than applications, so aspiring applications designers will have even more applications to invent and those will be used on more and more mobile devices. That said, most work will still be done on PCs primarily to ensure the security of information in use and information at rest (stored on the PC). One can imagine increasing interconnection applications for mobile systems and much improved security for work-related data at rest or in transit through the cloud.”

“Software is already obsolete.”

“Clouds could be the libraries and schools, and perhaps, the shared workspaces of the future, but people will still elect to do the work they deem most important to them personally on a PC. Application designers will be drawn to both markets and they will become more differentiated by 2020 – rather like autos and motorcycles – both motor vehicles but different techno genres within that discipline.”

“’Most people’ will not be American! ‘Most people’ will still be at the early stages of the Internet and have only modest infrastructure. Yes, some – maybe many – in the richest and most developed countries will have the option to do cloud computing. Countries such as China will continue to restrict what they can not control.”

“The trend is going toward running on Internet-based applications, but I’m not sure most work will happen that way by 2020. By 2030? Sure.”

“The cloud will simply become your big ‘e’ drive of life. As connectivity becomes more ubiquitous it will make sense to have your items accessible from all devices at all times and that’s the promise of cloud computing. Of course I expect my cloud to be dark, dirty and smudgy just like my desktop but I sure will be happy never to have to synch two things together again.”

“By 2020, we will probably evolve out of the cloud and well beyond the traditional PC.”

“People may not want the responsibility of managing software and although privacy and ownership may be problematic, convenience will be more important to people.”

“Users will always prefer non-wired, open applications.”

“The shrink-wrap model is going away, just as it has with music. Computing capability will be here and there, meaning it will be possible for people to access bits of applications as they need them, rather than relying on a limited package of functionality that they use for most tasks. I don’t much care if the functionality is on the desktop or on the cloud. I do think it matters where we store our personal work and information, and I am mindful of the security implications of cloud computing. The ability/expectation/need to access the same information from multiple platforms is definitely driving the world toward network-based (cloud-based) applications.”

“Money talks (and quite loudly, too). The individual cost of procuring new application software versions becomes prohibitive as PC-oriented operating systems evolve in lieu of ‘free’ cloud-based versions, while an increasing share of users gravitate toward an integrated mobile/handheld communications platform for the vast majority of their online life (or lives).”

“Unless desktop applications get smarter at enabling quick collaboration my bet is on the Web/cloud.”

“Many current security and privacy issues will be resolved. The substantial savings that can be realized with Internet-based applications will drive users to these applications.”

“Didn’t we try the dumb-terminal experiment already?”

“The cloud is owned by those we trust less than we trust open-source devices we carry. White box smartphones will prevail over PCs and over the cloud.”

“People will use computers (not mobile devices like smartphones or tablets) for processing-heavy work such as photo manipulation or video editing, but most ‘apps’ will be in the cloud. Most people won’t know the difference, though – things will ‘just work’ (or not) like they do now.”

“Most people will do their work entirely in the cloud. The smart minority will use a combination of local and networked resources, moving their data and applications around in order to preserve independence, flexibility and to maximize utility. A very small, paranoid minority will avoid cloud resources as much as possible, and these people will be very smug when the rest of us run into technical and political problems with the cloud.”

“By 2020 most data will live in the cloud whilst the distinction between cloud and local processing will begin to disappear from the users’ point of view. The idea of a computer as a separate entity in its own right, as opposed to an interface on the wider network will gradually disappear except for some specialized cases.”

“There will be a much more diverse ecosystem of devices and applications, with a spectrum of devices from smartphones to video walls. Developers will produce apps that will run on and across many devices, with the browser as a common standard. “The browser+ will be the common factor, with the devices as instantiations. The challenge will be to maintain persistence of interaction across devices.”

“Most people are already living in the cloud. The primary reason people interact with a computer is to gather information and socialize. Search engines are in the cloud. E-mail, social network sites, microblogging are already cloud-focused. So, really, what you’re asking about is white-collar work. The biggest limitation to the cloud is going to be companies’ conservative nature and fear of not having control. The smaller companies and those who see no reason to lock down employees’ work will switch fast. But the majority will be slow. Remember: Veteran’s Affairs is still running DOS.”

“Meh. People are lazy (I use myself as a standard) and there’s a lot of inertia. Some things however are spectacularly great when collaboratively done on the Net, but lots of things, there’s no real reason for it, and it increases tiny, subjective latencies and to be honest, no one really trusts the data holders. People are going to shortly wake up about the combined load of ‘monthly service fees’ and opt for one-time purchases. We all know that business would love to take in predictable money and provide nothing in return; repetitive billing for non-human-managed services (eg. the call center) is pretty close to that!”

“It’s already happening, and as different ways to input information become more sophisticated it will happen more. We will want to mash up our own info with others and it will be facilitated through the cloud.”

“I am afraid that use of the cloud will be seductive, and I foresee some very major problems with regard to loss of data and loss of privacy as a result. The possible multiple jurisdictions associated with cloud computing will have negative unintended consequences.”

“The interactive and inexpensive (for users) nature of Internet-based applications definitely makes them more likely to be used in the future than PC-based applications. However, because so many companies are worried about the security of such applications, the widespread use of Internet-based applications may take a while to catch on widely.”

“Mobility will dominate data access.”

“This is already occurring. There is no reason to assume it will decrease in the future.”

“We will predominantly ‘live in a cloud.’ There will, however, be significant debate around who owns and controls our data. Are we happy for example, to have Facebook and Google hold the keys and our documents? Imagine placing sensitive research data on a remote server! Do we trust FB, Google, etc., that much? For the younger generation this may not be so much of an issue. I am therefore of the opinion that the solution is not so clear-cut. There will still be a role for desktop applications and desktop storage of documents.”

“The likelihood of this prediction coming true is as close to 100 percent as a decade-long predication can be.”

“It will be a combination of the two.”

“You are completely misunderstanding what ‘the cloud’ actually is and means to the future. It’s not about virtual or Web-based apps. Lots of applications will be Web-based, but its far smarter and more convenient to have on the desktop. Security will be the number-one issue – remember Twitter being hacked?”

“We are a mobile society and our work and tools will move with us.”

“Maybe yes, Internet-based applications will lead.”

“Not 100% cloud environment.”

“Neither of the above. Most people will still do, and primarily store, work on their own PC. But behind the scenes it will be shared and connected across the cloud in a variety of ways. The hard work, and much of the innovation, is in making those connections transparent, useful and manageable.”

“Neither: History has shown over and over again that neither will be the case, but rather a blending. We still have ‘mainframes’ or their equivalents long after they were to be wiped out, we sell more printers and print more paper than we ever had in the midst of proclamations now decades old that we would be ‘paperless,’ etc. In 2020 we will be using cloud, phone, PC-based, and a technology we don’t even know about yet.”

“Your 2020 describes my 2009, and I’m generally only three to five years ahead of popular adoption, not 10.”

“Within 10 years, the number of smartphones in use worldwide will exceed the number of PCs by a considerable margin. In addition, the supported storage and processing power will make it possible for smartphones (with suitable accessories) to carry out many of the functions that PCs handle today. By that time, Microsoft Windows will be increasingly viewed as a ‘legacy’ computing environment, much as IBM mainframes are today.”

“I checked the ‘most people won’t do their work with software running…’ However, what I really mean is that significantly more will be doing all work on applications online. Unless there is some sort of major breakdown/Internet crash, moving to online applications is inevitable. The only thing stopping us will be bandwidth, but if network neutrality is maintained, then innovation will increase at an amazing rate and people will come up with solutions.”

“It is obvious to insiders that the PC ecosystem has generated far less excitement among developers than either a cloud-based service or a handheld-based device. Does that mean the PC will lose its usefulness soon? No, not a chance of that, but it does mean there will be alternatives. There are issues with these alternatives (protection of privacy, reliability, etc), and the solutions proposed to those challenges in the next few years will determine how prevalent the alternatives become.”

“Cloud computing won’t work until there is much better security.”

“Many people will store material in the cloud, and perhaps often use cloud-based applications to access it. But there are still too many situations where the cloud isn’t available, and still too many issues like privacy, security, and backups, to make that a perfect solution today; and unfortunately my prediction is that these issues will not be completely resolved in 10 years.”

“It will be 50/50.”

“Normal cycle of computing will lead us back to the dumb-terminal situation, applications all centralized on servers will allow the user to have less complex human interface equipment.”

“Mostly cloud, however, those clouds need to be more secure.”

“Wireless net ubiquity, virtualization, and the security and updates possible with net-based applications seems like a sure-fire winner.”

“For us oldsters, our eyes will be too challenged to work on smartphones. The type will never be big enough. And we’ll not be ready to throw in the towel by 2020. For younger people, smartphones may be the way to go.”

“General-purpose PCs will become less important in 10 years’ time. But 10 years are long enough to have two changes take place. I envision that cloud computing will be with us in five years’ time or so, but I also foresee that locally installed software will come back in another five years.”

“People overestimate how technology changes. It changes much more slowly than people in the computer world think and many people are very slow to adopt any technologies.”

“It is too early to predict what penetration cloud computing will have made by 2020 since so many technical issues will need to be resolved. But more than that, cloud computing represents a significant paradigm shift in peoples’ relationship with computing devices and their personal data. This is, to me, a sociological issue, not just a technical one, that may take more than a decade to resolve.”

“It is the systems that unite those in various business applications and their discourse with each other and those with whom they do external business.”

“Actually, phones will become more like PCs – so it is both/and.”

“This seems kind of obvious, as it is happening already. Among other things, writing within an Internet-based application allows easier collaboration but also provides easier opportunities for backups.”

“Too many patches and upgrades will favor the cloud for applications.”

“We may come full circle and return to device-based applications because of security concerns.”

“Phones are just more portable than CDs, and they have shown an amazing ability to develop more fascinating applications. The screen size is a liability to anyone who needs to be able to read pages at a time, but I think phones have it.”

“It will be a mixture of both of the above, but I really don’t know what will win out.”

“Expanded bandwidth especially in the developing world plus software costs and pirating.”

“2020 is too soon for cloud computing to overcome the real and perceived security risks.”

“I am not convinced that the cloud is enough to move us away from our own software. The UI on most of the cloud apps are awful and requires people to learn different interfaces instead of a common one.”

“Simply, efficiency and collaboration across the spectrum of interaction will move towards clouds and away from individual silos.”

“It will take far more time than 10 years to create the necessary bandwidth to handle all the computational work that gets done (offline) on desktops. Many parts of the US are still without high-speed access – the infrastructure doesn’t exist, nor is the benefit for much of what we do on our personal computers been demonstrated. On the other hand, business and scientific work groups are already well on their way into the clouds. The tremendous processing power of pPCs with multiple cores creates spectacular opportunities for software developers – delivering processing power that would choke an Internet-based app. We should view the 2020 world as sorting the applications so that we maximize functionality, scalability and efficiency rather than going head-to-head for supremacy.”

“Bob Frankston Software will be in nooks and crannies near and far.”

“People will still do their serious work on local PCs, simply because of the security issues of doing it using a cloud. However, many apps will indeed be released to the cloud first, because that way the apps-writers get a better commercial deal out of it. In other words, we’ll see both local and shared computing.”

“The ease of access to content and low or no cost aspect of cloud computing will continue to be an important driver in people’s use of the cloud for content development and storage.”

“The hardware platform will become less relevant.”

“I already operate on several platforms and thus prefer applications that keep my data in the cloud (and on various backups that I control).”

“It is a little hard to be absolute. I think that there will be more use of the cloud, but that people will still like to have their data available locally.”

“The cloud will be the storage system but most of the processing will still be done on the final personal device: computer/laptop/PDA/mobile doesn’t really matter.”

“This is a false dichotomy. People will use Internet-based software running on a general-purpose computer. Information will be stored both locally and remotely.”

“For those of us in a high-tech environment we will live in a cloud. But traveling extensively throughout the country, it can be noted that the average user relies on their Internet services for e-mail and to create word documents. I don’t see that changing dramatically over the next 10 years unless a new ‘stickiness’ draws more users for high end uses.”

“The first choice is the answer, many devices on the move, just like the people they serve.”

“The ‘desktop computer’ is more likely to be a very small box with wireless worked connections, but I don’t think that the smartphone infrastructure is anywhere near in place yet for that kind of responsibility by 2020.”

“Ubiquitous networks will still take time to be rolled out, and larger numbers of less affluent people will still be using poorer quality connections to the Internet. Cloud computing will be certainly very pervasive, but in a minority while the equity of access tips.”

“This may take longer than 10 years. But this is the direction.”

“The cloud and mobility are strongly coupled. I see innovation being focused on enabling mobility, and that requires cloud-based services.”

“It’s all a matter of trust. I just don’t believe that companies will willfully give their business data away to third parties.”

“There are likely to be unforeseen changes in the technology that render this kind of question as immaterial. The more likely scenario is for more distributive systems and more personalized systems.”

“We are becoming more mobile with our use of the Internet. Also, the line between the mobile device and the general-purpose PC is blurring more each day. I believe the principle is correct but I don’t agree with the specific characterization of it.”

“I’d follow the money on this one. If it’s in cloud computing this is the best prediction.”

“Things that we recognize as personal computers continue to exist but fade into the furniture or fabric of our lives, local processing for visualization is perhaps the most important role that computers play today, doing that out on the network remains a stubborn latency, problem. Because of size pressures, the devices that have all-day usability aren’t phones, they are laptops. The reach and breadth of what you can do with 60 watt hours of battery is separated by a massive gulf from the 3-6 WH that a cell phone weighing 150g can hold.”

“Hopefully the cloud will not take over everything. Thirty years in the IT business has trained me to know that depending too much on computers is highly dangerous. Just look at the case of the Therac 25.”

“By 2020, most people will still do their work with software running on a general-purpose PC. If we consider the global level, a 10-year period is too short for the shift from ‘desktop to cloud’ for the general population. Nevertheless I think that Internet-based applications like Google Docs and applications run from smartphones will be used more than they are being used now. That’s why aspiring application designers will develop and provide a lot of programs and software for Internet-based applications.”

“The cloud will grow quickly, but not over 50 percent of all applications by 2020. Maybe close to that.”

“Most will use not the desktop, but something else.”

“The choice is too binary. Not sure the notion if cloud and PC operating system will be relevant in 2020. If anything we’ll exist seamlessly between the two environments.”

“It is already happening; we are all already part of the cloud and that is why things are moving so rapidly.”

“I am not sure 10 years is sufficient time to have ‘most people’ converted from the PC concept to the Cloud Computing model, especially when cybercrime seems so pervasive.”

“Applications are yesterday’s news until such time as devices can store and process as much data as quickly and reliably as a Google datacenter can today.”

“2020 is so just around the corner. We are already seeing a revolution in how some apps are migrating into a ‘tetherless’ environment, whether we call it ‘cloud’ or something else. By 2020, apps will be more able to follow the user, if that is what the user wants. Co-existence of some apps will continue. Some apps will still require sophisticated terminals that are yet to be developed. ‘Mobile terminals’ will begin to look very different from today’s smart phones, which themselves will continue to become smaller and more sophisticated – for some uses. But we will see truly usable tablets and other improvements on netbooks, and lightweight laptops to turn them into more sophisticated working devices, able to bring longer battery time along with higher processing power. If we solve the cost issue of communications; bring electricity or affordable power sources to vast numbers of users just now accessing the Internet/Web, and design more affordable devices and make significant progress in software and in the policy challenges – but 2020 is so just around the corner…”

“Those who can afford the proper firewalls and capacities will live in the cloud. But one or two spectacular crashes or hacks will make the cloud a series of ghettoes with locked doors. Security specialists will have a lot of interesting work to do. The individual PC will not be where the action is.”

“The idea of personal files stored locally will be different, as ‘locally’ becomes part of the cloud.”

“We are already seeing information and utilities moving away from a standard PC. The ability to work anywhere is valuable. People will have several technologies that will allow them to connect.”

“I do not picture the PC going away but I do imagine a world where more functionality gets performed on mobile devices – not simply smart phones but also things like the Kindle reader. I’ve certainly seen significant shifts in that direction in my own life over the next year or so. There are technical issues here I don’t pretend to know how to address, but I do think the balance of functions may be decisively shifting towards mobile/cloud rather than PC/software.”

“Technology advances quickly, thus changing the ways in which we work. I believe the change described here is inevitable.”

“The move to cloud computing is already happening, with more planning to follow.”

“No matter what the ultimate tool is people will still need a ‘base’ from which to operate. While initially some may want to use smartphones as the ‘end all,’ the sheer fact that you will still work on a desk of some sort is going to hamper this.”

“Not every tool will be available via Google; it’s not possible. I work in it company and we have lots of internal applications that cannot be replaced by Google.”

“Access, access, access! Mobile computing has changed everything!”

“Most personal work will be done in the cloud, though I think cloud-computing is a harder sell for corporations due to security concerns.”

“Agreed – no turning back from an increasingly mobile culture that prefers to cut the wires; remove restrictions and limitations forced on us by software offered only in one physical location.”

“Local computing is the practice of the past.”

“When speed issues and security concerns are addressed, it just makes sense that more computing will take place off the PC – allowing greater access from a number of different places, with more cost efficiency.”

“There will always be a place for desktop computing because of sensitivity and potential lack of connectivity. But by and large the cloud will be the main locus of information and processing.”

“There’s a new gizmo every 10 minutes. We can’t assume any of them will be all-powerful.”

“It will be more of a combination of the two statements. While doing complex work larger screens than smartphones are necessary, that doesn’t mean that a smart-type device couldn’t project onto something else to enhance the view and dimension.”

“By 2020 – there will be too much technology for individual preferences.”

“Most people will end up doing their work using cloud computing, but this outcome will depend on 1) how secure the Internet-based apps are, 2) if broadband access becomes truly ubiquitous, and 3) if the costs are low enough on smart phones and their applications.”

“Cloud computing is the future.”

“Technology is developing so fast, I don’t see how this would not happen.”

“Personal/educational work will move towards the cloud model, with users strongly demanding more and more capabilities from their cell phones/laptops. Some applications that have security issues – healthcare and financial data – will not want to move to a cloud model. Users will demand a seamless experience from all their applications – just as now if they use Facebook on a desktop, they want the same experience from their smartphone. Because of our lack of complete broadband coverage in the US, we will be behind the rest of the world in moving to this model – folks in rural areas will also be reluctant to move to cloud computing without reliable, high-speed connections.”

“I want to believe this is the direction of future computing and wide access to applications, but some of this appears to depend on the capacity of government regulatory bodies to advance this realm. I remain concerned that unless there are policies and rules in place to incent and direct Google and other providers to allow open access to a variety of mobile devices and applications, this prediction is not as likely to be achieved within the next decade.”

“I am not sure of my answer. I know too many people who still print everything to believe that most people will have moved to Internet-based work by 2010.”

“We will see more applications that are Internet- and smartphone-based within the next few years, but I still see PC-based applications providing the most important innovations and applications over the next 5-10 years.”

“Some individuals will use the cloud. Businesses will have reluctance to do so, especially for critical or confidential information. Hackers will attack the cloud and resulting publicity will dampen enthusiasm for the cloud.”

“This will extend the technology, scalability, and economic drivers that put processing power in one place and access everywhere.”

“The needs for a stand-alone PC are very limited: browsing, text editing, multimedia publishing. Very few people need a mathematical simulator or a database. I’m convinced that the cloud will be the best response in a hyperconnected world of things in mobility.”

“Doing one’s critical work on Internet-based software will still be too risky in 2020 for ‘most people’ particularly in terms of the risk of loss of privacy and the risk that some remote server may crash and leave the user completely helpless. General use of cloud computing will take at least another generation before it is proven secure and reliable.”

“I’m not aware that any new tech innovations will allow for the first option to happen with mass appeal.”

“Impossible to say with any certainty, but I would bet on the cloud, just given the rate of change over the past decade.”

“The trends seem fairly obvious – collaboration works best with a cloud-based suite of tools. Granted the current tools available through Google are pretty terrible, but if the market does its thing we should see marked improvement in what’s available by 2020. Additionally, the customization, innovation and entrepreneurial potential of smartphone apps can’t be ignored, creating attractive opportunities for developers and for users alike.”

“For everything to be in the clouds, which will be technologically probable, higher-level security technologies and encryptions must be in place.”

“I don’t think the general public will be confident enough to store documents online. Smartphones (iPhone, BlackBerries, etc) are still a relatively small percentage of the mobile market. Until there is greater need, the uptake will be slow. I don’t see many people seeing value in being able to access documents anywhere, I’m not sure the general public is that mobile, needing more than a single computer and cell phone. Many families have one family computer, let alone multiples.”

“The cloud and the desktop will co-exist and each will evolve according to their strengths and weaknesses. The likely answer to this question is somewhere in the middle.”

“Rural areas are not as linked as those in urban areas tend to assume. The regions my college serves is still predominantly dial-up access and not all homes have a computer. One decade will not make be sufficient to address the limitations on such regions in the US, let alone third-world countries.”

“I already work this way to some degree and am migrating more of my work to the cloud. I work in a variety of places (home, two offices, on the road) and the best way to make sure I have all of what I need is to keep it all in the cloud.”

“Baby boomers who will retire in the next decade will require PC-based applications because we are accustomed to them, and due to our aging bodies we will need the large screens of a PC rather than a smartphone and the use of a full keyboard.”

“Second choice is likely. Connectivity is a burden. Just look at what is happening when the IP network is down in a software company or think tank. We shall always need a tool that is a standalone and efficient base to go online.”

“The popularity and widespread use of netbooks speaks to the vast importance the functions a PC has and as such will have more importance overall.”

“The biggest issues for the cloud to succeed are security of data and privacy (real and the perception of users) and real anywhere/anytime access.”

“To an increasing degree, application designers will create programs capable of running equally well on any PC platform first, before adapting them to smartphones in due course. Nevertheless, as today’s generations age they will experience physical problems in handling miniature keyboards and will gravitate more toward laptops.”

“Open-source cloud computing FTW [for the world].”

“Every new generation has greater expectations about the capabilities of the tools (PCs, etc.) that they use in every day life. As this expectation rises, individual PCs will not be able to keep up with the demand for memory and speed desired.”

“The cloud will be ubiquitous, but there will still be desktop applications that will synchronize to the cloud.”

“I want to game on the PC, not my phone. So while I’m here wasting time, I’ll run a few business-related apps, too. Now if you had asked if I’d do my work on a game system like the PlayStation, I might be tempted to answer positively. I watch my movies from the PlayStation. However, I do not talk to friends through it. I will communicate with friends via my phone.”

“It will be somewhere in the middle, but closer to the cloud/mobile option. Cloud/mobile provides convenience and synergy, but at the cost of a reduction in security and privacy. Most of the time that is a tradeoff we are willing to make, but not for everything.”

“This just seems so obvious to me! We’re already moving in this direction and maybe by 2020 we’ll be beyond the clouds?”

“It will take longer than 10 years for cloud computing to be completely trusted and normalised – there have already been some high-publicity blunders regarding the loss of information kept in the cloud and not properly backed up. I’m happy to use the cloud as one source of backup, but not as my main mode of backup or as a platform for all my applications.”

“A ‘one world’ feel that dismays me – what we need is more real time with real people and what we are getting is more time with real machines.”

“Cloud computing will grow and evolve to be sophisticated, widely available, and in many cases, less expensive than it is now. This will further lessen the digital divide.”

“The issue here is what you mean by ‘most.’ There will be a significant cohort of people who do work in the cloud and like it. I also think there will be people who are comfortable with their desktops and who believe the security is better with a desktop. I do see the expanded use of smart phones – particularly in health care.”

“People tolerate less than 100 percent reliability with their PCs, but they won’t with the cloud.”

“Phones are great for short-term and on-the-go work management, but the bottom line is a phone can only show you so much in a way that is practical and even aesthetically appealing. Even if the Web transmission is that of a regular Internet connection, it is still not that easy to navigate on a small phone screen when working on spreadsheets, documents, etc.”

“Many people will still want to regain control of their documents. Small portable devices, such as high-capacity flash drives, iPods, etc., allow people to easily transport information without having to trust it to the clouds.”

“People use the easiest way and it is still the software they already have.”

“There’s only so much that people are comfortable doing on a smartphone.”

“While there will always be a need for privacy and personal applications, cloud computing allows us to access information from a wide range of sources. It’s likely to lead to lifestyle changes, such as more collaboration and work across distances. The cloud is being placed into the business world as I keyboard, and the ability to use it for the Internet-based applications as well as the smartphones will supersede either due to corporate training of the individuals, mobile carriers’ enticements or the manufacturers of bundled packages enticing us to use in this manner. Like cellular and other technologies, they will function but the issues of security will become visible as use grows, and the cloud will mandate a learning curve with manufacturing corporations and their employees.”

“The lower cost of cloud computing will force most businesses to get away from the desktop PC but reliability of connection and safeguarding access of information will be critical.”

“Cloud allows for maximum freedom and real-time access.”

“Clouds. No question.”

“The answer to this question needs to take into consideration the state of the Internet infrastructure, its stability and speed.”

“The Internet opens up the global marketplace to app designers, particularly the ‘indies,’ who will discover greater market niches in newly industrialized nations and nations migrating out of the G77.”

“All the factors seem to indicate this is the future.”

“Yes, we will be in a ‘cloud’ environment for most business- and work-related computer applications. Not necessarily 100 percent, because the majority of people still want the secure feeling of having control over the box in front of them.”

“It just makes sense that distributed computing and server-side software will win out over locally based applications. It has the potential for pay-as-you-go SAAS [software as a service] type behavior for people who may have a short-term need for a product. They wouldn’t necessarily buy the software outright for a lot of money, but they’d be willing to pay a small fee to create the document they need.”

“Frankly, I think desktop/cloud is a false dichotomy. It’ll soon be both and blurred at that. Google Gears allows you to edit a document locally. You can access your G-mail while offline via Gears. Of course, the cloud has its benefits too, so that’s while it’ll be more important in our lives soon.”

“I am not sure most individuals will utilize cloud applications but I do believe the most innovative and important applications will reside in the cloud.”

“I really don’t know that much about the ‘cloud,’ but the challenge among companies vying to be the first or foremost to develop the newest technologies seems certain to move beyond the confines of a PC operating system, if for no other reason than to encourage people to buy new equipment and services.”

“I pray we will not lose remains of control we still have. If we still have them? I wouldn’t like to keep my data on the Internet-based software due to safety even if files ‘on the desktop’ are not safe already. Is it about perceived control?”

“I have personal reservations about putting my own data ‘in the cloud’ because I don’t really trust Google (and company) that much to think they aren’t archiving all this stuff for some as-yet-unimagined use in the future. That being said, I’m probably the exception in not wanting to host my data in the cloud – but I sure would like the software to manipulate that data to be cloud-based!”

“It will directly help customers to cut down their costs, as well as helping software providers to make their products more compatible.”

“Mobility is the operative word here. Once experienced it cannot be perceived as secondary. Handheld equipment will grow almost as much as it will change and ‘base’ systems will operate as reliable back-up and as personal accessible storage.”

“2020 is a bit too soon for the demise of the PC. Plus, many companies rely on powerful, customizable databases that do not translate well to handheld devices.”

“Cloud computing, like many other buzzwords that came before it, will turn out not to be a one-size-fits-all solution for every computing need. It will have a role to play, and that role will grow substantially by 2020, but it will not do away with applications on devices that users can control themselves. People will not give up all their computing freedoms.”

“Most work will migrate to Internet-based applications like Google Docs. Individuals won’t be tied to their hard-drives or desktops. They will be able to access information from anywhere via smartphones and wireless tools. Laptops will continue to shrink, and perhaps smartphones and laptops will become one.”

“The latest and greatest new applications will be designed for smartphones. Why not? They have all of the capabilities of computers, but they are smaller and can be accessed from anywhere around the world. However, I do believe at some point there will be a ‘recreation of the laptop/desktop.’ I’m not sure what form it will be, but someday my kids will ask why that giant stone-age thing takes up space on a desk. Well, it’ll be because I can’t read or type on that small keyboard and screen. As smartphones evolve with the same operating systems as computers, they will begin to be taken over by viruses. This will have a major impact on the smart phone, as documents and other important information are hacked into and vanish from the electronic world. We will have the same issues with smartphone viruses as we do current computer viruses. This is where the transition back to laptops and desktops will come.”

“I’m already mostly in the cloud via a Mac and iPhone platform! Why would anyone put up with crapware from Microsoft any more? In 2020, people will be looking back and wondering what took them so long to change.”

“Too many opportunities for disaster with cloud computing.”

“There will, of course, be a mix, however for the mass market, cloud-based applications will be the norm. There will be plenty of situations where it is worth investing in the local infrastructure.”

“By 2020 everything will be portable – documents, photos, medical records, etc. – and people will truly ‘feel free to move about the planet.’ Even those who have resisted such technology will be swept away by the convenience of having everything important with you at one time.”

“Untethered behavior better captures human nature; cell phones have left land lines behind; untethered computing will do likewise.”

“Since different types of computers have different purposes (surfing the Web on a phone is a pain, but checking e-mail on the run requires a portable device), I think that many apps will move into the cloud as to be available from anywhere. I already have my address book on Google docs because i access it from so many different places that I needed a ‘cloud’ address to have it accessible at all times.”

“I am just learning the potential of cloud computing, but it would seem to be a true expansion of the capabilities of what one can do on a PC. However, I think there is a place for both of those areas in the future, the massive expanse of cloud computing and the more personal feel of your own PC.”

“Currently, Web-based apps are mostly inferior to the PC version (think Google Spreadsheet or Google Docs) so these would have to be very much improved as would networks which are unreliable. Network applications run inside Web browsers, so these would also have to be improved to surpass PC applications’ power. It may well be that aspiring developers will gravitate more to designing for the cloud, but that is a different question.”

“The majority of people will still do work on a general-purpose PC.”

“We’ve seen certain applications such as word processing progress from firmware, then floppies, onto CD-ROMs, and now the cloud. It’s a natural progression that will make software available to everyone, most anywhere, at a lower cost, and always be up-to-date.”

“Taking into consideration the energy shortage that most likely will occur, different apps on different developers will enable telecommunication more than now.”

“Google Wave will be the norm.”

“As smartphones become more and more common, people will increasingly migrate to hosting their documents in the cloud. The convenience of ‘anytime, anywhere’ access to documents will trump the need for a hard drive, just as computers weaned many people off paper.”

“There is so much more that can be created in PC and software production but still there is so much to perfect on existing systems, we should be far further along on operating systems than we are.”

“My documents for sure will be stored on my machine not someone else’s.”

“Easy access and personalization will be the future. I believe the companies will begin to offer more ‘mix-and-match’ software solutions so that individuals can choose the applications that matter most to them.”

“We are already moving toward cloud computing. As smartphones, netbooks, and tablets become more ingrained in our daily lives, it will become the natural evolution of computing.”

“I expect the current trend towards smart devices for ‘lightweight’ applications will continue. There will still be a significant percentage of work that is better done on ‘general-purpose’ PCs, however, such as engineering analysis and simulation, graphics design, photography, and writing documents that are meant to be confidential or complex, such as contracts, and other legal/formal instruments.”

“Both options are too simple. We might as well see the emergence of completely new devices or the disappearance of the device metaphor at all. Ubiquity of information is almost certain, access will be the problem.”

“Personal information security is at real risk here. However, being able to deal with work and personal situations in a ‘here + now’ capability will only help us deal with issues more quickly, and will hopefully lessen stress. Response time will be more of a competitive edge – which it is already.”

“I am not a fan of this evolution, but I do see it as a growth area. A wider variety of applications will become available through the cloud, and as grid computing becomes more thoughtfully implemented there will be increased power available through the cloud than on my personal PC. However, I do love having my applications local and fast – and the speed will be the issue with the cloud approach.”

“Depending on the resolution of processing speed and network capability and cost, this pendulum could swing the other way, with PC applications continuing to grow in capabilities and numbers.”

“As smart phones and cloud apps get better, more and more people will want just one device to grant them their every information and computational need. This goes with my answer to the previous question about Google making people more stupid. Actual communication will dwindle.”

“The cloud is where it is at.”

“If security issues have been solved and people can be confident that they won’t lose their work or it won’t be compromised somehow in the cloud, it will be so much easier to work from the cloud!”

“The computer environment we end up will be mobile but larger size than PDAs. Applications will be in the cloud since that’s where prototyping and updating can best happen efficiently.”

“The distinction is essentially meaningless to a technical person. An Internet application runs in a browser today, but it is still executed from the local machine (whether it be a netbook, tablet, smartphone or PC). The real question is whether data will be stored on people’s computers or in the cloud, and the answer is in the cloud. Data that is proprietary will continue to be stored locally only and then encrypted for backup on corporate servers or in the cloud. No surprises here, we’ve been moving this direction for 10 years.”

“Most creative people will hardly ever use Internet-based applications, like Google Docs, and applications run from smartphones.”

“Increased use of cloud technology will be dependent on the applications that are developed, the infrastructure developed to support this access. Infrastructure includes network, broadband, plus the security/authentication/privacy that supports it. I believe community will become ‘smarter’ about these issues and start to question – where their data is stored and who has access to it. Issues regarding who gets access to data will have to be resolved. Will access need to be included in people’s wills?”

“We will probably have more repetitive-stress injuries and eye-problems with small devices. So we will need bigger devices than smartphones. However, PCs will become flat and have less screen radiation; they will be speech-driven and interactive.”

“These things are very much a question of timing. The balance will shift to network-based apps, and 10 years is long enough to effect the shift.”

“Cloud computing is the way of the future and we will move towards having everything dealt with in the cloud.”

“We live in an increasingly mobile and collaborative world, it will only continue.”

“Look at the success of programs like Google Docs or the music application Lala – ‘life in the cloud’ will likely only proliferate. The collaborative and social nature of the Web, and increasing use of smartphones, will further fuel this shift in applications being Internet-based, rather than tied to an individual PC operating system. Look for Google Wave to play a big role in facilitating this as well.”

“More and more we see standard software moving to the cloud. It is cost-effective which will cause more of the enterprise sector to move in this direction.”

“To explain my choice would be ‘go, go, go,’ and to share my view about how major programs and applications will be designed, how they will function, and the role of cloud computing by 2020 is that no one wants to slow down.”

“Cloud will simply be more efficient for a great many computing tasks.”

“By 2020 people will do their work on a variety of devices, including both small devices connected to the ubiquitous telecommunications network of networks as well larger more computational units with more bandwidth and connection to more networks and information.”

“I am not yet convinced of the virtues of the cloud – especially in a government environment.”

“Computers have been getting smaller and smaller since they were invented. The smartphone is just a means of following in that direction.”

“By definition, ‘most’ means ‘majority,’ and I firmly believe the majority will not be working in the cloud. There’s not enough trust in the security of the cloud, and the concept is just too nebulous for the majority of people. There is security in knowing that your data physically resides on a hard drive in your own data center, personal computer or external storage device.”

“A decade won’t be enough time for cloud computing to become the dominant mode of computing. Network performance at home and on mobile computers is improving, but it is unlikely to be fast or reliable enough to make cloud computing a viable option for many popular applications. I suspect that more and more functionality will move out onto the network, but it’s too soon to declare the desktop OS dead.”

“Telecommuting will become more common, which will necessitate software usage on Internet-based applications and smartphones.”

“Business-related work will be done using Internet based applications, however, I think Internet activity at home will be with a PC. Smart phones will be amazing, but not the key element for doing actual ‘work.’ There’s something about reports to your boss/board, etc., that need a larger platform.”

“Privacy concerns will make most people keep information on the desktop, or at most on institutional servers. For schools and individuals the cloud will offer flexibility and cost savings, but anything that matters will not move to the cloud.”

“I would change my answer if I felt the Internet infrastructure becomes more robust and net-neutrality continues to be applicable.”

“This is definitely the trend – it is less easy for me, but I expect younger individuals will be used to the sharing process.”

“There is one massive issue regarding PCs, data-loss. Because of the hard drives and the rigidity of having a single computer with all of your information, eventually Internet applications will supersede them for their ability to be transferred across computers and the relative durability of data stored on the Internet.”

“Although software might or might not run locally or remotely, nothing is stored locally. All your bits are stored remotely. All your content is device-agnostic.”

“I do believe our lives will become more mobile.”

“I did not like either of these answers. Although I believe that more small-scale innovation for consumer/entertainment electronics will probably happen for the ‘cloud,’ privacy will remain a major issue. Research institutions like the one where I work will not want data or applications on either a PC or in the cloud. They will continue to want it on a very secure networked server. And I will not want my financial information in Quicken online, but on my PC.”

“At this point, cloud applications are in their infancy and a poor substitute for the desktop environment. Cloud computing will definitely provide an option for the average user, but before security and reliability issues are adequately addressed, it cannot be widely accepted.”

“I have seen computing develop from the 1960s to now, with swings to and from networked solutions for work. I see a blend. With the increased need for security from hackers or DNS attacks, colleagues from different institutions will resort to cloud applications such as Google Docs to continue their work. Behind the firewall, I see some use for cloud-based applications when work must be done across divisional lines, but the individual nature of the American worker and the American workplace will assert itself. We (and our companies) view ourselves to be individually accountable both for work and for compensation.”

“Google will continue to make its docs more secure and the cross-platform between machines, systems and companies will be too useful not to use them.”

“I don’t think you need to wait for 2020. I no longer use a home computer; I rely entirely on my smart phone to manage my personal communications, banking, finances, photos, travel, appointments, restaurant reservations, shopping, etc. Why would anyone need a PC anymore? In addition, my company is developing and running it’s next generation applications in the cloud. All of our company’s software will be running in a cloud by 2014. I think the issue isn’t will we live in the cloud by 2020 but rather how will we protect all that information and authenticate usage. My biggest concern is what happens if I lose my smart phone? How will all that personal information be secured? That’s what keeps me up at night.”

“The nature of the work would decide human confidence in Web apps, so it is quite premature and prophetic to say something about future of Web apps.”

“I’m already working in the cloud and love it!”

“The first choice is most likely, and our privacy will be in danger.”

“The answer must be put in context. 1) For the general users, the present trend will continue. Whether this will be with Web-based applications of general-purpose is unclear to me. But very few people will develop basic software. 2) But the fact that many users, for example, of spreadsheet software do indeed develop applications in that context is ignored in your question. Such very individual software will increase, and programmable smartphones will gain in importance. 3) Your question fully neglects the university and research communities, where most software is developed on general-purpose computers!”

“It strikes me that ‘desktop or cloud’ is a false dichotomy: By 2012 or so, we’ll have Web applications that seamlessly move between different devices and can be either online or offline. No later than 2015, I don’t think we’ll even talk about the difference between desktop or cloud any more. But, underneath, most applications will be ‘in the cloud’ in one way or the other.”

“We obtain more and more information from the Web, moving to the cloud for applications is inevitable. The only concern for the future of ‘cloud applications’ is the potential for rain to develop in the clouds; stability and reliability of cloud docs will become a critical requirement for consumer acceptance.”

“This answer seems like a no-brainer. No application developer that I know writes programs that are designed to run independently of the Internet.”

“The way of the world is already going towards untethered, wireless communications, and that is what will continue. I’m just wondering, where do we go from here?”

“There are too many companies with proprietary interests for many folks’ work-work to be done in the cloud (unless it’s a proprietary cloud, which is entirely possible). Personal stuff, though, is another matter.”

“As connection speeds increase and become more reliable (4G, 5G or 6G by 2020?) Web apps will provide an experience more competitive with locally installed apps. However, while pundits were saying everything would move to the Web, look at the iPhone’s ‘there’s an app for that.’ All those iPhone apps run on the phone, not in the cloud.”

“We will be working with complex models on numerous screens at the same time.”

“Already I expect to access my information from any Internet connection – the idea that a document or program is ‘stuck’ on my home or work PC seems increasingly absurd and inefficient.”

“People are still wary of too much power going to any company like Google. We’ll continue to protect our own information housed inside our own computers.”

“I actually agree more with the first choice, but not with the part about smartphones. Tiny screens will never be enough. Applications will be ‘hardware neutral’ and will run on any platform.”

“Data and apps are evolving and growing too quickly.”

“We won’t have desktops anymore, the border between my PC and my data and the net will fade out. Cross-platform programming language will make programs available on all architectures.”

“Storage increases rapidly enough that PCs and tablet computers can store most of what we want to know. Work requires intensive applications such as Microsoft Office, ArcGIS, and Photoshop on a local computer, while personal activities such as posting photos and planning trips would be done online.”

“One of the big questions here is whether the infrastructure will be in place to host increasingly data-rich materials ‘off site.’ I believe that Google, or another upstart in the next few years, will make major investments in the telecom infrastructure necessary to fully support cloud computing in a variety of mediums. The big question is what business models will be supporting the ‘off site’ services: ads or a return to monthly payments?”

“The only two important things regarding cloud are privacy and security. Once, they have been addressed, people will start using the cloud heavily. It may be from a desktop (dumb terminal) or any other connected device.”

“Most people will use desktops. But the share of the cloud will be significant.”

“The cloud will only supplant the desktop with trust architectures that allow applications to break free from the firewall. This is an enormous technical problem that may push back the 2020 threshold some years, but the aggregate trend is sound.”

“The trend to move applications to a standard platform that is accessible from desktop (regardless of OS in use), the mobile, maybe the television is clearly visible. Also, it seems that desktop applications are using more and more HTML and JavaScript.”

“I’m not sure that this is the best outcome for anyone, but my suspicion is that vested interests in the software industry will try to protect the model of shrink-wrapped software sold for use on a single PC, and hinder more innovative models.”

“In 2020 it will be Cloud 3.0. We will be able to URL TV programs, radio shows.”

“I don’t think we’ll be fully there in 2020… maybe 2030.”

“If you have used Bespin, you have seen the future of cloud apps.”

“Corporations will have their own cloud of applications.”

“The cloud itself will evolve by 2020. Recall that the power of a portable device is limited. As it develops, it will work more seamlessly with the environment both for remote processes and for collaboration and more. Hopefully this will happen with global development of communications. The synchrony with the environment is the most interesting future to consider. Mere computing efficiency is not as interesting.”

“PC-based applications no longer make sense, except in specific situations.”

“The majority of people using computers in 2020 will still use PC-based applications but there will also be a significant number of cloud-based applications.”

>> Click here to return to the 2010 Future of the Internet survey homepage
>> Click here to read non-anonymous respondents’ answers 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