Surfing the Web: What is Cloud Technology?

“Surfing the web” is a phrase that has often been deemed as synonymous with the cloud computing process. To surf the web simply means to use the Internet to check email, pay bills, view checking and savings account balances, shop, and so on.

While the phrase has been synonymized with cloud computing, it is also a proper phrase for the cloud computing process: after all, when a person “surfs” on water, he or she uses a surfing board to take them above the water and waves and into the air.

When an individual surfs the Web, he or she rises above the everyday brick-and-mortar building to work in and works at home, the library, a local coffee shop (in the open world rather than behind closed doors) and is free to enjoy the experience no matter where he or she may be on any given day.

If cloud computing is surfing the web, the act of browsing the Internet, typing emails, checking balances and clicking “add to cart” to purchase an item, then the next question is, “What is cloud technology”?

Cloud technology, in the analogy of surfing the web, is the “surfing board” or the means used to perform cloud computing. In other words, cloud technology answers the following question: what do you use to surf the Web, browse the Internet?

What tools are available to you to check email, send emails, view purchases, and transfer funds to your various bank accounts? There are many tools that consumers use on an ordinary basis that they never consider as forms of cloud technology. If you use certain electronic gadgets and, through them, access webpages and the Internet, then you have used a form of cloud technology.

What are some forms of cloud technology?

  1. desktop PC
  2. laptop
  3. cell phone
  4. smartphone
  5. tablet

Desktop PCs are computers that are so massive as to sit on a desk. It is impossible to hold desktop PCs in your lap — although companies such as Apple have created the iMac, a computer that is worlds away from my mother’s Compaq Presario she purchased for $2000 back in 1996 or 1997.

Desktop computers were the world’s first means of cloud computing, considering that most individuals used typewriters to write letters (and the Post Office to send them) before Internet, desktops, and email came alive for most individuals in the 1990s. Desktops were often used for home and business use, the exception being public libraries that allow individuals to use computers.

Laptops have become a mobile replacement of the desktop computer. While they are similar in that they allow you to browse the Internet and perform crucial transactions for daily life, they have the advantage of being extremely portable and easy to carry.

If you want to take your research paper on the go, just pack your laptop into a computer bag and carry it as you would a briefcase (professional) or a backpack (student). Laptops are portable not only because they are easy to carry, but also because they contain less moving parts than desktops (one item as opposed to carrying a hard drive, monitor, keyboard, and optional printer for a desktop). Laptops were the start of mobile technology for many individuals, since laptops often came loaded with software (such as Microsoft Office — Word, Powerpoint, and Excel) as well as a DVD player/CD player installed for movies and video viewing.

Since many business professionals are on the go and traveling, Microsoft’s video-chatting service, Skype, provides an instant connection to anyone, anywhere around the world — whether you’re in your car or a hotel room five states away.

Laptops have evolved over the last decade, going from the use of mouse and mousepad to trackpads (as evidenced by Dell and Apple computers). IBM’s ThinkPad, a device I used in college, was different in that it came with a small, red circle in the keyboard center — a circle that was used to direct the arrow on-screen towards the item to click or select. Trackpads have made the experience effortless for most individuals and seems to be the desktop PC replacement for most families. Laptops often cost more than desktops these days, but they are more portable (an advantage worth the price).

Not only have laptops evolved with regard to keyboard displays, but also screen displays as well. The first laptops produced came with a mouse (later trackpad), but had no such thing as a touchscreen. With tablets dominating the mobile scene as much as smartphones in the second decade of the twenty-first century, laptops have now become “larger tablets” that you can touch or use a trackpad with when browsing the Internet for daily use.

Touch is a concept that many consumers find comforting. Although there are companies such as Microsoft and other Windows manufacturers (Samsung, Hewlett-Packard, Dell, etc.) that produce touchscreen laptops (not to mention Google with its newest touchscreen laptop, the ChromeBook Pixel), the Apple Corporation is a company that continues to fight against the idea and has yet to offer touchscreen laptops in any of its recent MacBooks.

The cell phone is another example of cloud technology. Cell phones existed long before the smartphone was invented in the late 1990s (called “the Simon Personal Communicator). The cell phone was first produced as a large phone (often black, with few other colors) that had large buttons. My mother’s first cell phone was considered to be a “block” phone that US Cellular installed within her 1993 blue-black Saturn sports vehicle.

It had a wire attached and could not leave the car. It was comforting to have a phone on the go (mobility is always a good thing), but it was still not mobile enough, since you could only make cell phone calls in your car or vehicle. Surprisingly, within a few years of mass production, cell phones started to offer modern features such as navigational directions and Internet access so that customers could use cell phones anywhere, even when standing outside of a vehicle. While some cell phones offered Internet service, smartphones were the Internet phone of choice.

Apple produced its iPhone in 2007, the first popular smartphone (though not the first) for the consumer public. What made the smartphone such a potent form of cloud technology is that it combined the capabilities of both a computer (Internet access) and a phone (voice and text).

Now, a person could purchase a smartphone and have both a phone and computer on the go. Laptops were used less and less, as consumers turned comfortable with smartphones and their portability advantage over laptops (smartphones are smaller than laptops, which means they can be placed in a pant or jacket pocket, minus the extra weight of a laptop computer). Smartphones provide what are called mobile applications (apps) so as to make the Internet experience easy.

When desktops first arrived on store shelves, they required consumers to enter an entire URL (including the “http://” at the beginning of the URL) in order to access the site. Pressing a wrong letter or leaving out a portion of the URL resulted in a dead end online. As desktops evolved, computers remembered a person’s visited websites and could supply the entire URL at the touch of one letter or a word typed into the URL search box. Smartphones eliminated the URL problem by allowing immediate access to a social media site (Facebook, Twitter, Google +) at the touch of an icon on the touch screen.

Smartphones also took care of problems with cell phones, such as bad cameras, terrible lighting, and microphone speakers. Smartphones provided some sort of light assistance and/or brightness selection, making pictures brighter and better than before. In addition to computer and phone capabilities, they started to offer camera and camcorder abilities — causing many individuals to put down their HD cameras and Sony camcorders for smartphones and their camera and video-recording capabilities.

IBM produced the first smartphone, dubbed the Simon Personal Communicator, back in the early 1990s, and it included text message capabilities but did not have the touch screen and Internet potential that smartphones have today. Apple’s iPhone would change all that in 2007. Over the last six years, many manufacturers (Samsung and BlackBerry, formerly RIM, included) have utilized Apple’s touch screen in their latest smartphones. Touch screens, once credited to Apple, have now become an ordinary expectation of consumers and an evolved trend of mobile technology.

With the increasing capabilities of smartphones came the increased desire to see larger screens. Apple’s iPhone back in 2007 was somewhat around 3.5 inches, but this was long before smartphones were considered useful for movie and video viewing. Smartphones were originally considered to be useful for web searches, shopping, banking, phone calls, photo snaps, and emails. Movie-watching, however, was considered to be a practice that few were interested in.

Keep in mind that, in 2007, laptops were still the popular mobile device. Most consumers did not consider smartphones to be suitable replacements for laptop computers. Samsung Electronics, later to become Apple’s top Android rival, took this concept forward with its “phablet” collection. The Galaxy Note 1 was considered by many to be a step backward in innovation, since phones were large and “blocky” before the smartphone became significant.

The trend, according to many tech analysts, should have been to make smartphones smaller. Phablets, however, accommodated the needs of many consumers to watch movies and videos without straining their eyes to see them — or the need to have the phone near their face in order to view the events on the screen. Yet and still, Samsung’s phablet became a reality because of the rise of the mobile tablet.

The mobile tablet was first introduced by Apple in 2009, known as the iPad. Many consider the iPad to be a name Apple produced for its first tablet; the truth, however, is that the name existed as an acronym long before it became the name of Apple’s famous-selling tablet.

The acronym “i-P-A-D” stood for “Internet Personal Access Device,” and was first applied to a desktop computer (not a tablet). Apple used the “iPad” label in 2009, although it did not legally own rights to the name until last year (2012). Prior to Apple’s acquisition of legal rights to the iPad label, the label was owned by Chinese company Shenzhen Proview — who applied the “iPad” label to its desktop computer. Since “iPad” has the meaning it does as aforementioned, any cloud computing device can serve as an Internet device.

What is cloud technology? If I could sum up a definition in one word, it would be “iPAD” — Internet Personal Access Device. What is cloud technology? Cloud technology consists of devices that you own (personal devices) that provide Internet access (access to the World Wide Web). These devices are not only forms of personal leisure, but devices consumers have come to rely on for their daily livelihood. Desktop computers have made the Internet possible; the Internet, on the other hand, has made every other cloud device possible.