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Personal Cloud to Replace PCs By 2014

Max 'Beast from the East' Smolaks covers open source, public sector, startups and technology of the future at TechWeekEurope. If you find him looking lost on the streets of London, feed him coffee and sugar.

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Research suggests that post-PC era will arrive earlier than thought

PCs will not disappear but they will lose their place at the centre of the user’s digital universe and be replaced by the “personal cloud”, according to a report by analyst firm Gartner.

The future is here

Personal cloud will provide users with a new level of flexibility, allowing them to access their digital content from any device, anytime and anywhere. But Gartner warns that it will require enterprises to fundamentally rethink how they deliver applications and services.

“Major trends in client computing have shifted the market away from a focus on personal computers to a broader device perspective that includes smartphones, tablets and other consumer devices,” said Steve Kleynhans, research vice president at Gartner. “Emerging cloud services will become the glue that connects the web of devices that users choose to access during the different aspects of their daily life.”

Five megatrends

Research has identified five trends that will drive the shift away from traditional desktops and laptops, and into the cloud. According to Gartner, consumerisation of IT will have an even bigger impact in the future, as users become more technologically savvy and expect more from their devices.

Virtualisation will free application developers from working on individual devices or operating systems, increasing options for how to implement client environments. Through the cloud, low-power devices will have access to much greater processing power, expanding their utility to a level of high-power PCs.

Gartner also pointed to “App-ification” – the result of the changing ways in which applications are designed, delivered and consumed by users. The rise of app markets on smartphones, and their move to PCs will erode the traditional big-budget development model, the analyst firm predicted.

Self-service in the cloud is another trend that will shape the future of IT, according to Gartner. As users demand to make their own choices about applications, services and content, selecting from a nearly limitless supply on the Internet, it could encourage a culture of self-service that users will expect in all aspects of their digital experience.

Finally, the mobility shift will mean that mobile devices combined with the cloud will be able to fulfill most, if not all computing tasks, Gartner added. Touch and gesture-based user interfaces, coupled with speech and contextual awareness, is enabling rich interaction with devices and a much greater level of freedom. In a couple of years, depending on the scenario, any given device will take on the role of the user’s primary device – the one at the center of the user’s digital life, Gartner said.

“The combination of these megatrends, coupled with advances in new enabling technologies, is ushering in the era of the personal cloud,” said Kleynhans. “In this new world, the specifics of devices will become less important for the organisation to worry about. Users will use a collection of devices, with the PC remaining one of many options, but no one device will be the primary hub. Rather, the personal cloud will take on that role.”

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