It is becoming increasingly obvious to me that "cloud" computing is the next big thing (If indeed it isn't already the current big thing.) What I term cloud computing is the utilization of service clouds for our everyday computing tasks. More and more we turn to Google's cloud for watching and sharing videos, searching (of course,) mapping and such. We also use Amazon's cloud for retail transactions of any kind. (A great many of the retailers we use piggyback on Amazon's cloud to provide merchandise to their customers. Retailers such as Toys 'R' Us.) Amazon isn't just a store, it's a provider of e-store technology to other stores. The other great clouds of our time are Yahoo! and -in distant fourth- Microsoft. Yahoo! is the original cloud and has a hard time defining exactly what it does better than anyone else -the AOL of our time. Still, Yahoo! does many things well (search, mail, pictures and mapping) and is constantly trying to reinvent itself to latch on to a permanent niche -one it hasn't really had since Google took over the search crown so many years ago. Microsoft, via its MSN and Live properties is a poor provider of service -witness its lackluster search and mail offerings- but has the ability to steal revenue from the aforementioned pure web plays by virtue of its desktop markets hare. Also, Microsoft's map service Windows Live Local (who ever thought of that name?) is a brilliant but little known also ran in the mapping field.
What's next in cloud computing? Mashups. Mashups combine services from multiple sources into meta-applications. The services are exposed via public interfaces (API's) and enable sophisticated applications to be developed without purchasing or hosting much of the data componentry that does the heavy lifting of the application. Popular mashups include adding functionality to public mapping services such as Frappr and Cheap Gas which rely on Google's mapping API. A plethora of mashups exist for Amazon's cloud of API's and services as well. Future mashups will make greater use of Amazon's S3 Simple Storage Service to provide diskless data hosting services. I, in fact, intend to pursue this option for my next generation of application development research and development.