Mobile Cloud Computing: Next Big Thing or Dead End - Part I | Page 2

For end users, it would deliver very targeted functionality that closely mimics what they're accustomed to seeing on the desktop. The trick is to replicate the desktop experience for a few key functions, but as Winthrop says, "not throw the kitchen sink in there."

"That indistinguishably similar experience to what they get on the desktop—that's where the advantage is to end users. If it becomes irrelevant where you're using that functionality -- desktop or mobile -- it means [enterprise] mobility has accomplished what it's trying to do."

The Soonr iPhone application isn't quite what Winthrop has in mind, only in that it isn't a browser plugin or widget. It's a stand-alone application.

The Soonr app lets you display documents on the iPhone screen in very readable format. You can e-mail a document to someone from within the app. You can connect other Soonr users in a workgroup and collaborate on document editing. You can even print documents from the iPhone.

A limited-functionality free version is available at Apple's App Store. SaaS providers and carriers are offering more full-featured versions to subscribers.

TeliaSonera Denmark launched its branded version, Sky Files, in November. It was the fourth most downloaded business application in the Danish App Store within a few days.

Soonr says that partners in the United States and Europe, as yet unnamed, will offer the service and software starting in early 2009.

Winthrop concedes that not many companies are actively building the kind of browser widgets he thinks are needed to make mobile cloud computing a ubiquitous concept. But Soonr is not the only ISV trying to exploit the cloud in the mobile sphere.

Cemaphore Systems has products that do for e-mail what Soonr does for documents. Cemaphore's MailShadow products were designed originally as business continuity solutions. MailShadow Google Apps (MailShadowG), launched in November, synchronizes Outlook information from an Exchange server to a Google Gmail account to ensure it's always available in the cloud even if your Exchange server goes down.

The data is then available from any Net-connected computer—or browser-equipped phone. It's most easily accessible for mobile users in the built-in applications on the Google Android-run G1 mobile phone (from T-Mobile). A Cemaphore widget for the G1 even provides status information on the synch process - letting users know if their Google Apps information is up-to-date.

With encouragement from customers -- including, apparently, T-Mobile -- Cemaphore has been building on that widget to create a platform for delivering other status information, such as whether the user has voice messages waiting back at the office, or whether he has critical FaceBook or LinkedIn messages waiting.

"If we do this well," says Cemaphore CEO Tyrone Pike, "we'll be able to deliver a little mini dashboard for your mobile."

Mobile cloud computing —is it an idea whose time is about to come, or a solution in search of a problem? We'll dig deeper in Part II, looking in more detail at what Cemaphore is doing and how Winthrop and others see this space evolving.

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