With the growth of smartphones and mobile operating systems, companies have been trying to optimize the user experience and make it as simple as possible. However, this has led to a development which many (including myself) feel is a step backward in the computing world – namely the death of the filesystem. IOS for example doesn’t present its users with any kind of file management at all. Android isn’t quite there yet, but the trend certainly seems to be moving in that direction.
Why is this a bad thing? To start off with, files represent interoperability between applications. If you create a file in MS Word, you can e-mail it to another person who may be able to open it using OpenOffice for example. Many mobile apps do not allow you to export your data into a file and this locks you into their services. It certainly comes with ease-of-use, but at a cost.
Like it or not, a huge portion of the world still uses Microsoft Office products for their day-to-day activities. Many businesses are heavily invested in the Microsoft ecosystem and cannot imagine a life without MS Word, Excel, PowerPoint etc. So how does this gel with the increasing usage of mobile devices? Are people supposed to accept that the two worlds are entirely disconnected? If I spend hours painstakingly creating a PowerPoint presentation on my laptop, is it forever closed to me when I’m using my iPad or my Android smartphone?
A startup called CloudOn that has seen tremendous success on mobile platforms says “No”. It’s an innovative service that attempts to bridge the gap between the online and off-line worlds. A technology that allows the creation of local files that can be e-mailed or stored and also be moved to the cloud for online editing. To be sure, there are many cloud-based applications that allow remote syncing from local storage. But few of them allow the detailed editing of MS office application files the way CloudOn does.
When it first hit the Android and iOS app stores, it became an immediate star rising to the top of the “Most downloaded apps” section on each platform. If nothing else, this demonstrates the tremendous pent-up demand for applications that are able to seamlessly tie together the world of the laptop or desktop with the cloud. Users can choose to connect to a variety of online storage services such as Dropbox, Google Drive and Box into which they can put their files created on their computers and have the ability to view, edit, delete or otherwise manage them from any mobile enabled application.
Though CloudOn started up in 2009 before the iPad came on the scene, there is no doubt that its usage skyrocketed when that iconic device hit the hands of consumers. The technology world is deeply divided as to the desirability and continued usage of files. There are some who would like to see them abolished entirely, whereas those who value flexibility, portability, and interoperability hold that they are essential to prevent lock-in.
The runaway success of CloudOn shows that concept of creating files and storing them in the cloud is not going away anytime soon.