Cloud computing isn’t new by any means, but in 2010 it took off in a way that a lot of us have been waiting for a good long time, largely because of the massive surge in popularity of tablet PCs and smartphones. In the past, cloud computing was a convenience factor for people who used multiple PCs or who collaborated with their fellow workers extensively.
Now, however, cloud apps are essentially required if you want to get any real work done on your mobile device. With flash storage of between 16 and 64 GB, tablets are severely limited in what they can hold. To top it off, if you’re working on anything remotely confidential, a lost device could be disastrous if you store files locally. So, cloud apps have suddenly become the norm and companies are getting very large very fast as a result.
Dropbox has been around for a couple years now and in that time it has grown from a relatively small service that provides on the fly cloud storage of key files and easy sharing with users of your choice to the defacto cloud tool for anyone on a tablet PC running Android or iOS. Some technology writers have joked that Google or Apple should just buy Dropbox as it is as necessary as any of the built in apps on either operating system.
The real value of Dropbox is just starting to develop too. Many apps for both Android and iOS have developed ways to share files directly through Dropbox. You can even set automated folders on your hard drive at home that will process, share, or upload files that you create on a tablet, effectively streamlining tasks you cannot complete when on the road. And this is all with Dropbox just now reaching 1.0 status. It will be interesting to see what these folks come up with in 2011.
I could have chosen any number of note taking applications, and I personally use One Note on my Windows tablet because it is more efficient in handling handwritten notes and Microsoft’s attempt at cloud computing has, thus far, gone very well for me.
However, Evernote is the clear winner in 2010 in terms of raw user stats and saturation. Most of that is due to their desire to provide a stable platform on every possible operating system. Evernote can be used on PC, Mac, iOS, and Android, and just recently enjoyed an update to 4.0 on desktops, finally speeding it up enough to stop chewing up memory. And while its support for handwriting on a tablet is still lagging, many hand writing apps integrate with the Evernote or Dropbox apps to quickly store notes on the cloud.
There are of course dozens of cloud computing apps that have been important in the last year. Google continued to develop its arsenal of tools with Google Documents, both on Android and non-Google systems. Microsoft’s Live Office was a success in many ways as well. But, as is often the case, the real test of saturation comes in consumer apps, and both Dropbox and Evernote registered massive growth in the last year, thanks largely to cloud hungry consumers.