Mark O'Connor, a Munich-based programmer, recently swapped out his laptop for an iPad and tried an experiment to see if coding in the cloud could be a viable option for a developer. The results of his experiment are posted here on his blog and they make for interesting reading. In short, he easily made the transition, and is never going back. And this for some heavy-duty C++ coding destined for Linux clusters too.

One day his VMFusion crashed and trashed his shared file system, losing several days' worth of coding. Thus began his search for a better development environment and hardware platform. In addition to buying an iPad and Apple BT keyboard, he also uses Linode's cloud-based Linux and Zingersoft's iSSH terminal emulator.

Here is a screen shot from his blog:

His code compiles are actually faster on Linode's cloud than on his MacBook desktop running a Linux VM.

One drawback? "I'd be lying if I said I hadn't wished for Bluetooth mouse support some days." Apple's BT keyboard omits this, although you can purchase a separate track pad. He also has some choice words for Google Apps, and how "pathetic" they are compared to the usual desktop office apps.

Still, all in all, he is happy with his decision to move to the iPad and the cloud. "I don't miss the weight. I don't miss the keyboard getting warm when I'm compiling. I don't miss its fragility, both physically and virtually. I don't miss running out of power. To my surprise, I find I am happy. Coding in the cloud isn't for everybody, but for my workflow it's a perfect fit and I love it."

O'Connor sees this as the natural evolution for coders. "Sooner or later, almost everyone will work like this and I wanted a taste of what that might feel like. I expected to find something that didn't work, but as the days turned into weeks and the weeks gathered into a month, I found I hadn't returned to my laptop even once."