These days, having computer skills is an important part of a person’s resume. Likewise, it is important for a country’s ability to navigate through economic opportunities of our world. In recent years, countries like India have changed their position in the world based on their population’s ability to deliver computer skills and support to the rest of the world.

At the same time that these skills are becoming increasingly needed, prices are dropping dramatically for computing hardware. The netbook enjoyed a huge year in 2009. New form factors of computing devices also gained that attention of the masses, and 2010 started with a bang with the $499 iPad tablet computing device. The technology world is continuing to innovate computing systems that continue to get smaller and more portable. This video from a researcher in Japan shows a entirely new form factor of computer coming to market, in the shape of a pen with a projector and camera at the tips.

So we’re asking this question: For the world to live in harmony do we all need to own one (or more) personal computers?

Does the Cloud Redefine What a Computer Is?

A computer is a machine that manipulates data according to a set of instructions. The definition was designed for a time when the components were all co-located within a single piece of hardware. But now there’s a more important question: Does a computer have to be “a machine”?

With the concept of virtualization and cloud computing, the definition is being stretched in both directions. Virtualization is a concept where one machine can be “multiple computers”. With cloud computing, it is possible for multiple machines and networks that aren’t not co-located to operate as one computer.

Maybe that’s the reason that the cloud is such an important concept in technology today – that it blurs the lines intentionally between the data, the instructions and the data manipulation. Conveniently, as a concept, clouds come in many shapes and forms, just like the current crop of computing systems being built and innovated upon.

What About 6 Billion Nodes Instead of 6 Billion PCs?

In 2010 there are several powerful trends taking hold of computing that are changing the paradigm of computing forever. One is the reality that there will be more mobile computing devices that computers, as mobile phone shipments today are much larger than PC shipments. And mobile phones, especially smartphones, are becoming more capable because they’re tied together with pervasive communication technology like SMS or MMS, and are powering applications like Facebook and Twitter that are becoming more powerful with location-aware services.

Delivering Computers in the Cloud

Nivio, a startup from India, is an example of the cloud evolving into a personal computing platform. Instead of delivering each person a physical device as the center of our computing experience, Nivio provides combination of storage, applications and “view anywhere” operating systems frame a cloud-powered vision of a universe. Nivio is assuming that it’s customers don’t each have a local machine with personal storage. Instead, these users will have network storage and applications and will access their computing power with the device they have on hand at the moment.

Take, for instance, the One Laptop Per Child project. It has struggled to keep its hardware as cheap as it once hoped. But one way they’ve kept costs down is by embedding cloud tools to keep the overall profile of the machine down and creating a future of cloud-based services for the population.

How many children are there in the world? How many nodes is that?

Where is your company positioned in this continuum of cloud computing?

Image credit: juhansonin

mike kirkwood