Home Majority of Tech Experts Think Work Will Be Cloud-Based by 2020, Finds Pew Research Center

Majority of Tech Experts Think Work Will Be Cloud-Based by 2020, Finds Pew Research Center

The majority of technology experts responding to a recent Pew Research Center survey believe that cloud computing will be more dominant than the desktop by the end of the decade. Undertaken by the Pew Research Center and Elon University as part of the Future of the Internet survey, the report looks at the future of cloud computing based on the opinions of almost 900 experts in the industry.

The Future of Work is in the Cloud

The key finding of the survey: 71% of those responding agreed with the statement: “By 2020, most people won’t do their work with software running on a general-purpose PC. Instead, they will work in Internet-based applications such as Google Docs, and in applications run from smartphones. Aspiring application developers will develop for smartphone vendors and companies that provide Internet-based applications, because most innovative work will be done in that domain, instead of designing applications that run on a PC operating system.”

27% agreed with the statement’s “tension pair,” that by 2020 most people will still be utilizing software run on their desktop PC in order to perform their work.

The survey respondents note a number of the challenges and opportunities that cloud computing provides, including the ease of access to data, locatable from any networked device. Increasing adoption of mobile devices, as well as interest in an “Internet of things,” are given as the main driving forces for the development and deployment of cloud technologies.

Security, Privacy, Connectivity Remain Top Concerns

But some of the survey’s respondents echoed what are the common concerns about cloud computing: limitations in the choice of providers, concerns about control, security, and portability of our data. Many respondents seemed to indicate that cloud computing has not become fully trustworthy yet, something that will slow its adoption. According to R. Ray Wang, a partner in the Altimeter Group, “We’ll have a huge blow up with terrorism in the cloud and the PC will regain its full glory. People will lose confidence as cyber attacks cripple major systems. In fact, cloud will be there but we’ll be stuck in hybrid mode for the next 40 years as people live with some level of fear.”

One of the other major obstacles to widespread adoption remains broadband connectivity, as infinitely scalable storage means little if we can’t easily upload or retrieve our data. “Using the cloud requires broadband access,” says Tim Marema, vice president at the Center for Rural Strategies.” If we really want a smart and productive America, we’ve got to ensure that citizens have broadband access as a civil right, not just an economic choice. Populations that don’t make it to the cloud are going to be a severe disadvantage. In turn, that’s going to drag down productivity overall.”

Despite the rapidly changing world of technology, it may be that a decade is simply too soon to see ubiquitous adoption of cloud computing and abandonment of the desktop PC, particularly with the concerns about security and broadband. As many of the respondents to the survey suggest, it is likely that in the meantime we’ll see some sort of desktop-cloud hybrid, beyond the “either/or” proposition given by the Pew survey.

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