Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Desktops go online

Our increased dependence on internet and the need to access simultaneously data lying on multiple devices -- smartphone, tablet, netbook, laptop -- has led to the growth of cloud-based services.

Dropbox, an online storage and sharing service, is a popular one. Users can drop their files into the Dropbox folder on the desktop which gets copied in your Dropbox online account, which can be accessed from anywhere. The data also gets sync’d with other linked devices. These files can also be shared with others. There’s free 2GB storage and works on all operating systems.

Google and Microsoft too have them. On Google Doc, using the Gmail password, you can create documents, presentations, speadsheets and tables; access them from anywhere including mobiles, share them and even edit them collaboratively. Windows Live SkyDrive is very similar, having Office Web Apps, Hotmail and Bing Search integration. There are SkyDrive apps for iPhone and Windows phones.

Now, cloud-based services are moving beyond mere storage and sharing. The desktop itself is going online. One of the companies that is focused on this is Nivio, founded by Sachin Dev Duggal and Saurabh Pradeep Dhoot. Nivio works at three levels: one, nDrive that lets you store 10GB of data free for life and syncs the data with devices. Users get a unique URL “username.niv.io”, from where users can share data publicly or privately.

Two, nDesktop, from where users can access Windows desktop via the cloud, using any browser that supports HTML5. This means you can run Microsoft products on any device. With proliferation of iPads and other Android-based devices, this provides an easy way of taking Microsoft products along with you. Three, nApps, where you have your applications.

An interesting aspect of Nivio, which goes live in India, on April 10, is the pricing. While storage is free for life, products and apps are free for a month, beyond which you rent them on a monthly basis. As Sachin Duggal put it, “No long-term commitments, you pay as you use. If the rental period is over and you want to get the app back, it gets installed in 10 seconds flat.” For India users, Nivio has the servers in India.

The other advantage is you don’t have to upgrade the hardware. Any basic device that supports HTML5 is good enough. “You can run Windows on Akash tablet,” as Duggal says.

With our lives becoming increasingly internet-dependant, online and cloud will soon be the norm. Devices like PCs and smartphones, which will have fewer data stored in them, will have only secondary importance.

(This was published in the Wireless World column in The Times of India, Bangalore, today)

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