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Cloud computing, though the best technology I've ever seen, has a huge problem: It's easily misunderstood. Firms can say they provide cloud computing services, even when they don't. AT&T (NYSE: T ) is just the latest example.
Yesterday's edition of The Wall Street Journal ran a feature in which Ma Bell touted an agreement with the U.S. Olympic committee to deliver video and event results over the Web. But this isn't cloud computing -- it's content delivery, the sort of work that Akamai Technologies (Nasdaq: AKAM ) and Limelight Networks are also performing.
Cloud computing is not the delivery, or hosting, of content on servers connected to the Web. Cloud computing is using the Web to deliver software to your browser -- software you'd otherwise install on your PC or in a network you own. Think of Google's (Nasdaq: GOOG ) Applications, which are an online alternative to Microsoft's Office, or salesforce.com (NYSE: CRM ) , whose online customer tracking software is an alternative to Oracle's (Nasdaq: ORCL ) Siebel.
It is, of course, possible that AT&T will one day provide the sort of infrastructure that Akamai, Amazon.com (Nasdaq: AMZN ) , IBM (NYSE: IBM ) , and others provide now -- infrastructure that enables the webification of install-and-manage software applications.
Till then, let's be clear: AT&T may be hosting and serving Olympic-sized chunks of data, but it is not a player -- not even a bit player -- in cloud computing.
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