Lately, I've noticed that I've become much less of a Mac user, and much more of a Google (Nasdaq: GOOG ) user.
I mean that I use lots of Google's cloud-hosted software to run my meager writing business. Rather than browsing the Web with Safari, I use Mozilla's open-source Firefox and the preview edition of Google's Chrome. Rather than a stand-alone RSS reader, I use Google Reader. Rather than a landline phone, I use Google Voice -- connected to Skype's $2.75 billion network, of all things. And rather than Mail and Calendar, I use Gmail and Google Calendar, hotlinking both to my iPhone via a simple hack that makes these services behave as if they were connected to an Exchange server.
My MacBook Pro is merely the host for what amounts to a Google-Firefox operating system, with a heaping helping of Microsoft's (Nasdaq: MSFT ) Office applications mixed in. Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL ) own software -- outside of OS X, which many of us Mac users love -- is nowhere to be found.
Interestingly, it wasn't always this way. Mail was once my default email client, and iCal was my default for calendaring. I switched over when I found Gmail more functional and Google Calendar easier to manage. (Try the quick entry on Google Calendar sometime.)
Best of all, I found Google's search better at sifting through my inbox than anything Apple or Microsoft offered. Fast, reliable search is a must-have when you're in an information-driven business. Right now, frankly, that describes all of us.
Doesn't this simple truth explain why Google developed the Android mobile OS, and why it's now creating a computer OS? Isn't it also why Google CEO Eric Schmidt could no longer sit on the board of Apple?
Now boarding: Cloud Nine
I'm not the only one using cloud-computing software. Businesses are engaging with customers in the cloud using salesforce.com (NYSE: CRM ) , and Oracle (Nasdaq: ORCL ) is actively pursuing a slice of this growing pie.
The Army and other branches of the U.S. government also want in. In what may be the most visible example of government adoption of cloud computing, federal CIO Vivek Kundra last week introduced Apps.gov in a blog post , in which he also praised the underlying technology:
Cloud computing is the next generation of IT in which data and applications will be housed centrally and accessible anywhere and anytime by a various devices (this is opposed to the current model where applications and most data is housed on individual devices). By consolidating available services, Apps.gov is a one-stop source for cloud services -- an innovation that not only can change how IT operates, but also save taxpayer dollars in the process.
Meet Joe Oddlot, online
I'm encouraged that my country's CIO understands the utility of Web-based computing. But it's still everyday Janes and Joes, not the feds, who are leading the cloud-computing revolution.
Take the rise of social media. More than 87 million people in the U.S. alone logged onto Facebook last month. More than 21 million logged into Twitter, which at least partially explains why venture investors now value the business at $1 billion. These and other cloud services have taken on a greater role in enabling business.
Microsoft, recognizing this, recently introduced a preview edition of the browser-based version of Office. And Adobe (Nasdaq: ADBE ) committed $1.8 billion to acquire Omniture (Nasdaq: OMTR ) , a combination that could bring highly regarded measurement and analytics tools to developers and owners of cloud-computing software built on Adobe's AIR platform.
Cloud computing has already changed everything, and the revolution is still in its infancy. That's why I believe today's investors in Google, salesforce.com, Adobe, and other emerging cloud giants will be handsomely rewarded in the years to come.
But that's also just my take. Now it's your turn to weigh in. Is cloud computing the biggest market opportunity right now, or are Google and its peers offering nothing more than a siren call? Please take a moment to vote in the poll below and then leave a comment explaining your rationale.