"It's stupidity. It's worse than stupidity: it's a marketing hype campaign. Somebody is saying this is inevitable -- and whenever you hear somebody saying that, it's very likely to be a set of businesses campaigning to make it true."

So said Richard Stallman, open-source advocate and founder of the Free Software Foundation, about cloud computing.


A turn of phrase, twisted
Let's deconstruct his assertion for a moment. First, there's a bias here. Stallman is an open-source advocate and creator of the GNU operating system. He's also widely credited as the principal architect of the GNU General Public License, which is at the heart of most open-source software. Think of him as a freedom fighter for software, whose enemies are makers of closed systems. Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) and Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), notably.

Second, he's right about the hype. Far too many claim to offer cloud computing services, which means that the few who really do -- Microsoft, IBM (NYSE:IBM), Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN), and EMC (NYSE:EMC), for example -- don't get the credit that they should.

Such is the circle of life in software; every Next Big Thing has experienced it, including Stallman's beloved open-source movement. A search for "hype" and "open-source software" returns more than 400,000 results. Does that mean we should reduce the open-source rebellion to a marketing campaign, created for the benefit of Red Hat (NYSE:RHT) and SourceForge? No, of course not.

OK, I'll say it
The same logic applies to cloud computing. It is, in fact, an astoundingly good idea that's anything but perfect. Ceding local control of data means trusting faraway servers to be secure. It also means trusting that service providers will take the proper steps to keep services available. Good work is being done in both areas.

Control is the issue, Stallman says. Fair enough. I even agree; as a user, I should be fairly compensated for allowing a service provider access to my data. Cloudy upstarts that get this will flourish. Those that don't, won't.

Either way, cloud computing is still the best technology I've ever seen. It connects people in ways closed desktop systems never have. And if we've learned anything from the history of computing, it's that systems are made more powerful when people are connected to them. Cloud computing enables connectivity like no other technology before it.

That's why it is inevitable.

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This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.