To cloud or to compute, that’s the question

The ultimate dream of any marketer is to have its brand become a verb. “Let me quickly Xerox that”, “I Fedexed it to you yesterday”, “I just Googled it”. In cloud computing I do not see that happening any time soon. At least I haven’t heard anyone say they Amazoned their intranet or forced their custom apps yet. But it is also unlikely we will be calling it cloud computing forever.

Cloud computing is not the first new kind of computing. Previously we saw “interactive computing” – indicating that it was no longer processed in an overnight batch – and “client/server computing” –indicating it ran with a graphical user interface and not on a boring green screen terminal. But pretty soon the new way became the norm and we resorted back to simply calling it “computing”.

For cloud computing there are basically two options, we will either call it computing again – meaning it is perceived as a slightly improved version of the same old, slow and expensive service they used to get from the EDP or IT department. Or users may start to use a new name: “Since we cloud our email, the cost has gone down considerably”, “Our new CIO agreed with the CEO to cloud as much as possible, and the results have been amazing”.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not advocating to try and repeat the oldest trick in the IT book of putting a new name or label on old ideas. Like when we started calling everything e-something and we renamed our companies to Something.DOT.com. Some of that is already going on around as cloud washing (companies renaming their existing offerings to be perceived as cloud solutions, even if they have little to do with cloud).

Now it may take some time to get used to clouding as a verb – as I am sure it took some time to get used to texting as a verb. And what does not help is that – till now – the only things people clouded were issues.

For people that grew up in IT this idea of calling it cloud may sound silly. Why on earth would we use a new name for something that basically is computingas we invented it (or at least as we intended it). But it won’t be the IT people deciding what to call it; it will be the next generation of users. The same generation that – at least in Holland – massively adopted the verb computering. “What did you do last night?” “Oh not much, got pizza, watched a movie and computered a bit”. It’s the generation that came up with verbs like texting, computering and gaming. All not very results oriented activities, but that’s not the point.

The point is that if it feels like traditional computing – where you depended on an IT department to get service and decided what you were allowed to do – they will likely simply call it computing again. If it feels completely different, with more freedom, more possibilities and more speed and agility, it deserves to become a verb.

PS Anticipating the popularity of “to cloud” a Dutch vocabulary site is already showing the full conjugation here.

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