The Last Mile in the Cloud

Posted on September 27, 2010


No not a Hollywood film about convicts!I refer to the term given in the UK to the ‘hop’ from the Telecoms Exchange to the Business/Residential premises of the consumer as ‘The Last Mile’. It is where much of the Broadband service degradation occurs and represents a barrier to a complete Broadband service. It will be concluded once we achieve fiber to the home, but we are not there yet.

I use this in the context of Cloud Computing in so far as cloud with its Iaas (Infrastructure as a Service), Paas (Platform …), Saas (Software…) has much of the inputs, storage and outputs in place from a digital perspective but has yet to grasp hard copy output, ‘Clouds Last Mile’.

What paper again, I hear you cry, well yes! After all the false dawn of the death of the papermills and paper industry with the ‘paperless office’ back in the 1990’s in fact turned  into a boom for the paper industry. What happened was the availability of printers actually increased the output potential as people experience a new way of consuming content that previously was at a premium to get in print form.

This is not going away, iPad, no Tablet or SmartPhone is going to erode the tactile attraction for hard copy, and the 3D experience that delivers that a screen cannot. Despite the herald of 3D monitors and laptops, which I understand are not taking off, maybe proving a point. Where 3D on the TV may have traction, we still prefer in computing to print.

So how will Cloud deal with its ‘Last Mile’? Well Google is driving a stake in the ground with its Cloud Service play, and banking on its brand to get vendor and industry (Microsoft apart) traction. HP has already started on the Google CoolAid with its cloud print concept that uses the Google Cloud Print platform. I cannot help wondering why HP are doing this as they are in effect sharing their brand and Print/capture device audience for the betterment of Google, when they could be doing it themselves and building their brand into the cloud and leaving Google as a non-starter?

Google has no Printer Play until it leaches onto someone else’s market. It is the Google business model, whether you like it or not, and here they go again. Google win HP lose. Goggle will get print credibility attached to their brand at the expense of HP!! OK they deliver a valuable service in some areas, but the cost is a lot higher to their dependencies than is ever faced up to – brand adoption, personal data and privacy being the favourite battle ground but that is for another blog….

The nuts and bolts of Cloud Printing exist in many discrete systems already; we await the leap of faith from one of the larger Print Manufacturers to really cut out and do it themselves, or in an ‘Open’ way the Print Industry as a unified front, just like the many industry trade hubs set-up online.

The returns are great but for the traditionally conservative print industry vendors may quibble and ‘over-hedge’ bets as HP are doing by relying on other parties to make the running as with Google, instead of revolutionising their own industry and puling along their competition in the same move. There are huge collateral benefits around added value services that could be slipstreamed into such as service, as I am sure Google has its eye on.

Which of the big print vendors is it going to be? OK odds not great on HP as they have declared their colours already.

Or will Microsoft bake into their OS and Online Services offering a universal Cloud print and capture driver that integrates with an Azure a la ‘Azure  Print Service’. In so doing removing the overhead of placing multiple print drivers on discrete systems transferring this to a centrally managed platform which will handle the management and maintenance of the wide range of diverse Print Drivers that exist. With Printers only needing to connect to the Net and ‘Magic Happens’.

Print Drivers on PC’s becomes an exception not the norm; and the Clouds Last Mile….. journey over.