Anderson also sees cloud computing extending to “a world in which everyday objects have their own IP addresses and can be tied together in the same way that people are now tied together by the Internet.”
Hammond says HP’s plan to use WebOS in printers fits in with this, but he adds that “a lot comes down to execution.” If HP can share data seamlessly between lots of devices, Hammond believes, it would open up interesting new possibilities in personal computing. For one thing, this could mean the end of device drivers—code that needs to be installed in order to use a particular peripheral device. If companies start connecting devices over the network, then users might not have to worry about installing the proper software. Google has taken a step in this direction with a service called CloudPrint, which allows users to send documents to printers over the Internet.
Jimmy Lin, who is an associate professor in the iSchool at the University of Maryland and directs that university’s Cloud Computing Center, notes that the idea of using the network to access data and computing power has been around for decades. But HP’s vision for WebOS, he says, is important because the company has such a strong presence in the market. HP could make the cloud “more tangible” to people, Lin says, by showing what’s possible with an array of devices all connected through the cloud.
“The challenge is how to create a seamless experience on every form factor,” Lin says. HP already sells lots of printers, PCs, and other devices. If WebOS can bring them together, HP might well bring cloud computing to the masses.