Cloud Computing and Mobile Devices

The explosive proliferation of mobile devices — smartphones, netbooks, and tablets — presents new challenges for software development. These devices have limited screen size, limited CPU and memory resources, and most importantly, limited power; these constraints will complicate the direct migration of existing thick client desktop software products to these devices. Computationally expensive applications will be very sensitive to these constraints, given that most devices employ CPU throttling to conserve power and to increase longevity for other functions, and CPU use on these devices will need to be minimized wherever possible.

Future advances in technology may alleviate some of these concerns, but battery technology has traditionally failed to keep pace with Moore’s Law, especially in cases of miniaturization, and thus the power concerns, and by extension the CPU concerns, may persist.

Cloud computing provides a potential solution for these concerns. In terms of power consumption, cloud computing provides a source of remote CPU cycles that do not consume device power, and these remote CPU cycles can be used to enable computationally expensive applications to operate on devices with a significantly lower net device power cost. Network power consumption will be marginally increased when using cloud-based resources, but the research hypothesis is that overall device power consumption will be significantly reduced.

I submit that a new application paradigm for these devices will need to evolve from the seeds of cloud computing, web applications, and client/server software in order to minimize device power consumption while otherwise providing a recognizable application user interface. The tools and infrastructure for these applications must be designed to maintain a bidirectional stream of data, visuals, and interface actions between a device and a cloud-based application provider, and to do so in a manner that will be both cost effective and beneficial for the power consumption of the device.