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Mobile computing still dancing around the cloud

We're starting to see how mobile computers are transforming the way we work, which means businesses will have to plan for a day in which all their data can be accessed by a mobile device.

SANTA CLARA, Calif.--The technologists and businesspeople working to create the next generation of mobile computers know they're going to have to play in the cloud.

Former Oracle executive Timothy Chou urged businesses to plan for the coming of the cloud. Tom Krazit/CNET

About 45 miles down the road from the Web 2.0 conference in San Francisco, where cloud computing is enabling an industry, attendees at Sofcon 2008 on Tuesday morning are thinking about how to unlock all the data stored inside corporations and make it accessible by mobile computers through the cloud. Timothy Chou, author and a former executive at Oracle, thinks that as businesses adopt mobile computers, they'll dramatically expand the need for cloud computing infrastructure.

"The deep Web is about 10,000 times the surface Web," Chou said. He's referring to the amount of data buried inside corporate networks, as opposed to the "surface" Web accessible by Google's search engine, estimated at about 100 terabytes.

Extracting that data is going to require more than just Web servers, currently being added to data centers like Google's and's at a frantic pace. That build-out is extremely important, as truly mobile Web-surfing computers could produce billions of transactions a day, as compared with a typical 200 million transactions a day at Google, Chou estimated.

But it's the tricky stuff--business models, privacy concerns, and bandwidth issues--that will dictate how quickly mobile computers are embraced by those of us who haven't yet drank from the pitcher of iPhone/MID/smartphone Kool-Aid, Chou said. Few of those people were in attendance at the Santa Clara Convention Center, but they make up the majority of the U.S. population; people are still quite content to use their basic data-poor cell phones.

At some point, however, those folks will get it, as carriers and phone makers build smarter devices and faster networks with no data restrictions. Application developers inside companies should start to think about that steady growth as they design any new corporate applications. Before too long, those apps will need to interact with the cloud, and they'll need to be usable on a small device, Chou said.