The Death of ‘Cloud Computing’?

When you think cloud computing, who do you think of? Amazon? Google? Maybe Salesforce.com? Did anyone say Dell? Didn’t think so…

We learned this week that Dell is close to trademarking the term ‘cloud computing.’ They’ve already been granted ‘notice of allowance’, which basically means that the trademark has been approved, but not formally registered. When they start using the trademark, there is a high probability that it will be granted to Dell.

Most notably, the period for other companies to send their lawyers after Dell objecting to one company owning the term has passed. How could this trademark filing have gone unnoticed and unchallenged for over a year? And why exactly does Dell want to ‘own’ a common use computing term anyway? If they don’t defend it, only trademark lawyers will know that they own it, and if they do defend it, they are guaranteeing that the rest of the industry will move onto the next synonym — currently something ending with ‘aaS’ (SaaS, IaaS, PaaS, …).

Ben Worthen of the WSJ Business Technology Blog wrote that he talked to a Dell spokesman and they confirmed that they would defend the trademark’s use where large scale computing involving hardware is involved. Obviously, those are core components of nearly any definition of cloud computing. If Dell is good to its word, I predict you will see the ‘kool kids’ in the valley trip over themselves to move away from this terminology leaving Dell alone to lord over their historical footnote.

The partnership ill will and negative PR that Dell would invite by trying to own this term is simply not worth the cost. They may be able to keep IBM, HP and Sun from using the term, but at the cost of the real cloud computing innovators abandoning the term as well.

Of course, with or without Dell, cloud computing as a term will come and go like 100 terms before it. To be sure, the concepts behind cloud computing will prevail — they are still in their infancy — but you can be sure the providers, vendors and analysts will name and rename the space several times before we get to the end game.