Android News

New Google Maps Shows Limits of the Cloud

December 7, 2010 | by Michael Heller

Android News

android cloud

More and more web apps are being created to take advantage of the ubiquity of the Internet these days. We’ve even seen the emergence of cloud gaming with the release of OnLive. And, as I’m writing this, I’m watching the Chrome OS announcement, because I like the idea of an entire operating system living in the cloud. Everything seems to be pushing towards the cloud, except Google Maps Mobile 5. Google sees the value in the cloud, but they also see the limitations.

The cloud can be a wonderful resource, but for the foreseeable future, there will still be times when Internet access isn’t available, be it on the subway, or out in the back roads of Vermont. Even when there is a solid Internet connection, cloud computing isn’t always the best option. That’s the issue behind Google’s new move with Maps 5. The push towards vector graphics, as I reported earlier, adds benefits in smaller data download size, and better offline caching. This is a fundamental change in the maps technology. Rather, than cloud stored tiles of images that have to be streamed to the phone, it’s vector graphics which are rendered on the phone. The power is available in the cloud, but if a data connection isn’t reliable, then that computing power is useless. Besides which, the computing power in our mobile phones these days is getting greater and greater, so there is no reason why cloud computing needs to be the default option.

It’s nice to see a company like Google, which lives in the cloud, seeing the value, but also the limitations of the technologies at hand. Perhaps the push towards better HTML5 support in Gingerbread will also lead to more offline capabilities for web apps in Android, because, as a subway surfer myself, I know that there are a lot of times when the cloud does me no good at all.

What cloud activities would you like to see be made more locally available?