Following on from the bold assertion that 20% of IT departments would have no need for physical assets by 2012, Gartner have now turned their attention to the future of the Personal Computer. According to their research, “the Personal Cloud Will Replace the Personal Computer as the Center of Users’ Digital Lives by 2014“.

There is plenty of evidence of the truth of this already and the adoption of Drop Box, Google Docs, iTunes, iCloud, and a myriad mobile-centered iPhone apps has demonstrated the huge demand for always-on, always-connected mobile services.

Consumers, who also happen to be bosses and employees, are increasingly tech-savvy and their expectations are moving beyond what corporate IT departments can meet with existing infrastructure and skill sets. Users’ expectations of rapid change have been ameliorated somewhat by infrastructure technologies such as virtualization, which has improved IT’s operational agility, but the growing availability of consumer-centric mobile apps has led to a disconnect between what’s available in the consumer space and what companies provision for their staff. The lack of application development skills or a general understanding of the wider ramifications of mobile is becoming a visible weakness for many organizations.

Not surprisingly, employees take what’s available in the consumer world and bend it to their needs, often working around the compliance and security requirements of their employers and the command and control mindset of enterprise IT.

From IBM developer works

A new developerWorks global survey of 2,000 IT professionals indicates cloud computing and mobile application development are hot topics today, and are expected to emerge as the most in-demand platforms for software development over the next five years.

Although we don’t know exactly who the respondents are, the majority of developerworks readership are engaged in development of one sort or another and so the survey is a clear indication of how much developer mind-share is supportive of cloud computing in general—-irrespective of particular platforms and technologies.

In fact,

Nine out of 10 respondents to the survey, which reached more than 2,000 IT professionals worldwide, anticipate cloud computing overtaking on-premise computing by 2015 as the primary way organizations acquire IT.

With this level of enthusiastic support, developers are way ahead of their colleagues in Network Administration, Security and the CIO’s office. Of course this is nothing new: IT management have traditionally been initially against many of computing’s major paradigm shifts: minicomputers, PCs and PC networks and mobile devices, and it has often been up to business users or their departmental development staff (often external consultants or ‘power’ business users) armed with corporate credit-cards to pave the way for each successive revolution.

The big disruptions caused by Minicomputers in the 70’s and IBM PCs in the 80’s are now over 25 years in the past, so we are well overdue for a disruptive new development and deployment paradigm.

So far the deployment of Saas products such as Salesforce.com have acted as the initial Trojan Horse in bringing in Cloud and proving its business and cost benefits. The rest of the story still has a long way to play out.

A credible follow-on to Steve Ballmer’s bubbly “we’re all in” speech at the University of Washington in March has finally landed in the form of a very comprehensive white paper from Microsoft’s Corporate Strategy Group.

In typical Microsoft fashion, there’s no reference to the established competition; the implicit assumption being that the Cloud is all Microsoft’s to take — a replay, perhaps, of the PC and Server revolution 25 years ago. Given the inexorable decimation of the Midrange system and Unix server market by Windows over the last 15 years, not to mention the stranglehold on the corporate desktop, Cloud’s current market leaders would do well to revisit the lessons of the past in the hope that they can be avoided in future.

For a comprehensive treatment, see Cloud Computing Journal’s assessment of Microsoft’s White Paper. Not only is this an analysis of Microsoft’s take on the true value proposition of Cloud Computing but it also reveals more than ever before the implications for Microsoft’s existing businesses and their presumed future strategy.