Language is constantly evolving. Hundreds of new words, terms, lingo and jargon are coined every year to define the latest changes in our society. And every year, one or two always rise above the others to become the buzzword of the moment, the must-have phrase that finds its way into every conversation. From surfing to spamming, cyberspace to crowdsourcing, freemium, recessionista, sustainability, clicks and mortar, Web 2.0, words help us cross the chasm and ‘paradigm-shift’ to the next big thing. For 2010, the term that will rise above the rest is `The Cloud’.

The Cloud is a metaphor for a technology infrastructure or server that lives independently of any one device; rather it connects all devices with content that can be accessed from anywhere, enabling software as a service. This may sound confusingly like the Internet, but The Cloud actually hovers above and uses the Internet to make connections and deliver its services. And yes, it will fundamentally change the way all businesses work and how consumers think about technology, media and information. Yet today we are still at the early stage of The Cloud’s definition and usage.

It’s not unlike when companies added .com to the end of their names to prove they were a Web-capable company (few survivors remain of that trend…). The problem with new catch phrases that represent exciting new ideas is that everyone wants to be associated with them – whether or not they actually deliver on the premise. Over the next few years, The Cloud will suffer this fate and the dilution that accompanies over-usage. We are already seeing Cloud services, appendages and analogies appear across all industries – not just amongst the technology players that deliver it. All the major technology leaders – Adobe, Amazon, Cisco, Google, Microsoft, Salesforce.com – offer Cloud solutions. As do the big consulting firms – IBM, Accenture – and the telcos – AT&T, Verizon, Blackberry. Everybody is in The Cloud business.

Over the coming months, little cloud logos and diagrams will continue to pop up all over the place. Soon the world will be filled with clouds, all offering to free you from restrictions, redefining how you work, rest and play. The genuine will be entwined with the aspiring and in some cases – the downright lying. We already live in a world that promises anything to anyone, anywhere, anytime. And now that will be elevated another notch thanks to The Cloud. After all, The Cloud will be cheaper, faster, smarter, richer, scalable and virtual – or will it all just turn into vapor.

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