It started with whoever was the (probably uncompensated) Golden Child who first uttered that SaaS would be good shorthand for "software as a service."

Pretty quickly we needed to define cloud computing, which added PaaS (Platform) and IaaS, (Infrastructure) in order to keep (S)torage separate from (S)oftware.

But the you-know what is piling up. Just over two years ago, the leading data analyst at the biggest analyst company I run into furrowed his brow when I suggested data might be a service, as in DaaS. (His firm was still deciding whether to flout apps or middleware.)

And now we have Analytics as a service, (still looks like a drawn-out expletive) and yesterday I got a pitch for a story on (H)ardware, as in HaaS.

HaaS, head down to the PaaS and see if Little Joe has enough SaaS to rope in all those AaaSes.

But all the feuding shorthand is really telling us is that we are -- just like the economy at large -- looking more and more to hand off things to others that we once maintained for ourselves.

This is not just privilege or hiring someone to cut the lawn. It's about user utility and economies of scale and the slope of opportunity that always leans the same way over time.

People with iPods learned how nifty it was to not carry their record collections with them every time they moved. (You won't appreciate this if you haven't been through it.) And Amazon announced yesterday that Kindle downloads had surpassed hardcover book sales for the first time.

Yes, those are still products and not purely services, but look at the delivery model. And now, having bought the music they own, some of my friends are deciding it's smarter to spend $10 per month with Rhapsody (et al) to own all the music in the world all the time (rather than a crate of CDs), and that strictly is a data service. What happens if the service goes down or you don't pay your account? Well, you just buy it all back the next day.

What about that personal info, financial or the dark secrets nobody else should know about but you'd no longer like to retain a file cabinet for? Do you hold it or offload it, and at what cost? Remember, the bank and insurance company and maybe your grocery store has a lot of that info and who's to say they're better at securing it than you are or vice versa? Just searching a friend's name brought up a lot of info at Amazon about the books they read, the music they bought, even their birthday -- and that shocked even me because I didn't remember it myself.

While we all are already tracking our shift to the service economy, I still look for the repercussions of stolen PDAs or other data files, and I never get a good story of abuse, though I am sure it is out there. Some of the bad news is well known to be repressed and explains why banks quietly cover charges for those scammed out of credit card and ATM numbers.

I can see some of the service offload happening quickly as it already has, and other parts slowly. But over time, that's where we're heading which leads me to wonder if this whole iPad phenomenon isn't just about owning an interface and nothing else.

"Interface" is also and not coincidentally the name we gave to the back page of Information Management because we knew a lot of interacting with technology was going to be about that final connection between screen and display. We can see where it's heading but where it ends and when it gets there I don't know.

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