The industrial revolution changed the amount of expertise an individual needed to produce a complex and reliable product to make end products generally less expensive and more reliable. It did so by moving specialization into ever smaller areas. The average user is tremendously unprepared to be an expert in every service they need their computer to provide. By pushing more and more of those services into the "cloud" the need for expertise by the end user is decreased. There are trade offs to be sure, but in the end most people are happy to relinquish control in favor of ease of use and reliability.
There has been a lot of speculation about what Apple is planning to do with its massive data centers and capital, so here's my guess:
1. Apple buys the "for dummies" rights
2. They set up a system to allow end user computer systems to be maintained in the "cloud"
3. They start selling Computers for Dummies (iComputers become known affectionately as Idiot's Computers)
4. Ubuntu, Chrome and Azure get pushed into or see the appeal in following the same business model
5. 2020 sees the lowest rate of computer virus* infection since the 1990s as 90% of home users don't install software on their computers
People will still click dancing bunnies but the problems created by PICNIC errors will decrease as users are protected from themselves. The hearty few who still run local software will be the elite and the truly dangerous. The elite few will make wise system management decisions and the truly dangerous will reboot to a trusted system every couple months.
Yes, I keep putting quotes around "cloud" because I don't think the term is solid yet and I think most of the time it is marketing jargon for "somebody else's problem."
computer virus* - viruses, trojans, malware, worms etc
I'm not saying that this is a good path for the IT industry, computer users or society as a whole. I am saying that something along these lines is likely inevitable. iPods, smart phones, tablet computers and e-readers are all steps in this direction and I foresee the trend continuing and even accelerating. Azure, Chrome OS and Ubuntu One are already making headway into moving services to the cloud, really it is hard to imagine cloud services becoming less common.