Posted by Brad Smith 
General Counsel

[Updated to include video from Voices for Innovation, 3:30 p.m., January 20, 2010]

The combination of smart client devices and cloud computing has become the next frontier in information technology, and with good reason.   Anyone who has read an e-mail in a Web-based service such as Hotmail or uploaded photos to a social media Web site such as Facebook has tapped into the potential of creating, accessing and sharing information in the cloud.

Cloud computing offers new benefits for almost every part of our society.  Yet many citizens and business leaders do not understand how cloud computing works, and according to a recent poll commissioned by Microsoft, 90 percent of the general population and senior business leaders are concerned about the security and privacy of personal data stored in the cloud.

To help cloud computing move forward and to maximize the technology’s potential for individuals, business and governments, we need a new conversation about ways to build confidence in the cloud.   This conversation should include technologists, legal experts and representatives from industry, consumer groups and other parts of civil society.

Today I did my best to get the conversation started at a Brookings Institution Policy Forum entitled, “Cloud Computing for Business and Society.”   In a speech to open the forum, I outlined specific industry and legislative actions that we at Microsoft believe should be acted upon promptly to advance the potential of cloud computing, while protecting users’ privacy and enhancing the security of their data. 

I have outlined my proposals in a blog that you can read on Huffington Post.  You can also find background on today’s event, the full text of my speech, and additional findings from our recent poll on cloud computing at the Microsoft News Center.

My colleagues at Microsoft and I want this to be an active, on-going discussion about these critical issues surrounding cloud computing, so I encourage you to leave us a comment to let us know your views and we will continue to keep you updated as the conversation progresses.