|I think a good pointer to what Cloud Computing is all about is the introduction of Google's Chromebook Cloud-based laptops - a quick Google search will find loads of hits, but essentially they are nothing more than web-browsers. All of your data is stored elsewhere and you are using hardware and software at a remote location. As far as the end-user's hardware is concerned it means that you only need a very basic 'dumb terminal' (for want of a better phrase) which lets you access a browser, and a reliable internet connection (that's one of the big ones in my opinion). It does mean that the software you are using, apart from your browser, is always automatically kept up to date with the latest version (maybe not a good thing in everyone's eyes?) and your hardware does not need updating on a regular basis. For this convenience you do, however, pay an ongoing cost in the rental/lease of the software and data storage facilities.|
So to answer the final bit of your question, A reliable internet connection makes the Cloud work (if the internet fails you're stuffed), Cloud computing is as has been described above, and for the consumer little hardware is required.
Actually I disagree with Stuart saying that it is of little benefit to individuals. When you consider what a very large percentage of computer users actually use their computers for, we are already in an era of Cloud Computing - Facebook, Twitter etc. have seen to that. I use my smartphone as I would suspect many Cloud users would, but I also keep my home computer as my main tool, also posting stuff on-line to be available to myself and colleagues using what passes as the cloud at the moment.
So having the Cloud as an extension of current technology is fine, but it will be difficult, if not impossible in our lifetime, to have it as a replacement.
"I've always been mad, I know I've been mad, like the most of us..." Pink Floyd