If you skimmed a tech blog or attended an IT trade show within the last year, you probably came across the word “cloud” more than once. It’s been on the lips of every industry analyst, cleverly inserted into advertisements and hastily added to business plans – a true buzz word for 2011.

So what’s the cloud going to do for you in 2012?

Well, for one, it’s going mobile. The cloud is ideally suited for housing all of your applications, contacts, calendars and emails in one place – and then allowing you to access them from any endpoint or device.

You can understand the value of the mobile cloud if you’ve ever had the discomfiting experience of leaving your mobile device at home. Picture this: I’m driving to work and reach into my pocket at a red light, only to realize I’d left my smartphone sitting on my kitchen table. Instant panic. How am I going to get my hands on the presentation I edited last night?

Odds are good that I’ll make a U-turn and drive right back to my house to fetch my phone and its essential contents. Even with an arsenal of computing power at our fingertips, we’re still by and large tethered to our physical devices.

Now, think about that same scenario, but in a mobile cloud-enabled world. It doesn’t matter that I forgot my smartphone – all of my data is stored virtually. I can tap into the information I need from my laptop or desktop computer.

Cloud-based storage for mobile devices exists today, though still in nascent forms. Over the next several years, however, I believe technology will evolve to a point where your entire “persona” – preferred settings, corporate applications, home screen images and everything else – resides in the cloud.

Imagine borrowing a colleague’s device and pulling up all of your information, right then and there, exactly as you see it on your own smartphone. The hardware that we rely upon so heavily now may eventually become a simple medium for data, making our mobile devices interchangeable.

That’s what I envision as the future of cloud computing. How does your company plan to take advantage the mobile cloud in 2012?

Leave your comments below – and come back later  to find out how businesses can capitalize on the mobile cloud opportunity.