Personal Cloud – Key Issues

In the Personal Cloud market segment, we are focusing primarily on the mass consumer market. Regarding the Providers in this market, we expect a direct war between the Web Gang and the Mobile Giant Carriers. However, there are also numerous smaller players, mostly relatively young, emerging companies who have largely blazed the trail in the Personal Cloud market.

We divide the issues for Providers to the Personal Cloud segment into three categories:

  • Fundamental Software Issues
  • Business Issues
  • Device and Mobile-centric Issues

For the most part the early entrants have begun to address and have even solved some of the fundamental issues. These include:

  • Storage: providing remote storage capability, and we note, some also provide cloud alternatives that do not include storage
  • Device OSs: providing mobile clouds that can work with at least the major smartphone and tablet OSs
  • Syncing: syncing data across different types of devices, typically smartphones, tablets, PCs and other computers. Syncing with TVs and other devices is being vigorously explored. Synching, incorporates notification and refers to a synching of personal or business “state” and thereby includes “presence”

While the fundamental software issues are being addressed, the issues of Distribution and Pricing are up in the air. These will be the issues that largely define the future of Personal Clouds, how the market shares break down, and who survives, gets consolidated out or just disappears. With the fairly recent emergence of device-centric clouds (the iCloud, October 2011), the issue is drawn and we expect the cloud offered by device makers and incorporated into their devices to become dominant. However, we expect a significant initiative from carriers to attempt to prevent this.

The pricing issue is largely a problem for the independent providers of personal clouds, since their models have depended to a great extent on selling storage. It already appears from market developments, such as the advent of the Google Drive, that the price line on storage will fracture and trend to a de minimis level

The Device and Mobile-centric issues are in many respects the most interesting and technically challenging. They are also the areas where the greatest amount of innovation is likely to occur and which will have the most profound effects on user behavior and the economy. These issues 

involve how the Mobile Cloud will be utilized – and will be essential – in developing apps that are unique to the mobile environment.

These types of apps may take advantage of the increasing number of sensors and other capabilities incorporated into mobile devices. There is a great deal of development activity building around the area of context aware applications. These utilize sensors such as accelerometers, magnetometers and other sensors, as well as GIS (geographic information system) data.

Data from sensors that is useful for context aware apps can become involved in mashups with other sources of data that quickly leads to processing-intensive uses. An example would be Artificial Reality, information gathered from web and other sources and integrated into an application based on the user’s context, location, etc. Early standalone apps of this type have been on the market for the past few years. However, the processing requirement fairly much demands a cloud approach to make these apps robust, efficient and pervasive. This opens the opportunity for there to be orthogonal cloud structures which are used by all for all – clouds dipping into other clouds to find pieces of information necessary to fulfill a request. While cellular had a motto of “anytime, anywhere,” a Mobile Cloud motto might be thought of as “from any want to any satisfaction.”

Spectrum availability and the quality of mobile links is an overriding issue that runs throughout the cloud area and is critical to the Mobile Cloud working effectively. Cloud apps in every market segment will have to deal with the ability to sense a device’s current connectivity and the quality of the link.

The issue of thin clients is one that indicates the incredible potential richness, but also complexity of the Providers’ challenge with the Mobile Cloud. The fact is that while the increasing processing power of smartphones and tablets makes them suitable for all types of Mobile Cloud apps and dependent on clouds for processing-intensive apps, at the other extreme there are a raft of thin clients, zero clients and other devices being brought to market and these devices are a natural fit into a cloud-based scheme.

NOTE: In study 2 we cited Funambol study that estimate Unstored data per user requiring 15GB of storage – how does this compare to free storage from Personal Cl vendors?