In my predictions column prior to 2011, I predicted the rise of the personal cloud. With Google, Amazon, Microsoft and Apple all getting into the cloud business its clear that prediction is coming true. Three things are key to adopting these cloud services: Trust, reliability and price.
I for one am ready to begin relying more on cloud services. I remember a time before my company began using Exchange for email. Every time I got a new computer or new handheld PDA, I had to manually export my inbox and then import it on the new device.
After we moved to Exchange, and all I needed to do was set up my account and all of my email came pouring in straight from the server, I was hooked. It literally felt liberating that I could move from device to device and still have my email current and in sync.
E-mail in my analogy will be replaced by media with these cloud services. For many consumers their media (music, movies, images, etc) are as mission critical as email is for a business customer, and the move to a cloud service will feel equally as liberating. My first experience with DoubleTwist on Android validated my theory.
What Will It Take for Personal Clouds to Succeed?
Consumers will first need to trust the service. I would contend that one of the first indicators of trust is who consumers will give their credit card number to. In my case that would be Amazon and iTunes, both of whom I prefer to make online purchases with whenever possible.
If that indicator proves true about trust, then I would contend that Apple and Amazon are in the best position for consumer services right now. Apple now has over 200 million credit card numbers and Amazon has well over 100 million.
The service will also need to be reliable. Meaning that critical content is always available when desired. The transfer from device to cloud and cloud to device needs to be seamless and painless. Whether it is streamed, cached or locally stored, a lack of access to a desired file at exactly the time desired will hamper the usefulness of any service.
Price is the last factor that will play a role in the adpotion in these services. Consumers will need to find the price - and overall offering of a solution at that price - attractive in order to find the service valuable.
Particularly as the cloud service is new to many consumers, the value may not be clear at first. A free trial, or clear demonstration of the value of a cloud service will be key in gaining consumer adoption.
I expect that we will see a good deal of price experimentation early on in this transition. The sweet spot for a price may take some time to get fleshed out.
One of the more interesting questions will be whether or not cloud services from different companies work together. If not then a consumer will need to entirely commit themself to one service over the other. I'd argue there needs to be some level of cross service compatibility, but where the line is drawn will have to wait to be seen.
From all the folks I talk with in the tech industry there seems to be a high level of interest in what Apple will do with their iCloud service. Apple tends to do a very good job driving consumer adoption of products and services, making competitors are interested for a variety of reasons. Keep an eye out for my full analysis of Apple's iCloud after WWDC next week.