Defining Consumer Cloud Products and Services
"Cloud" is such a buzz phrase today that it's easy to be overwhelmed by what's really happening on the consumer side. There are some very real developments today, and we are organizing our thoughts in a report titled Cloud Media and the Digital Locker. A press release today from Western Digital and a New York Times article describing offerings such as SugarSync got me thinking about how I'd organize the consumer-oriented cloud solutions. As to the requirements for a product or solution to fit in the "personal cloud" category, I'd say that there are several:
- For hardware, appliance, and online, and solutions, the ability to upload all desired content to remote storage (not just a single-purpose photo-sharing site, for example);
- Again for the hardware, appliance, and online applications, the ability to "push" - or share - only specific folders or files with friends or family);
- Remote and ubiquitous access to content from multiple IP-connected devices; and
- For premium content service cloud offerings, the ability to either offer multiple formats or work with hardware with the necessary transcoding capabilities to play in particular video on a wide number of devices.
- Hardware, Software, and Appliances: Products in this category are it network-attached storage appliances/media servers and applications developers that provide for remote access via smartphones and other IP-connected devices (companies such as Buffalo, Data Robotics, Iomega, QNAP, Seagate, and Western Digital. Also, appliances such as Pogoplug don't necessarily require a NAS drive, but allow all local drives and files to be accessed.
- Online Storage and Backup: The aforementioned SugarSync is a good example, and others include Box.net, DropBox, Egnyte, Humyo, Microsoft Live Mesh, SpiderOak, and ZumoDrive. Also, service providers are in the mix - Deutsche Telekom offers a service called Connected Life Experiences at Home. Companies such as NewBay Software and viacube are two to watch as white-label providers of synching and backup services.
- Cloud Music Services: There are many streaming music services from which to choose, but Cloud Music services will store your personally-owned content and have it ubiquitously accessible. Speculation was that Apple would launch this as a feature of iTunes following its purchase of Lala. Others in the mix are MOG All Access, Sony Qriocity, and Thumbplay.
- Online Video Transitions to the Cloud: Sony's Qriocity is a good example of this kind of service. RoxioNow is a technology to watch in this space.
- Video-on-Demand as a Cloud Service: Verizon FiOS Flex View is the first known intiative of which I'm aware, but we'll see other. Whether or not they adhere to the UltraViolet brand from the Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem (DECE) or Disney KeyChest is another matter.
There is consumer demand for cloud media. From our Digital Media Evolution II survey, remote and mobile access to photos and music are among the top cloud features desired.