iCloud – taking consumer cloud to the next level

iCloud – taking consumer cloud to the next level

Apple announced their iCloud offering today. Idea is pretty simple – Cloud becomes the data center for all devices especially for media content – photos, videos, songs, documents, etc. We wrote about that in our Mobile Cloud Computing paper in much detail.

I wrote about the key success factors for any mobile cloud computing offering –

For any mobile cloud computing service to reach the masses, it has to get the basics right specifically around the user experience and the pricing. As past experiences have shown – if one gets these wrong out of the gate, it is very difficult to get the users interested again.

The key success factors for any mobile cloud computing application or service are:

User experience

The success of a product or the service is defined by the “end to end” user experience and the perceived value users have. A product or service that has a positive impact on user’s emotions, needs, preferences, perceptions, and behaviors has a better chance of reaching mass market in a short-amount of time. In the case of mobile cloud computing, the picture is multi-dimensional, as the service has to adapt to multiple devices and networks and hide the complexity from the user. It should just work.


Pricing is a key element that makes the difference between a niche service and a mass-market phenomenon. Consumers should perceive that they are receiving more value for what they are being asked to pay. Many excellent services never caught fire primarily because the value equation was imbalanced. For e.g. the MediaFLO service from Qualcomm was technically perfect but because of the high cost structure, limited operator promotion and distribution, and high pricing for the consumers, it never caught on. There are similar examples throughout the history of the mobile industry. Any new service should first earn its value.


We are living in an increasingly fragmented world. Our content and media consumption is across multiple sources and with different providers. Our preferences and tastes are continuously evolving. Any vertically focused service needs to account for this new reality. This means that interoperability is not a feature but a key functionality without which the service won’t get much traction. The cloud computing ecosystem is going to have multiple providers for example, a consumer is likely to have music files with Apple, books with Amazon, pictures with Google, address book with T-Mobile, friends photos on Facebook, family videos with Yahoo and so on and so forth. Any media cloud computing solution should be open enough to ingest content from any service and provide the capability of multiple cloud services from a single interface depending on consumer preferences. Cloud service providers who try to lock consumers into their databases without offering transparent interoperability will see their short-term advantage whittle away over time.

Discovery and Sharing

For the most part, mobile is still limited by the size of the screen. Consumers on the run have different expectations for media/content consumption. Instead of a series of links, they are looking for answers. Whether it is the song lyrics or associated social data of music and video files or the location and auto-recognition of the individuals in a photograph, rich metadata is key to automatically organize content as well as to instantly finding any piece of content across multiple libraries with gigabytes of data. As such, the value of meta data becomes extremely important.

Network and Device Intelligence

Even though the broadband capability has improved over the last few years, mobile is always going to be under the constraints of congestion, network load, and variable device capabilities. Also, it will be unwise to not take advantage of the device storage, capability and the processing power. A hybrid model provides a perfect balance of user experience, performance, and the range of options. Any cloud service should take advantage of the available resources on the device, in the network, and in the cloud infrastructure to deliver the best experience to the user in real-time. This can only be delivered if the service is aware of the network and the devices at all times. For example, the background syncing of music across various user devices can take place using Wi-Fi or during off-peak hours on a cellular network so as to not burden the network or transcoding the image or the video stream on the fly to adapt to the application, device and network characteristics. Hence, any mobile cloud computing service should be network and device aware at all times.

As always, Apple made the process simple and pricing super attractive. Now, others will have to respond in kind or try to do better with features. Pricing is set – FREE for 5GB (at least for now).

We will be discussing Mobile Cloud Computing and the infrastructure needs and requirements in our upcoming Mobile Future Forward event and will have some terrific speakers to address the topic.