How much stuff do you own? The answer for most people ranges from a few changes of clothing to a large house full of possessions – your material self. It turns out that most of us also have a digital self – the information and items we create or that others collect about us. It is your footprint, your impact on the digital world. Without a digital self, you don’t exist in the world of computers and the Internet.
The era of Internet has spawned riotous new forms of business disruption as cheap tools and services combined with Internet reach and social media have empowered anyone on the planet to compete with the largest, most established businesses. James McQuivey’s reports and book on digital disruption highlight the fast rise of new hardware devices such as Microsoft’s Kinect and Apple’s iPad, and the fast mainstreaming of new Internet services such as Dropbox, Twitter, and Facebook. Companies in the business of retail, books, movies, and music have been toppled or transformed, with more to come.
Today, Amazon announced the Amazon Cloud Drive. I think it is the first salvo in a series of steps that will lead Amazon to compete directly for the primary computing platform for individuals, as an online platform, as a device operating system, and as a maker of branded tablets.
Much of the attention is going to the Amazon Cloud Player, announced at the same time, which enables customers to stream music stored in Cloud Drive – Forrester’s Mark Mulligan blogged about that for Consumer Product Strategists (Amazon Beats Apple and Google to the Locker Room). But the general purpose design of Cloud Drive, combined with the long-term opportunities for personal cloud services, lead to a really interesting set of possibilities and insights into Amazon’s long-term strategy for Vendor Strategists trying to sort out the technologies and players of next-generation personal computing platforms.
Most of the hype in advance of today’s Apple media event is rightly about a new iPad. Sarah Rotman Epps will post on her blog about the new iPad for consumer product strategists after the announcement. I’m focused on the published reports that Apple’s Mobile Me service will be upgraded. I cited Mobile Me as an example of emerging personal cloud services in a July 2009 report, and I’m working on a follow-on report now. Mobile Me is Apple’s horse in a contest with Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and others, to shift personal computing from being device-centric to user-centric, so that you and I don’t need to think about which gadget has the apps or data that we want. The vision of personal cloud is that a combination of local apps, cached data, and cloud-based services will put the right information in the right device at the right time, whether on personal or work devices. The strengths of Mobile Me today are:
Synced contacts, calendar, Safari bookmarks, and email account settings, as well as IMAP-based Mobile Me email accounts, for Web, Mac, Windows, and iOS devices.
Synced Mac preferences, including app and system preferences.
Mobile Me Gallery for easy uploading and sharing of photos and videos.
I'm on vacation this week, traveling with a small group of my extended family out on the Dingle peninsula of Ireland. I'm mostly focused on vacation, but have done a little checking in on work things. Trying to stay connected - and figuring out how to adjust my Internet habits while on vacation with a Dad and brother that are decidedly less interested in computing is interesting. Here are some random thoughts from the experience.
I'm using a temporary Forrester computer, so none of my files are on this computer. I'm putting new files in the Dropbox folder, so they'll automatically be synced out for access when I get back. And I'm using a SugarSync account to retrieve needed files from my main PC, when I can find a connection. Our B&B doesn't have Wi-Fi, and it is rare in Dingle, so I'm using an ice cream shop that hands you a code if you want to use their Wi-Fi. Which means I connect about every 2 days, because it is several hundred meters away - thankfully it still works when they're closed and they don't change the code!
The biggest pain is mobile phone roaming! I turned off mobile access on the iPad. I signed up for AT&T's roaming data plan, which is the only east option for data but expensive. Even with the international roaming, mobile voice is $1 a minute. And there's no plan for roaming texting, so it's something like 25 or 50 cents a shot. So I bought an Irish SIM at the Post Office - which offers voice and text. But for some reason the old BlackBerry I put the SIM in can't send text, only receive them. And even though it is supposedly only for in-country calls, my brother was able to call my mobile with the Irish SIM when his Guinness factory stop in Dublin didn't work out.
I’m excited to be returning to the ideas of the Personal Cloud report that I published last July. In that report, I described how computing by individuals will shift from being device-centric, as it is today, to be being information-centric across devices and online services. Think of Personal Cloud as the following idea:
Federated sets of Internet-based digital services for individuals that act as a permanent and flexible resource to:
1) organize and preserve personal information, documents, media, and communications;
2) deliver that information on demand to any device or service; and
3) orchestrate integration of personal information across all digital devices and services.
Personal cloud service providers will build a combination of a data center cloud software platform, browser-based code to enable rich Web experiences, and device-level player or presentation code for richer experiences than the browser can provide, including offline access. And they will create an ecosystem of complementary software and service providers on top of their own offerings.
Tomorrow, Thursday, May 27th, I’ll be hosting a panel on Personal Cloud at the Forrester IT Forum with three executives at companies that are building elements of the personal cloud ecosystem: