The name of Apple’s event today “Let’s Talk iPhone” indicates where much of the news focus is — on the new iPhone. But that focus distracts vendor strategists from understanding the deeper implications of Apple’s advances in online services and user experience.
Apple’s iCloud is an important new software platform and service that will integrate Apple’s customer experiences across their iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, and Mac products. This first version creates a personal cloud experience of the individual’s work, personal, and purchased content being seamlessly available across all their Apple products, in contrast to the fragmented experience of Google, Microsoft, and Amazon. Beyond music plus contacts, calendar, and email, Apple is supporting iCloud push in iMessage, Safari’s Read It Later feature, and push distribution of photos. Be sure to watch Apple’s iCloud concept video — that really conveys the personal cloud idea.
The Siri feature is the beginning of a new user experience built around context that will eventually create a much more personal, intimate experience for using all of Apple’s mobile and Mac products. Both of these offerings will have enduring impact beyond the latest model of the iPhone. Though only supported today on the iPhone 4S, I believe it is the beginning of a new form of interacting with all mobile devices and PCs. Voice control and input have not been widely used despite long-standing offerings from Nuance and Microsoft’s Tellme, though they do have strong adoption in specific segments. Apple’s integration of the user’s context will make the experience compatible with mainstream users.
At yesterday’s HP Summit 2011, CEO Leo Apotheker made a public case for personal cloud — online services that work together to orchestrate and deliver work and personal information across personal digital devices (such as PCs, smartphones, and tablets). For people planning strategy at vendors, what are the implications of personal cloud? End users will need help getting access to their information across their devices seamlessly.
One type of information ripe for help from personal cloud services is contacts or address books. Every person using a mobile phone (251 million in the US, most of which can do email) confronts the issue of how to get all their work and personal contacts into a new mobile phone. Can they simply sync with an existing source? Do they have to export? Or <shudder> re-key them?
We’ve been researching how many people are actually using a sync service or would be interested in using one. The market for contact or calendar sync is vastly underserved today: Only 4% of North American and European information worker respondents (those using a computer 1 hour or more per day) report that they used a website or Internet service that required a login for contact and calendar synchronization, integration, or enhancement for work (Source: Forrsights Workforce Employee Survey, Q3 2010).
Yet, when Forrester asked US consumers whether they identified with the statement, “I have several electronic address books and can't always find the contact I want when I want it,” only 4% chose that as a frustration or concern that they experience with the information they’ve stored in their PCs, devices, online services, or mobile phones (Source: North American Technographics® Omnibus Online Survey, Q4 2010 [US]).
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.
Today, I attended the HP webOS event at the Fort Mason Center, San Francisco. My colleague Sarah Rotman Epps is writing about the TouchPad, but I’m more interested in where HP takes webOS and how it relates to the Personal Cloud idea I first published more than a year ago.
I'm interested in where HP will take webOS — HP won't stick to just consumer markets, and it won't just build smartphones and tablets. Todd Bradley, HP’s EVP for Personal Systems Group, announced that HP will put webOS on PCs and printers before the end of the year.
Two strategic things that I think HP will do:
Put webOS on business PCs, not just consumer PCs. HP has long wanted more control and differentiation than they can get just putting a UI layer on Windows. HP will create conventional PCs with webOS, to stretch the webOS into the core personal devices market. That creates a much larger market for developers, which is vital to succeeding with a new OS. At the event, HP’s Steven McArthur, SVP Applications and Services, said HP plans to "build the largest installed base of connected devices in the world."
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:
I was intrigued and excited to see Google announcement of their second operating system effort today, Google Chrome OS. I’ve been thinking about how client operating systems will evolve ever since I began struggling with having data spread across multiple PCs. I finally gathered together my thoughts on the future of client OS in the The Personal Cloud, published just two days ago.
My working title for this report was “Death of the PC OS” because I believe that the industry needs to rethink and expand the role of PC and device operating systems.