Close on the heels of Apple's iCloud announcement (and our own internal presentation), I've been reflecting on the "cloud" and thinking- why hasn't it taken root and what are it's barriers to acceptance? What changes are necessAry for the Cloud to succeed? Will it be 1-2 years? 10 years? Or is it doomed to fail?
- Cost. Internet access is getting more expensive in an period where there should be a glut and lower prices. My home Comcast went up above $70/mo, I'm required to carry a $40 data plan on my IPhone, but after paying all that, if I want to access data on my iPad, I have to pay $25 a month more? Not gonna happen. And evenif I ponied up the extra cash, I get what? 2GB to 5GB a month? If you want me to stream all my music, host my photos, and manage all my documents, that's not going to cut it. Give me a fixed rate unlimited plan for all my digital devices, then we'll talk.
- Availability/Reliability. Here, Apple seems to have forgotten the main issue of their prime partner, AT&T. Why would I put everything on iCloud if I can't access it in my own house, the residences of half my friends, or even downtown San Francisco? Don't look too smug, Verizon, you have your dead spots and tower outages, too. If I'm at my customer's site in Winnemucca, NV, and I can't look up the technical reference I need, I can't drive 2 hours to the next town to look it up. If the radiologist giving me a CT scan in the bowels of UT hospital can't look up the PDR for the sedative he's giving me before throwing me in a the CT coffin, I might end up dead. The world has to be wired
with so many towers and repeaters, the countryside and our buildings will look more like a field of cactus.
- Bandwidth. I switched from a tablet PC to an iPad because I didn't want to spend 30 seconds booting the tablet to look something up quick. Same preference will apply to pulling large documents from the cloud, or uploading them. Do uments, photos, etc are just going to get bigger. My typical PDF is 4MB, a typical photo is almost 1MB, and I routinely move around 1-2 GB databases. Moving them back and forth on the cloud takes 10-20 times as long as on my local network, and 50x as long as a hard drive copy. And that's broadband, not wireless. Granted, 4G speeds and broadband are equalizing, but they may have physical limitations that will always make them slower than local.
The biggest opportunities in cloud are sharing and group use documents. How many times have was had documents emailed to us, and then taking up space in our email history? A Cloud document and an email link would definitely help shrink my 12GB Thunderbird profile directory, no question. But I'm still likely to keep a local copy somewhere for later.
What new companies will rise to fill some of these use need gaps? Unfortunately, many issues are in the hands of the big players: ATT, Verizon, Sprint, etc, and the recent mergers have led to less innovation and choices in plans, not more. Could there be a new upstart provider with a pricing plan that meets Cloud user needs?