The cloud isn’t new. The personal cloud is.
“The current state [of the cloud] is this type of digital locker,” explained Gartner Research’s Michael Gartenberg. But with last year’s release of iCloud and Microsoft improving its Windows Live Skydrive, the cloud has begun to move toward a multi-device synchronization model, with users able to sync and update files across all of their gadgets.
The cloud is fast becoming the next great frontier in personal computing, offering users near-limitless amounts of online storage, processing power, and content.
“We are at a point where brands and platforms and even devices are ultimately going to be defined not by [processing] speeds, but the services they offer. And those services are almost entirely going to become cloud based over time,” Gartenberg said.
According to Dharmesh Mehta, director of Microsoft’s Windows Live division, the cloud as it currently exists can be broken down into three divisions: the file cloud, the device cloud, and the app cloud. The file cloud is made up of file storage services such as Microsoft’s SkyDrive, while the device cloud is made up of services such as Apple’s iCloud. The app cloud is the use of connected apps that allow users to bring their information and settings across the web.
Within those cloud divisions are the service providers such as Amazon, Apple, Google, and Microsoft. These divisions create compatibility issues between brands. But we’re beginning to see a paradigm shift away from a reliance on one company’s cloud service. “Over the next 6 to 18 months, you are going to have more innovation on bringing these together,” Mehta said.
With a less fractious cloud, users will be able to move and access their files using any device with any service.
“For 2012, one of the important aspects of getting people to recognize the value of cloud is how it can be a unifying influence over their complex lives and straddle areas like entertainment and documents and messaging and communications and address book,” said Dana Gardner of Interarbor Solutions.
A device- and OS-agnostic cloud might end our obsession with getting the most powerful gadget. “We are talking about a whole new wave of, not only technology, but services,” said Gartenberg. “And that means platforms become less relevant, devices become less relevant, they are all just connected screens.”