The personal cloud is poised to eclipse the PC as the hub of consumers’ digital lives by 2014 as rapid growth in the use of apps and services introduces a new paradigm for how people store, synchronize, share and stream content, according to Gartner.
“The personal cloud isn’t a single offering, but a reflection of consumers’ expectation that their content will flow seamlessly as the result of a combination of services that overlap the consumer, business and government domains. It encompasses content storage, synchronization, sharing and streaming, as well as context-based access,” said Michael Gartenberg, research director at Gartner.
A personal cloud encompasses business, consumer and government services. At present, there is no single company with all-encompassing dominance. The stakes are high as large vendors such as Microsoft, Apple, Amazon and Google try to claim multiple aspects of the personal cloud ecosystem, and as smaller vendors strive to capture parts of the consumer experience with more vertically oriented and dedicated offerings, such as digital storage and streaming services accessible across particular platforms and devices.
“Consumers are confused about the nature of the personal cloud. This will not be helped by many vendors continuing to equate personal cloud services simply with online storage and neglecting their additional features and potential,” said Mr. Gartenberg. “Consumers will define their own sets of personal cloud services with regard to communication, collaboration and media consumption, despite vendors trying to control the digital ecosystem.”
Competition in the personal cloud market to grow in the following areas:
Mobility and location: Contextual devices and platforms are evolving, giving consumers the ability to access relevant information from the location of their choosing on their favorite devices. In real time, consumers are now able to store, synchronize, share and stream in ways not previously imagined. These abilities, when combined with services that can remember and restore user states, will have a great impact on consumer personal cloud services, and that impact will affect how other connected screens fare in a given ecosystem.
Platform independence: Personal cloud integration is about more than just changing where users store their content. Gartner analysts said personal cloud services will grow to augment and eventually displace the PC as the center of the consumer digital experience. The result will be that the core purchase driver for consumers will shift from the operating system to the nature and function of the personal cloud services available to a platform. Platforms will not be judged solely by number of apps, but also by the availability of core personal cloud services for business and personal needs, for both content creation and content consumption.
Seamless synchronization: Since the personal cloud comprises different service offerings, seamless synchronization will be essential for success. At the simplest level, this means synchronization of content stored locally and mirrored to a given service. This content could be office documents and music and video collections, but could also extend to other types. To achieve synchronization, content need not necessarily be replicated — seamlessly matched content, if delivered appropriately, will be perceived as seamlessly synchronized. But seamless synchronization does require consideration of consumer identity, social graphs, persistent capture of usage states (and the ability for users to opt in or out of any or all of these) from service to service.