Hey! You! Get off of my cloud

The chorus line of the famous Rolling Stones song, released in 1965 as a follow-up the hit single “I can’t get no satisfaction”, goes on to say:

Don’t hang around ’cause two’s a crowd n my cloud, baby

The lyrics and the timing of the song feels strangely prescient when placed against the backdrop of 2012 Cloud Computing.

ImageFirst off let me say that I am a 100% paid-up member of the Cloud Computing cheer squad. Both as an individual where I have had my major personal email account with Yahoo! for some 15+ years and I absolutely embrace having email, documents, applications, … almost everything is organised (albeit frustratingly) with various cloud service providers. And as a corporate citizen where, in my previous career as a CIO, I was keen to embrace Cloud and overcome all barriers to make IT in my company a useful commodity.

Whilst I am, in general, an early adopter of technology I am also a sceptic. My current scepticism focusses on the “all or nothing” approach that many service providers have towards cloud. To me this smacks of the forced standardisation that stifles innovation versus the open innovation approach that promotes innovation. An example of this in recent history might be the growth of Linux as an open OS.

Let us take 2 relevant Cloud examples: Apple and Google.

I use both.

When I had an Apple iPhone, an Apple Macbook and then I purchased an Apple iPad it seemed logical to go to iCloud. I was already a member of the MobileMe pre-cursor to iCloud so the constant reminders that MobileMe would expire on June 30th and that iCloud promised everything MobileMe could do and more lured me into using it. I won’t bore you with the details but it works … up to a point.

The point is that I do not use the Apple iWork apps instead preferring Microsoft Office and that leads me to one big disadvantage with iCloud. Then there is the small point about having 2 Apple IDs … another long story but believe me it is a pain to have your data spread across 2 Apple IDs. And then I gave my iPhone to my teenage daughter and bought … a Google phone!

Instantly my world came apart. I could sync Contacts from my Macbook to my Google phone but, in order to do so, I had to turn off iCloud. I agonised over this for some time (manually exporting contacts, transferring files, importing and deleting contacts) but eventually I did it and my life instantly became both simpler and more complex at the same time.

I now use iCloud purely to sync calendar events and reminders and to be able to use the Find My iPhone (which obscurely is used to find my iPad and my Macbook but not my iPhone).

I sync my contacts via Google and Yahoo on my Macbook. And I am using Google Drive for documents but my favourite file and folder syncing tool is still DropBox.

Why DropBox? Well my use of DropBox pre-dates iCloud and it concerns a number of apps that I use, like Mindjet, Evernote, WordPress and QuickOffice, that just work better with DropBox. Perhaps in the future they will work equally as well with Google Drive or even iCloud … and that is the point of the story.

The smaller players, like DropBox and Evernote, realise that they need to cooperate with the big players, like Apple and Google, in order to succeed. Whilst it is evident that the bigger players are unwilling to concede market space to the smaller players as they go on their quest for global domination. So, where will this all lead us?

I believe that the interplay between innovation (predominantly driven by smaller players), brand strength (which is what attracts users to the larger players), co-operation (forced by an inability to replicate other products or services), competition (which drives us all) will continue to swing the nascent cloud services industry as it matures with a final destination that looks a lot like where desktop computing is today.

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