Market research firm Gartner released today an analysis that predicts an explosion of integrated cloud services over the coming years. The “personal cloud”, as Gartner calls the new wave of cloud services, will be integrated, by 2013, in 90% of all consumer devices, including TVs, tablets, smartphones, and PCs.
According to Gartner VP Andrew Johnson, users will come to demand the so-called “4S” experience, consisting of storing, synching, streaming, and sharing content, regardless of the device used. The market is heading towards unifying the user experience across multiple screens, which will also affect how consumers are using cloud services. As users become more adept at using cloud services, they will demand universal access to content, as well as a seamless consuming experience that puts all technical aspects in the background.
Gartner’s vision for the close future is based on current developments, such as the widespread use of Dropbox, Box, SugarSync, or other cloud storage/syncing services. Suggestively, all major cloud backup providers have recently announced improvements of their mobile offerings. For example, Box is offering (for a limited time) 50GB of free cloud storage space to any Android user that signs up for their service.
Besides specialist players, the biggest tech companies in the world are also racing to deliver compelling cloud-based services. Apple’s iCloud is an example of the universal access model in action, with Google Apps (and the upcoming Drive), Amazon Music, and Microsoft SkyDrive heading into the same direction.
For now, Gartner estimates that the majority of users will continue to depend on internal storage. Don’t expect traditional storage to disappear anytime soon – by 2014, only 10% of all users will rely on the cloud for their primary storing needs, even though personal cloud services will be available on virtually every connected device.
Nevertheless, we can already see a trend forming. LTE (and to an extent, 3G) networks make possible easy, ubiquitous access to content (be it music, videos, or personal documents). With data centers becoming more efficient and capable, it’s already easier and cheaper for manufacturers to provide cloud storage instead of on-device storage space.
The storage space in smartphones and tablets weighs heavily in the final bill of materials of each device. For example, Barnes & Noble cut the internal storage of the Nook Tablet from 16GB to 8GB, which allowed the book specialist to reduce the cost of the Nook with $50.
Other companies are adopting the same strategy. Just last week, we reported that HTC’s One series smartphones would come with 25GB of free storage space from Dropbox, available for two years. Google’s upcoming Nexus tablet will also probably come with relatively little internal storage space, leaving users reliant on the long rumored Google Drive cloud service.
Even if complete reliance on cloud storage is not an option yet, we can easily envision a future (five years from now, a decade?) in which the personal cloud becomes so widespread that it supersedes on-board storage.
What do you think? Would you ever rely on the cloud to host your data? If not, what would convince you to do so?