Monday, June 13, 2011

Apple is About to Change the PC Market Again

Apple has a stunning record of predicting what users will want even if those users do not know it.  Apple's recently unveiled iCloud offering could be yet another such offering.  While everyone loves their iPod/iPhone/iPad and related mobile devices, the problem is they are dependent on a PC to sustain them.  Software updates, managing and transferring content (music, photos, videos, documents, etc...), and backups all require a physical computer system at some point.  This is limiting because it requires users to pick and choose from content stored on a physical machine at home or work.  So if someone is traveling and they want to view pictures on their iPad, but did not transfer them before leaving, then they are out of luck.  iCloud seeks to solve this problem.  Instead of synching devices to a physical computer, users transfer their content to iCloud, which is a personalized cloud based storage system.  Then users synch their devices straight to the cloud.  This includes not only content but system updates and backups as well.

If successful, this will continue to reinforce the trend away from PCs towards mobile devices.  This is ironic because Apple has built its business on the PC market, but Apple seems to recognize the future and has made a full-scale alignment towards it.  Of course Apple is not alone in this, Google and Amazon are already well down this road, but Apple's foray seems to make final what analysts predicted.  The downside to this strategy is cost and security.  For now Apple is offering 5gb of storage free, not including iTunes purchased content and photos.  For many users their music and video collections are measured in hundreds of gigabytes and terrabytes, so there is a major gap there.  Also, security is always an issue, transferring one's files to the iCloud means transferring security control to Apple.  Though given most users inability to protect themselves, this may not be a bad thing.  Finally, the million (or billion) dollar question is what this means for the enterprise IT market.  The enterprise IT signs have been pointing this way for years, but cost and security concerns have slowed this adoption.  But today consumer IT trends drive enterprise IT trends, so if successful, iCloud will contribute to and accelerate a significant change for the enterprise IT market.

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