Most of the hype in advance of today’s Apple media event is rightly about a new iPad. Sarah Rotman Epps will post on her blog about the new iPad for consumer product strategists after the announcement. I’m focused on the published reports that Apple’s Mobile Me service will be upgraded. I cited Mobile Me as an example of emerging personal cloud services in a July 2009 report, and I’m working on a follow-on report now. Mobile Me is Apple’s horse in a contest with Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and others, to shift personal computing from being device-centric to user-centric, so that you and I don’t need to think about which gadget has the apps or data that we want. The vision of personal cloud is that a combination of local apps, cached data, and cloud-based services will put the right information in the right device at the right time, whether on personal or work devices. The strengths of Mobile Me today are:
- Synced contacts, calendar, Safari bookmarks, and email account settings, as well as IMAP-based Mobile Me email accounts, for Web, Mac, Windows, and iOS devices.
- Synced Mac preferences, including app and system preferences.
- Mobile Me Gallery for easy uploading and sharing of photos and videos.
Apple’s opportunities to improve Mobile Me today are:
- Improve iDisk with increased application compatibility, so apps can store data in the iDisk for automatic replication to other devices, and an API. Or they could buy Dropbox, the rising star of easy file sync, which has outshone the more capable and complex SugarSync.
- Improve iTunes, iPhoto, and iMovie – make them sync across Macs so I don’t have to remember which Mac has my music, photos, and movies. For an idea of what this might be like, take a look at MiMedia, which also adds in online backup capabilities like the services mentioned below.
- Improve iBooks – each iOS device has its own iBooks cache. Maybe I’ve overlooked something, but I haven’t seen a way to make sure that my iPhone, iPod, and iPad have the same copy of a book.
- Create iOS device independence – backing up iOS devices into iTunes is great. It’s easy to restore a device or setup a new one from the mother Mac or PC. But why not link all that iOS configuration information to the AppleID, so that a user can setup iTunes on a new Mac or PC and have all the information be transferred from Mobile Me?
- Add cloud-based backup to Time Machine or Time Capsule. The Mac’s easy backup is drop dead simple – my brother had great success using his Time Capsule to restore a Macbook Pro whose hard drive died. But what if the house is lost in a fire or tornado? There’s no offsite backup. So buyers turn to services such as Carbonite, CrashPlan, and Mozy, which don’t integrate with the Time Machine backups. Apple has an opportunity to add this service – or buy one of the existing players.
- Open up to partners, even just a little. Right now, Mobile Me is true to Apple’s disciplined approach of carefully engineering the user experience – but it doesn’t yet offer any opportunities for third parties to integrate the way it does with iOS and the Mac.
- Provide hooks or integration for IT staffers helping employees, such as integration to allow synchronizing between iDisk and Microsoft SharePoint files. HP webOS division is working on HP Synergy to create a personal cloud offering – and I'm positive they'll create an integrated approach to work and personal information across all HP PCs and devices, not just the Pre and TouchPad
If Apple tackles a substantial chunk of this, then they can claim a big lead in functionality and user functionality over Google and Microsoft – and Facebook has yet to move beyond its core of social and photos, though it hinted at its plans with the acquisition of Drop.io.
Meanwhile, other niche players are branching out. I just got word from Mozy that they are emailing customers today about a private beta of MozyHome file sync capabilities, plus mobile apps for iOS and Android. I think this move is the first step for Mozy in building a broader personal cloud offering. Full text quoted below.
Announcing Mozy file sync and mobile apps!
We’re pleased to announce the upcoming Mozy file sync private beta, and mobile apps for iOS and Android. With Mozy file sync you’ll be able to synchronize your files across all your computers automatically. No more emailing a copy to yourself. No more saving to a USB drive. With the mobile apps you’ll be able to access your backed up files from your iOS (iPhone and iPad) or Android device. Quickly view photo thumbnails and download the full file (high resolution) right to your mobile device. Additionally you can email any of your backed up files to friends and family. If you’d like to be considered as a candidate for early access to the private beta of this new feature, or to be put on the list to receive email updates, learn how to do so at [url here – not live yet].
The Mozy Team