Personal computing has become complicated. Consumers and IT managers face dozens of services for a single functionality and users are increasingly using smartphones, tablets, and different PCs for home and work. It is hard to juggle it all.
"The personal computing experience is a victim of its own success" research company Forrester says in a report outlining a strategy for consumers and corporations in approaching the "personal cloud." Forrester predicts that the personal cloud will be a $12 billion dollar market by 2016. What is the personal cloud going to look like and who are the leaders going to be?
What Will the Personal Cloud Be Built On?Forrester predicts that the personal cloud will be built around the large personal email systems that have extra layers of compatibility - iCloud, Gmail with Google Apps and Hotmail with Windows Live Essentials. According to Forrester, these will meet the basic needs of most individuals and will be complimented by third-party applications. The biggest of the core cloud providers will be able to build application programming interfaces (APIs) that will allow other properties - like Flickr or Dropbox - to work within them. Across the device landscape, the PC will still be central hub of computing and devices will align themselves with one of the major clouds.
Forrester says that by 2016, 196 million U.S. consumers will be using a personal cloud service ("P Cloud"), of which 97 million will pay for the service, either via subscription or one-time purchase. They will revolve around Microsoft, Google and Apple.
Where is Amazon?
In the cloud landscape of 2011, that might seem like a bit of a surprise. When it comes to cloud services, Amazon is one of the leaders in the industry. Yet, Forrester does not mention Amazon Web Services in the report. When you look at the vision of the personal cloud, the omission makes sense. The "P Cloud" will be built around existing communications structures on along major operating systems. Amazon does not have an operating system for PCs or mobile devices. It is rumored to be building devices on Android that will be released later this year, so in the Forrester formula, Amazon will be functioning within the Google vertical of the personal cloud (though, Amazon will probably continue to be a robust player in commercial cloud and Web services).
"P Cloud" As The Third Major Client Software
Forrester says that the cloud will be the third major client software battleground. The PC operating system was the first, won early by Microsoft with niches carved out for Apple and Linux. Mobile is the second and remains fluid and volatile with Google's Android leading in market share with Apple, Research in Motion and Microsoft figuring out how to gain ground. The personal cloud will be the third and will be built on top of the first two. Hence, the companies with strong infrastructure in operating systems and communications will be the leaders in the personal cloud as well.
Forrester sees the personal cloud as a disruptive force to the current online services market. It says to "prepare for major opportunity and turbulence selling to individuals." That means marketers should explore the personal cloud as a new channel to reach customers. IT managers should plan for personal cloud integration as consumers continue to want information stored in personal services at work and the major email providers should create a better experience to capture users from any email address in the company's personal cloud net.