Feb 7, 2013

Market Analysis - Cloud storage in ecosystem war?

Even though the social network war isn't over yet, latest war ongoing with the big guys, is who gets to own the data of people. The players are not totally the same than in the social network war, but most of them are there still. Social network war is about persons connections, which can't be easily divided to many services. Data on the other hand is personal and what friend select as cloud provider is not that important than social network. Both social network war and cloud storage war play big part on the big ecosystem game ongoing between Apple, Google, Microsoft and Facebook.

The main similarity to these both wars is, that changing sides is difficult when you have picked a side. When you decide to store all or most of your data to some cloud storage, it will take lot of effort to change it another. Same is true with social networks, when you build connections to one service, changing completely to another is near to impossible.

The second similarity is that big part of the companies offering their services today, will not be there in five years. There used to be many social network tryouts there five years ago. Some of them lived to see today, most of them not. Same will happen to cloud storage. Today, there's hundreds if not thousands of players offering cloud storage. Doing it profitably is costly and many services will go bankruptcy in coming years. I just hope people don't lose their data on that point.

Ecosystems needs ways to lock or at least tie people closely to their ecosystem. Until now physical devices and operating systems have been good ways to lock people to ecosystems. World is changing to the direction that completing a purpose is more important than the tool used. For example when you want to check what your friends are doing, you do it with any tool available. Or if you want to show your photos from last years vacation to someone, you just show those through cloud. Data needs to be available always.

So, will cloud storage play a role in ecosystem war by the big ecosystems and players?


The market leader in social networks, Facebook, haven't gone to the cloud storage business yet. I see that as a bit of a surprise. It's not their core competence or not even close to core business, but still it's a pretty good way to lock people in. If they are not going for all the data, I would see owning the memories, like photos and videos would be a perfect match for their current offering. Connection with others are all about visual nowadays and what would be better way that to share photos and videos that having all those in the service already.

Definitely this would be big change on their strategy. Currently they are heading more on the knowedge business with open graph, than to data business. Still I wouldn't be too surprised if they would acquire some big cloud storage player.


Google, the challenger in social networks war has taken totally different approach. They already have people's email and now they are trying to get to own their data. When they get people to load their data including pictures and videos, people will be tightly connected to Google services. Maybe their thinking is something like this: If we get them to trust their data on us, we get people to use Chrome and Android first. Next maybe they will buy a Chromebook laptop, because usage of their data is so much easier that way. Then eventually people might change also Google+. People don't really care about what social media they are actually using, if only they get connected to the people they want. If everyone would be in google+, why wouldn't they use that.


Then there is Microsoft. They seem to be losing the consumer business war. They are next to non-existing in the social network war (did you know they do have social network called So.cl? ). Internet Explorer is dropping it's shares. Windows Phone share of smartphones is ridiculously low. Microsoft Account counts for nothing. Their competitive edge comes from the Windows platform. They are still dominant on that with over 84% market share.

As long as data remains stored in local drives and applications are running on local machines, Microsoft will be important player due to Windows platform. When data will be in clouds and applications are run from clouds, operating system doesn't really matter anymore. On that point Microsoft will be in trouble. I believe they know this and have been aggressively trying to get into people's life's with Skydrive cloud storage and Windows 8 ecosystem. They need to tie people to some Microsoft brand soon, Windows OS will not be the tie it used to be.


Apple ecosystem is strong. Their way to lock people to their ecosystem has been through the proprietary OS and devices and excellent services they provide. When person have come in to Apple world, it is not have been easy to switch out from there. Still Apple haven't been able or willing to try to get to own the social networks of the people. They have been locking people in with data previously with their own OS. Now they are trying to get people to use their iCloud services. Main question with iCloud remains, will it ever be fully functional and available for Mac user's other devices. That's a key question on the ecosystem game. Winning the game with fully Apple created products will be hard.

Case Dropbox

Dropbox is the hot potato currently. It is a successfull service on it's own currently. Soon still there will be pressure to enlarge even more. On that point some one might buy it to get to own important part of people's life.

Best guesses who would have interest to buy them are Facebook and Amazon. Facebook, because they currently "only" own the social network of person, but nothing else. Having persons data would make Facebook even much bigger part persons life.

Amazon then on the other hand, doesn't really own much of persons life. They are trying all the time to connect more  and more with people with Kindle Fire, own currency and knowledge what you might like. So they do have a drive for having tighter connection to people, even at the end their profit would come from sales of physical goods. And on the other hand they already host the service for Dropbox.

Other big players

Eventhough Twitter is social media, it's not in the owning a persons data game. It is a strong player in the persons brand came, but that's a bit different game.

Mobile manufacturers have almost miraculously lost the game. None, other than Apple, have persons data or social network at their hands. Nokia had a change one day, but it lost it.

The small new players

Like stated, everyone is offering cloud storage currently. Within few years I believe there will be even more player in the field. In this playground there is more room for variety, but not for everyone. Definitely there will room for niche players who get people to store their data either with cheap price, extended security, really good privacy, back-up features, excellent user interface or something else that makes them special. This market is not only for few players, but still amount of players is not infinite. Services need certain scale to be profitable.


I believe owning people's data will play a major role in ecosystem war between Apple, Google, Facebook and Microsoft ecosystems. Data about people themselves, even though it is opening up all the time, it is still valuable to person. Contracts, bills, pictures, videos, resumes, contacts, medical history and other similar will always be important to people. All of these will never be opened for everybody else. Whom people will trust with their data will be a long term contract. Everyone will not see cloud storage provider to be so important at first, but when big part, if not all, of one's data will be stored in cloud, trusting the provider is important.

It will be interesting coming years to see how the cloud storage market will turn out to be. I have made my own journey to the cloud already. All the personal data that I own is stored in Google cloud. I trusted the big player.

Written by +Henri Hämäläinen

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