We're Missing The Point Of The Cloud: It's Not Supposed To Be Locked To A Single Service

from the where-are-my-apis? dept

In the last few months now, we’ve had the launch of Amazon’s, Google’s and now Apple’s “music locker” services. There are some key differences there, but all of them involve storing music collections in the so-called “cloud.” But here’s the thing: none of these actually match the promise of what “the cloud” is supposed to be. Rather, each involves online storage and lock-in to a particular vendor. I made this point back when Amazon launched its offering. I already back up all my (yes, legal and authorized) music via a mountable “cloud” drive using S3. Then I can access all of that music using any music player I want. With Amazon’s and Google’s offerings, the streaming only can occur via its own streaming service. In fact, the ultimate in ridiculousness was that I had to re-upload some songs to Amazon’s music locker, rather than just point it at my S3 drive — which is run by Amazon as well! At least with Apple’s the focus seems to be syncing the music on various devices, but with Apple’s control over the platform, it seems likely that for most people this still will effectively restrict usage to Apple applications.

I absolutely understand why this is happening, and am sure that the labels would positively freak out if someone had offered a cloud service that you could point any application to. But, really, when we’re talking about “the cloud” and it involves this kind of lockup, it’s important to remember that we’re really not seeing some of the key features that the whole concept of “the cloud” is supposed to enable. Yes, we’re seeing the remote storage and the access from anywhere type features, but not the ability to access information and data with different services. And, of course, once you could access such info with different services, you could see some real innovation start to occur around that information, including unique services for sharing and combining playlists, and making music a lot more social. At some point that will come, but, until then, these offerings are nice, yet hardly demonstrate what the technology really could do if it were unshackled.

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Companies: amazon, apple, google

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Comments on “We're Missing The Point Of The Cloud: It's Not Supposed To Be Locked To A Single Service”

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22 Comments
Nick Coghlan (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

The vendors that get cloud service right operate on a “wherever you go, there you are” type of mentality.

Sometimes that is achieved via “dumb terminal” status (i.e. web apps), other times it is achieved via automatic client synchronisation (e.g. Firefox Sync, Dropbox, over the air Google Calendar/Contact sync to a smartphone). Some services (such as Dropbox or the Calendar/Contact example) mix the two modes – you can use the web app *or* the smart client as you choose.

The principle missing component is direct service-to-service transfers for large files (as opposed to the dumb download+reupload approach typically needed now).

Anonymous Coward says:

"Cloud."

You’re assuming executives have the same interpretation of the word cloud as the systems guys, or the public. It’s a buzzword now, like synergy and “out of the box.”

I threw a click-counter app on my phone at the last trade show I went to. I got up to 4500 clicks just on the word cloud in presentations before it was over. None of them were describing the same things.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: "Cloud."

It always was jsut a buzzword. “The cloud” is nothing more than a return to the old client-server days of heavy iron that people access with dumb terminals.

There are advantages to that model, of course. There are also large disadvantages, which is why it was ditched as soon as technology made that possible.

One of the primary disadvantages is that you lose control of your own data. You’re entrusting it to third parties. You trust the third parties will go to bat for you against others who make even the flimsiest of legal claims to access or remove your data. You trust that the fees being charged won’t get jacked up in the future. You trust that you’ll be able to get your data back out without a lot of pain. You trust that your provider will respect you and the integrity of your data.

Given the history of big companies, there’s not a single item in that list that I can honestly say I can trust any single one of them about.

Besides, the consumer advantages of “the cloud” can be easily replicated by just about anyone for a couple of hundred bucks, using their own server and a bit of free software. So you can have the good stuff without having to trust anything beyond yourself and your hardware.

Lisa Westveld (profile) says:

I know why!

In case you wonder, in many European countries it’s possibly a crime or misdemeanor to store privacy-sensitive information on servers outside Europe if the company is located within Europe. Privacy laws are extremely strict here, thus having useful data of e.g. your customers, their orders and even which color they prefer is all classified. As a result, it is made more difficult for companies to use cloud applications for these kinds of purposes so you end up with Cloud databases with data that’s not privacy-sensitive…
Danmark recently even forbade the use of Google Apps for administrative applications involving customer data… See http://www.linklaters.com/Publications/Publication1403Newsletter/TMT_Newsletter_March_2011/Pages/04_Denmark_Cloud_Brought_Down_Earth.aspx

John Doe says:

Good ole fashioned vendor lock-in

What we are seeing is good ole fashioned vendor lock-in. The cloud has a ways to go before it gets my data. First is the security issue. I want full encryption where only I have the key. Then I don’t want to be locked in to a single vendor. And finally I don’t want DRM/licensing hassels.

I admit though, I am using Dropbox with an encrypted file to store some data so I can get it synced between my laptop and PC. So far I love it, but I am using Truecrypt to encrypt a file where I would rather have the whole cloud drive encrypted.

Anonymous Coward says:

Eventually, Google or Apple or “Mr. Cloud” will terminate the service of a person or company that has significant investment in their cloud, and they can’t get access to that data, to a person, etc.

What is the contingency plan for these companies that now hold so much of our data that the removal of said data can greatly impact someone’s life?

Anonymous Coward says:

The promise of the cloud was never every device or every vendor

None of the “cloud services” promised every device. One of the goals is every device. Google Music, Amazon Cloud Store, etc require that you play through their web page, or other device that supports their method of access.

You can still use Google Music on a PC running Windows, or a Mac, or your friend’s computer with your own credentials. Same with Amazon, same with most cloud services. If you have a browser that supports HTML and Javascript, you can run Gmail, not just with Google’s browser. If your devices supports the access, then you can use it. If your vendor never went through the trouble to write something that would allow the device to support the service, that’s a reason not to buy it.

aikiwolfie (profile) says:

Missing the point of the cloud?

Actually I think people have been stupidly naive if they thought the large corporations and lobbyists would let them use the “cloud” to move their data around without restriction. It was never going to happen. If everybody could do that the big 4 record companies would never have gotten $150 million upfront from Apple.

The really sad thing is all of these music locker services can be replicated with a bit of web space and a secure ftp server. Instant mountable network storage solution you can access anywhere.

Even better. We can set all of this up from home. The likes of D-Link allow consumers to register a URL that will always point to their router and by extension their very own server at home. You can take your music with you anywhere you go for the cost of broadband + electricity.

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