Mid-2015 Personal Cloud Market Highlights & Predictions

Hal Steger : Thinking Out Cloud
Hal Steger
Vice President of Worldwide Marketing at Funambol. 20+ years of marketing & product management experience at high-growth, innovative global software companies.
| This blog is about personal cloud solutions, technology, trends and market developments. Its scope is to comment on and discuss several aspects of personal clouds.

Mid-2015 Personal Cloud Market Highlights & Predictions

As the dust settles on the halfway mark of 2015, the personal cloud market continues to surge. Here are important events that occurred in the first half of the year and predictions for the second half.

Major industry milestones in the first half of 2015 include:

  • Box went public, and while its stock price has varied, which is common post-IPO, its company valuation has held at a high level. There remains a large need for companies of all sizes and in many industries to leverage the cloud as an important platform for file sync & share. Last week, Box announced a partnership with IBM that will aid both companies and that will serve to further ramp up usage for enterprise file sync & collaboration.

  • Signals out of Dropbox show that it is focusing more on businesses. The company is positioned to be all cloud storage to all people but recent news indicates the company is experiencing some growing pains. Their Carousel consumer media app was less successful than anticipated and there has been internal frustration with the pace of innovation in the core Dropbox service which remains largely unchanged. The biggest update is their integration with Microsoft Office, although Microsoft already has integrated Office with Microsoft OneDrive so users can now choose. The Dropbox tide is turning towards businesses as the competition in consumer clouds makes it more difficult to make money with a plain vanilla cloud drive.

  • Other large over-the-top (OTT) personal cloud services such as OneDrive, Apple iCloud and Google Drive have made incremental improvements and have organically grown their user bases. This is mainly due to tighter integration with their ecosystems that compels users to utilize their services (whether they are aware of this or not). The amount of free and paid cloud storage continues to increase, making them better values, but as noted, this makes it harder to make money with a commodity cloud service. This resulted in consolidation of the industry as weaker entities align with other players who are bundling cloud storage with other things.
  • Google introduced its new Photos service with unlimited free storage, although if you read the fine print, let the buyer (or user) beware. See this post for more details but in short, its traction remains to be seen.

  • A major bright spot is that carrier clouds are gaining significant traction. Although carriers do not break out cloud usage stats from other products, if you follow this market, the majority of large (tier-1) carriers have launched a self-branded (white-label) personal cloud service. Medium-sized operators have followed suit, as carriers worldwide realize the importance of controlling their destiny with a white-label personal cloud platform for offering an array of mobile services.

  • As personal cloud capabilities increase and people store more of their digital life in the cloud, more attention is being paid to data privacy & security, including the role of government agencies. An example is facial recognition which some groups say is a violation of people’s privacy.

Looking ahead, here are predictions about the personal cloud market for the second half of the year:

  • At a macro level, the number of worldwide personal cloud accounts will grow from 2 billion to 2.5 billion, for a six month growth rate of 25%, which given its size, is impressive. This growth will happen worldwide but especially in emerging markets. In addition to the increase in the number of accounts, the percent of people that actively use personal clouds will grow at a faster clip due to innovative mobile apps and services that store and access data and content in clouds.
  • The competition in enterprise cloud file sync & share will grow as Box, Dropbox and Google intensify efforts to serve businesses. This will result in new products for collaboration, security and vertical markets. Cloud storage amounts will increase with prices holding steady. The uptake of cloud storage by organizations will rapidly grow as businesses integrate them more tightly into their business practices.

  • Self-branded operator personal clouds will continue to gain major traction, as more carriers launch worldwide, especially in emerging markets. Operators have gotten wiser about marketing their personal clouds versus OTT services. The next steps for operators are to augment core personal cloud storage with related mobile services for security, Internet of Things, TVs and vehicles, and to introduce SMB cloud storage services.

  • Two innovations that will gain popularity are family clouds and ‘super-clouds’ - services that aggregate content from multiple devices and online services to simplify people’s digital lives.

2015 is shaping up as the year of the personal cloud, based on both quantitative and qualitative indicators – the personal cloud is an unstoppable trend that is reshaping the way people live and work.