Are You Phony or Cloudy?

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.

Are You Phony or Cloudy?

This may seem like a trick question, but in a sea of clickbait and nano-attention spans where there is a raging battle for eyeballs for a split second lest your mind wander, this corny yet serious riddle hopefully does the trick.

Let’s start with explanations. A “phony” (phone-y) is a smartphone user. A “cloudy”, in contrast to being overcast and glum, is a smartphone user who improves their life via the cloud – er, what?

It’s like the CEO of Twitter, who recently discussed why user growth stalled. He said many people still don’t ‘get’ Twitter and attempted to simply explain it by saying it’s the best way to know what people think, directly and instantly. Think unfiltered breaking news from the source, even if the news is a bad hair day. This is like explaining a foreign language while speaking the language, it doesn’t matter how simply you talk, it’s still unintelligible. That’s similar to explaining cloudy but let’s try anyway.

In English, a cloudy is a smartphone user who uses a personal cloud service to simplify their life. By now, you have heard of the cloud and know it has something to do with computers. If you use an iPhone, you know of iCloud and there’s a good chance you use it, although exactly what for, that might be a mystery. If you use Gmail, you have seen Google Drive, and same if you use a Windows PC, OneDrive is unavoidable. Some people use Dropbox for files and photos although its 15 minutes of fame seems to be waning for consumer appeal.

The punch line: most people know of the cloud and are pretty sure they use it though may not know how. If you polled smartphone users about if the cloud has improved their life, there’s a good chance most people would say no or don’t know. If this sounds like you, don’t worry, you are not alone, and there’s still time and hope to turn things around.

There’s enough blame to go around on why things are this way to waste a lot of time and cloud drives but we’re not playing that game. In short, the first generation of personal cloud services are the modern day equivalent of the old MS-DOS command line prompt i.e. C:> (for younger people, that is not an emoticon, it is an actual computer prompt). No wonder most people don’t ‘get’ the cloud.

Aside from its primal user experience that has been aimed almost exclusively at advanced users, whether personal cloud providers realized it or not, there’s been another holdback, that most providers built personal clouds from their point of view than from users. But that’s a post for another day.

How does a ‘cloudy’ simplify their life via the cloud? Let’s count the ways:

  1. All of their important smartphone info is automatically kept in their own private personal cloud. This includes pictures, videos, contacts, music and files, without effort, once it is set up.
  2. Although this sounds like backup, and to a degree it is, it is much better. Why? Because a) backup is boring (although it is important, like checking the oil in a car engine once in a while); b) once your stuff is in the cloud, it is easy to access anytime, such as if your phone is lost or somewhere else; and c) it makes it easier to share stuff than from your phone. Think of a video you want to share – once it is in the cloud (a one-time upload from your device and it happens without thinking about it), you share it and the recipient(s) get a link to the video in your cloud i.e. no uploading multiple times.
  3. Beyond this, the big idea of a personal cloud is it holds your entire digital life, not just from your phone but other devices (computers and tablets), and online services you frequently use. It puts important digital stuff in one private place where it is automatically organized e.g. all of your pictures are here, your videos are there, your music is here, your other files are there. Everything is sorted in a useful timeline plus there is an easy way to search, which is important once you have a lot of stuff. For people who want to further organize things, they can create albums, playlists, etc., and all of this available anywhere, on phones, PCs, tablets and the web.

This is how a cloudy simplifies their life. It is much more than taking stuff from an iPhone or files from a PC. It’s about taking all of your important digital stuff, having it in one secure place where it is automatically organized, accessing it anytime, and making it easy to share. Although most people don't like cloudy, in this case, it's a great thing.