A strategic look at the concentration of data and information outside of your personal computer.
by Tom Thorne
Apple’s announcement of iCloud this last week is only a symptom of a bigger trend. Apple wants you to store and distribute your pictures, data and files remote from your personal computer and then retrieve them from their new servers. There is a natural affinity when you create networks, or as in this case webs of connection, to think that somewhere out there is a giant web node that is the core of all that is useful. That is what Apple and Google, and possibly a few other companies, want you to think as they launch these services.
So what is the idea that Apple and Google are trying out on you? Basically they have created large banks of servers to store and distribute your personal information and content. Apple recently spent one billion dollars setting up the hardware and software for iCloud. There is nothing wrong with Apple’s enterprise except personal computer users can do it themselves for less than $100 per terabyte if they want. I can store my own information right on my desktop and I can easily share it with a smart phone or iPad. Apple tried this idea before with Mobile Me when they charged $99.00 per year connecting that service with iWeb which is why I conclude that they are interested in hosting content. iCloud will now provide this service free starting this fall.
Free on-line storage creates marketing information...and opportunity for those that provide the service...
This blog is also stored for free on Google’s blogspot server, so I ask if these companies are prepared to store my data and information for free what’s in for them? They provide this hub for something else they want. In this blog’s case I provide Google with the potential of placing cross promotional advertising on my content. Of course I get to promote my journalistic work so its not such a bad deal.
The argument Apple and Google present is that personal computers, iPads and mobile smart phones need a storage place to off load the information they generate or simply to save music and film downloads. Apple wants you to send them your entire iTunes library for storage. Why? Well they can know what you bought, what you like, and also what you have not bought or purloined. All this information has the potential to build up a customer profile and will result in tailored promotions hitting your email. How private can a service like this be?
It will be a market researcher’s paradise no matter how much the service providers deny it. The customer data generated by iCloud will tempt even the most high minded company from a straight and narrow privacy path. Earlier this year Apple was found to be storing geographic locations of their iPhone users. Naturally there was denial that they ever used this information. However, I remain skeptical about the temptations data collection presents to even the most high minded of companies. The data and information collected by iCloud will exceed the iPhone experience.
Implications of iCloud-like installations
Let’s look at the implications of big centralized servers. Several days ago I wrote in this space that I thought the next step would be searching the web with artificial intelligence search engines located in several large data centres. iCloud and similar plans by Google and Amazon are at a first level designed to cement customer loyalty for Apple, Blackberry, or other mobile communication techniques that are current.
ICloud works when all your files are on the Apple server and with a few keystrokes you can download to your smart phone, iPad and computer your favourite music, photos and files. iCloud provides a central place to distribute your information to yourself or to your friends.
In addition, a development out of iCloud and similar ventures by Apple’s competition will create super hubs of not only customer mp3 files, photos, and files, but also blogs and editorial products that the users create that need storage and retrieval. That will mean that these new super hubs will have a lot of content on them such as web sites, blogs, epublications, ebooks...in short editorial content not just data and information. They are, in effect, becoming editorial distributors by default.
This fact will offer the companies who were into this early to control content hubs that they can sell advertising around even more aggressively than they do at the moment with such services as Google Adsense. Watch the new services they will offer once you register to send your data and information or editorial materials to iCloud. One only has to examine what Google offers me for this blog to clearly see this trend developing much further when Apple gets iCloud service rolling by the fall of 2011.
More about artificial intelligence search engines.
But let’s stop. Much of what I have discussed to this point is obvious. What is not obvious at this point in time for the implications of centralized storage and retrieval? What they are doing now is within the bounds of existing techniques. The development of other mobile friendly techniques and services are in the wings. Here's a prediction.
A super hub like iCloud will be the first to offer artificial intelligence search engines by about 2012 or 2013. Apple long and medium term planning can only involve entering the search engine business and when they do it will be very innovative and designed to set back Google and Yahoo a few notches. They will also build this major web change into an integrated OS11 and their iPhone and iPad operating system will also go to a OS6 release with intelligent smarts to search the web. You heard it here first.
This service will enable the user to conduct a dialogue with a smart search engine in natural language or by texting. A system like this can build editorial content. In nanoseconds these systems will be able to search an obscure need such as the following dialogue indicates:
User: Show me the ancient Egyptian step pyramid complex at Saqqara.
iSearch: There are photographs, schematic drawings, isometric diagrams.
User: Are there any aerial photographs?
iSearch: There are 1,200 aerial photographs of Saqqara available.
User: Choose one hundred of the most recent aerial photographs from all angles and display them.
iSearch: There is also a 360 degree aerial video in 1080p
User: Show the video.
iSearch: Should I compile your Saqqara information into your iCloud account as “Saqqara”?
User: Call the file “Saqqara research” and also download it to my iPad. Check all copyrights. Thanks iSearch
iSearch: I can link “Saqqara research” to other information on this topic if you like?
User: No thanks iSearch just leave an index list on iCloud and on my iPhone.
iSearch: All completed. Goodbye.
Here are some links to show what my hypothetical iSearch artificial intelligence engine could dig up in nanoseconds. It took me three minutes using Google. Take a look and think about how this information could be edited to the user’s needs by a smart search engine.
© Copyright 2011, Tom Thorne, All Rights Reserved.