When mobile communications and cloud computing collide, the forecast calls for thunder and lightning. This promises to re-energize the way mobile consumers connect with one another, while offering them ever-expanding access to information and entertainment, all in the palms of their hands.
For upward-looking service providers, a window of opportunity is opening now — if they develop the right strategies.
In its Mobile Cloud Watch survey (Mobile Devices Meet the Mobile Cloud), Cisco’s Internet Business Solutions Group (IBSG) questioned 1,016 U.S. mobile users to better understand their current and future needs. For starters, the survey found that these consumers already have their heads in the cloud: more than 50 percent access Web-based email, social networks, shopping, and music services through their handheld devices; one-fifth are expanding into advanced cloud services like web conferencing, content sharing, and online data storage.
As for next-generation cloud services, the survey saw great promise and strong interest. There is particular enthusiasm for all things video, with 70 to 80 percent of smartphone users looking forward to enhanced opportunities for watching, recording, and calling visually. Seventy-five percent are interested in speech-recognition technologies, and 60 percent look to incorporate real-time voice translation. Another 70 percent want to move multimedia files from device to device, yet another capability that will become ever more efficient under the mobile cloud.
Even the most tech-savvy consumers crave simplicity. And our survey found strong appeal in a mobile, cloud-based virtual desktop, identical to what consumers view on their home or office PC. More than half of the respondents rated this service at 7 or higher (out of 10), citing its potential for greater productivity.
Along with the consistency of the virtual desktop interface, the mobile cloud promises to offer smartphone users access to any of the videos, photos, music, and other content available on those home computers—except that they will be able to enjoy them anywhere, anytime. Survey respondents showed high interest in this capability.
All of these services will be available on “dumber,” cheaper, “thin-client” devices. Since with the migration of data and apps to the cloud, bragging rights to processing power and hard-drive capabilities will become passé.
But while the mobile cloud lessens the fear of losing data stored on one gadget — a critical advantage to survey respondents — other worries persist over coverage, connectivity, and overall reliability of service providers. Cisco IBSG believes that consumer confidence will rise with the ongoing acceleration to 4G technologies, with their inherent stability and reliability.
And despite such concerns, the best news for service providers is that consumers already like them. On average, respondents rate their general level of satisfaction with their provider at 7.8 out of 10. Almost 50 percent of mobile users cited SPs as the preferred channel for cloud services, compared to 20 percent for Web companies.
This places service providers in a strategically advantageous position. But Cisco IBSG urges SPs to seize the moment. They will need to create their own innovative cloud-based services, including easy-to-use storage and management solutions; aggressively market the advantages they offer; and carefully choose partners who can help them realize their goals.
Smartphones are well on their way to becoming the primary mobile device: almost half (45 percent) of our survey respondents owned smartphones. Even more remarkable, up to 60 percent of U.S. mobile phone subscribers could be smartphone users by the end of 2013.
Cisco IBSG believes that Web-based services will offer explosive opportunities for both smartphone users and their providers.
In other words, cloud gazing has never seemed a more auspicious pursuit.