Apple’s is set to launch iCloud in the next few days, and with it Steve Jobs plans to move the center of your digital life to the cloud. Amazon just announced the Kindle Fire, which Jeff Bezos calls a service, not a tablet. When you buy a new Android phone or tablet, the first thing it asks you to do is connect it to your Google account. Even Microsoft is stumbling in the right direction.
Computing is moving to the cloud in a big way. Mobile is exploding in a big way. And they’re two sides of the same coin.
I believe that when the inevitable consolidation happens, the companies left standing will be the ones that own the whole stack—from the dirt on which the data center is built, up through the servers, storage, and networking gear inside the building, to the cloud apps running on that infrastructure, to the mobile apps, operating system, and hardware in the user’s hand. Apple, Amazon, and Google all do this now. They allow third parties to augment that stack where it makes sense (which varies with each company’s business model) and keep tight control everywhere else.
It’s interesting to see companies that don’t yet own components at every level of the stack grapple with it. Mobile device makers are rushing to add cloud storage and sync services to their offerings. HTC is bundling Dropbox service with some of its phones. HP planned to bundle Box.Net with its TouchPad before Léo killed that whole thing. Samsung is reportedly building its own cloud services. Similarly, cloud service providers are beginning to move down the stack, eschewing the relative ease and convenience of Amazon Web Services for the economies of scale available to those who build their own data centers. And some companies that might not come to mind with you think of either “cloud” or “mobile” are turning out to be surprisingly well-positioned. Dude, you’re getting a data center.
The future is clear, at least in broad strokes. The next 10+ years of computing will be defined by vertically integrated stacks of technology that span mobile and cloud computing. It’s going to be fascinating to see how it plays out.