Tuesday, March 01, 2011

The day iTunes will fly in the cloud

UPDATE: it did not happen ;-) I got the iPad2 predictions, but that was too easy. Apparently, Apple is not ready for the cloud story yet (and I know why: it is hard to pull it off...). Next stop: the announcement of iPhone 5 in June. It will happen, someday... Lesson learned: never bet on something you really care about...

Tomorrow is iPad2 day. As usual, I should come with a list of predictions on the device, getting some right and some not. However, I do not believe it is going to be a special day for iPad enthusiasts: iPad2 will be faster, lighter, thinner and with a camera in the front (and back, although I would not bet my house on this one). Nothing revolutionary, just evolutionary. I know a ton of people who have been waiting for the camera to buy it. They will be in line. Apple will sell a ton.

What is going to change our world is not the iPad2. It is the announcement around MobileMe and the cloud. I am ready to bet any amount it is going to happen tomorrow.

I have been waiting for this moment for months, probably years. Obviously, I am biased: my company, Funambol, provides a mobile cloud synchronization solution, sort of MobileMe for the rest of us. It works on Android, BlackBerry, Symbian, Windows Mobile and even iPhone and iPad. We sell it to carriers, device manufacturers and portals, and we have one for consumers too (you can try it out at my.funambol.com).

It all started with iTunes. It was the Trojan horse for the Apple strategy. Buy an iPod, you need to sync music to it. Get iTunes. First only on Mac, then also on Windows. Everybody installed one.

At the time, Steve Jobs was sure: the PC will be your media hub. The place where you would store everything, from music to pictures to videos. A cable and boom, all your data would move to other devices. Cable syncing was everything.

Then came the cloud. With Google and Facebook pushing it hard. With all your pictures moving to the cloud, with your videos being posted somewhere far away. And the tablets, which screw up cable syncing (syncing one device with a cable is ok, two is too many), and made the PC less relevant (also, I should thank the laptops for this, because they are not always on).

The PC lost as the media hub. The cloud is your media hub. That is where you will store your life, your address book, your calendar, your pictures, your videos, your music, your files. All backed up and secured. And synced across all your devices, from your PC to your laptop, from your IP phone to your TV, from your picture frame to the dashboard of your car.

Steve Jobs knows it and it showed for the first time with the AppleTV: no cable there, not even a sync mechanism with the PC, it is all cloud driven. Now they are ready to go all-in. Moving iTunes to the cloud, making MobileMe the hub for your entire life, from PIM to rich media.

It is going to be a turning point in this industry. The moment that makes the cloud the place where your life is stored. The start of the connected devices game, where data gets synced from the cloud to any of your devices, seamlessly.

Apple created the online music business. The smartphone business. The tablet business. Tomorrow they will be doing again, creating the cloud media hub for Apple devices. It will start a market, which will take off like a rocket.

Why do I love it? Because I am convinced Apple is not going to get 100% market share.

In any family, there will be Android devices and Apple devices, and probably much more (I am sure that if I have an Android, my daughter will want an iPhone, and vice versa). Variation and fragmentation will be key. Apple will not be able to solve that problem. Google will not be able to solve that problem. It will be left to those who can go cross-devices. And I know the best one (although I am biased).

Not sure if I will be able to sleep tonight ;-)