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Microsoft Classfies Cloud Services into Three Categories ‘File clouds, Device clouds, and App clouds’

In a November 22 post on the Inside Windows Live blog, Omar Shahine and Mike Torres, the group program managers for SkyDrive, take a look at the “status of cloud-based storage” services in general and how Microsoft sees these kind of services evolving in the future.

According to their blog post “about 17 million people store content on SkyDrive every month with 360 million files being uploaded and shared every month. Five million different devices are connected to Skydrive every month. However as you can see from the graphic above, the vast majority of documents and photos are still stored on PCs.”

  • Less than 10% of college students even consider using SkyDrive for cloud storage.
  • But, about 75% of students collaborating with cloud services are using some combination of Dropbox and Google Docs, with another 15% using email only (and we know what email service *ahem* Gmail *ahem* they’re using).
  • 92% of US families are using more than one OS across PCs, mobile, and tablets. When they count in e-readers, it’s near 100%.

According to the blog post, the comapny see three distinct categories of cloud services:

  • File clouds: a file-centric view of cloud storage presents your information to you in a traditional file and folder based metaphor. These services let you upload, download, copy, rename, move, share, and sync. Examples include Dropbox, Windows Live Mesh, and SkyDrive.
  • Device clouds: a device-centric view of cloud storage “hides” the folders from you. Instead of exposing the file structure, these clouds work behind the scenes so people can easily buy and use multiple devices (phones, PCs, TVs, and slates) – working or playing across them without thinking about where content is stored. The best known example today is iCloud.
  • App clouds are more natural for specific types of personal content like documents, photos and notes. Examples include Google Docs and Evernote. When it comes to purchased content like music or movies, App Clouds not only remove the need (and ability) to pay attention to individual files, but they can also redefine traditional notions of personal ownership. Many customers are choosing these clouds. In exchange for ownership, they receive shared access to a broad array of content on a rental or on demand basis. Examples include Netflix, Pandora, and Spotify.

Type of Cloud Servers

Later in the post, they highlight that only 22% of consumer’s photos are stored in the cloud, and only 1% of documents.

They further states, “We know we have a ways to go to deliver a cloud that seamlessly connects today’s files with tomorrow’s modern device and app experiences. We will measure our progress in meaningful releases that address feedback and bring us closer to our vision.”

They then go on to lay out what a seamless cloud connection might look like:

Table stakes
  • Simple & secure
    It would sync the files you have to the cloud and other devices. It would be simple enough to use to share files with anyone so you could finally stop emailing attachments. It would also protect your content using industry leading security measures. In short, you could trust it to “just work”.
  • Straightforward and flexible storage limits
    It should provide a modest amount of free storage for key scenarios. It should actually make it easy for customers to use this storage – and provide options to purchase more if needed.
  • Work across any device
    It would be built with the understanding that we want to have our content available anywhere, even if we use devices made by different companies with different operating systems. This is how important services like Hotmail and Skype work, and personal cloud storage should be no different.
Winning factors
  • Cloud-enable the entire PC
    While it’s critical to support all types of devices, it’s particularly important to connect the billions of PCs in the world to the cloud. The PC is the most popular smart device and stores most of the world’s personal content. A cloud tailored for this device would provide access to all of your content from anywhere, with no complex setup or configuration.
  • Work with key apps and services to let you organize, collaborate, and share in new ways
    It would work seamlessly and automatically with leading email, productivity, or photo apps to let you organize, collaborate, and share content in entirely new ways. It would also connect with the services you already use for sharing so that you could upload once and share the way you want. It would do all of this while supporting the files you use today and keeping you in control of your content.
  • Connects people, content, and devices at scale
    In addition to having the right features, the scale of a cloud itself can provide value for customers. Sharing and collaborating is more convenient when more people can connect to a given cloud. Also, people benefit from a cloud that connects content to more apps, and app developers prefer to integrate with clouds that have the most content and connect the most devices.

“It’ll also take time to bring together people, content, and devices at scale. Below are key indicators we measure in this regard:

  • How many people are storing content on SkyDrive every month – 17M (October 2011)
  • How much content are they uploading and sharing every month – 360M files (October 2011)
  • How many devices connect to SkyDrive every month – 5M devices (October 2011)

While aggregate indicators are useful, we’ll also look at how we are doing with power users like college students. Today, less than 10% of college students consider using SkyDrive to access or share docs,” states Omar Shahine and Mike Torres.

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