This article [zdnet.com] and several others making the rounds in the past few days point to Microsoft re-branding the cloud backup service it included with its’ short lived Kin line of mobiles. The cloud backup – Kin Studio – was the coolest feature of the Kin phones, maybe not the most sexy but the most useful. Now it looks like Microsoft may add it to Windows Phone 7 handsets – if they combine it with the Windows Live service, providing 25GB of free cloud storage connected to the users Hotmail/Windows Live and Office Live accounts then they may have a compelling offer.
Of course Microsoft is not the only mover, Apple has long had its’ MobileMe service which has significant overlap. To date this product has only attracted hardcore Apple fan-boys, but for over a year now there has been a rumor that Apple will drop the subscription fee and include as a free service for all iOS devices (more recently there has been a rumor that Apple will drop the subscription fee to $20 a year, I think maybe it will be free for 1 year with your iOS device and then $20 a year unless you buy a new iOS device). Link this to the rumored iTunes media cloud service that will run out of the billion dollar datacenter Apple has built in North Carolina. Again this could be a very useful service providing automated backup and streaming of all of your media (movies, photos, music, contacts, messages) from the cloud.
Google wouldn’t have to move very far to offer the same sort of service with Android.
In my time in the telco industry I’ve seen several projects at mobile operators around the world try to provide this type of data backup service. Unfortunately I’m not aware of any that actually succeeded. They died for many reasons —customers not willing to pay for the service, limited features, crippled features, lack of marketing, lack of handset support…
All in all I think the data-backup-as-a-service boat has already set sail and the telcos will be left behind due to their own dithering on how to make money on the offering. The same thing that happened to them with Location Based Services —they could not figure out how to make money on it so they never launched it, the phone makers opened the on-device location services (initially mandated for emergency number calling) to application developers and they figured out how to make money from it. So the telcos are left with LBS systems that cost them money but generate no revenue and don’t provide any value even in generating ‘customer stickiness’.
C’est la vie. Real consumer service innovation in the mobile market continues to move away from the telcos and towards the internet. It’s one more step on the road to mobile dumb pipe networks.