The cloud is useless

What good is the cloud? I don’t get it. This article on PC Mag [] talks about how all the new cloud services will change our concept of content ownership but I think it’s bullshit. I don’t disagree with anything in the article but I think it’s all a dream, a crack dream, until one issue is solved. One issue which is outside the scope of the cloud service providers: bandwidth!

At the same time as we are seeing all these new cloud services providing us storage and access to our purchased content 24/7 streaming to any device, anywhere, any time, we are also seeing the death of unlimited bandwidth. Even for home access. How am I supposed to stream my content all over the place if I don’t have any bandwidth?

Take this scenario from the PC Mag article:

The parent whose child wants to watch “Dora the Explorer: Big Sister Dora” over and over and over again doesn’t have to own the DVD or even the digital file. Cloud-based ownership and access means that their child can see Dora play big sister at home, on the iPad, in the car, and on mommy’s smartphone. They own the movie or, more likely, have an all-you-can eat subscription service, so each viewing costs nothing except the price of Internet access.

The emphasis is mine, because it’s the part that kills the whole scenario.

I might be a strange consumer by today’s measure — I’ve digitized all my content. I’ve got more then 1200 CDs that I digitized before I started buying digital music; 200+ DVDs that I have digitized and 7 years worth of digital photos and video that alone amount to more then 12 gigs worth of keepers. All in all I have more than a terabyte of digital content. All happily sitting on my 8TB NAS server mirrored and stripped high up on the shelf in the back room.

To get streaming access to all this content today I can jump through a bunch of hoops and make it work. But… I would max out my mobile data plan every month — 12GB — due to my daughter streaming Dora, and Toy Story 3 and Kai-Lan and whatever new, or old, show it was this week (actually currently it’s My Neighbor Totoro), to the iPad while we are driving or shopping or wherever. So for now she is restricted to the content that is actually on the device, and I fill up the devices quickly. I can’t even put all the Pixar movies on the iPad and have the family photos on there, 64GB is just not enough.

While I may be the exception today this will be normal one day when every piece of content we ever buy is stored on the cloud, ready for on-demand download or streaming to any device over any network. But until the bandwidth issue is solved it will be any network accept the mobile one and only till the service provider throttles me or cuts me off for exceeding my bandwidth cap for the month. Bottom line; the scenario from the PC Mag article is pointless without unlimited bandwidth. Memory is cheap — bandwidth is the new memory.