We live in a connected world and it’s our devices that plug us into our connected lives. Gone are the days when you bought a PDA, put it into your pocket, and the only clouds you had to worry about were the ones in the sky overhead.
Like Rene said, services are table stakes now, and every platform needs to provide a key set of features out of the box. But which features do they need to provide? What do customers expect out-of-the-box?
Personal information management, the basics of email, calendars, contacts, and notes/memos are a given. BlackBerry was built on them, Android has Gmail, Microsoft has Hotmail, Live, Exchange, Outlook, and probably a dozen others I’ve forgotten, and Apple has iCloud, which replaced MobileMe (thankfully). Application stores also necessary, providing a conduit for easily and seamlessly getting new apps onto the device.
From iTools to iCloud
In 2000, Apple announced iTools, a suite of software and services for Mac users. iTools users got an @mac.com email address, iCards for free greeting cards, reviews of websites through iReview (and KidSafe for kid-friendly ones), HomePage for web publishing, and online storage with iDisk.
The service was retooled in 2002 as .Mac. HomePage, iDisk, iCards, and @mac.com emails were updated, with iDisk receiving online backup support. 2006 saw an update that brought a .Mac mail web interface and the next year saw remote desktop linkups with Back to My Mac.
.Mac was replaced in 2008 by MobileMe. The new cloud service wiped out several .Mac features and suffered from stability issues at launch. MobileMe was a frustrating blunder for Apple, with Jobs declaring that “it was a mistake” to launch it at the same time as iPhone OS 2.0 and the App Store.
In 2011, Apple again overhauled their web services with iCloud. iCloud provides support for @me.com email address, 5GB of cloud service (with the option to pay for more), and synchronizes photos, memos, calendars, messages, and more across the full range of Apple devices.
Backup and restore is also tremendously important. Some of us have multiple devices and accounts, and setting them up can be extremely time consuming. Logging in and getting all your stuff from the cloud is the only way to go. And for regular people, the kind who just have one phone, being able to upgrade or replace a lost, stolen, or broken phone almost immediately is just as invaluable.
Speaking of which, loss/theft recovery, the kind that can locate a missing phone, remotely wipe it, and otherwise keep your data safe is incredibly important now, because our phones contain so much of our data.
Because social networks evolved after the major smartphone platforms, all the biggest social networks exist in their own siloes. That means the platforms have to provide really good, really deep integration into Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. so that we can get all the benefits social offers. The same holds true for third-party services like Dropbox and Evernote.
We live in the age of services.
There are other things as well, like integrated media and app stores, so we can load up our devices with great software and entertainment. That lets platform owners, developers, and content creators make more money, but it also lets us get even more value out of our phones.
The list will no doubt grow and change over time, as old services fall into disuse and new ones are created, but the bottom line will remain the same. We live in the age of services, and every major platform has to provide every major type of service to us, their users.
What cloud services should platforms provide that they aren’t today?