With the announcement of docs.com on Wednesday from Microsoft, it got me thinking about what I’ll call the consumer cloud. As my iPhone has become a critical device for me, and I expect my iPad 3G to do the same when it arrives on 4/30, I find myself longing for better use of the cloud for my information. The simplest example is the iTunes tether. I listen to quite a few podcasts, and I have a script set up every night on my MacBook Pro to download the latest podcasts and then sync my iPhone, so they’re ready for my drive in to work in the morning. It’s a big problem when I travel, though, because the iPhone only knows about the podcasts that have episodes, and for feeds that don’t exist in iTunes, like my personal playlist for IT Conversations, I have no way of downloading new episodes without the tether to my MacBook. With my iPad on the way, I expect that the need for a cloud repository will grow even more. Some tools provide their own cloud-based storage, like Evernote. There are cloud repositories or syncing utilities like DropBox, MobileMe, and Box.Net, but so far, the integration with the content editing or viewing tools isn’t there, in my opinion. That’s especially surprising with MobileMe, at least for the iPhone.
These needs are what makes Microsoft’s announcement so interesting. Ironically, even Apple showed a hint of recognizing the power of Facebook in the recent “dog” iPhone ad. When they discussed sharing pictures in the commercial, they weren’t shared via MobileMe, they were shared via Facebook. If Facebook becomes the de facto place for sharing, does that make it the de facto cloud storage solution for the consumer segment? It arguably is already doing that for photos. My brief visit to docs.com emphasized Facebook’s role in access control more so than actually storing the documents, but at that point, Facebook is still the gatekeeper. With the enormous community that Facebook has, it will be interesting to see what happens to things like MobileMe. What is clear is that Facebook is in the driver’s seat, and everyone else is either chasing them or hopping aboard the Facebook bus.