Cisco Eyes Huge Opportunity In Personal Cloud
Maxwell is a member of The Motley Fool Blog Network -- entries represent the personal opinion of the blogger and are not formally edited.
Life in “the cloud” is becoming the new standard. Everything from individual, home desktops to business applications are moving there, even though ‘there’ seems to be a bit nebulous. The clear and steady trend over the last ten years shows traditional software models becoming all but obsolete.
Cloud based applications are becoming an easier, more cost-effective way to operate, store your data, customize your applications, and make your network more secure. Businesses are now running many key function applications in the cloud, such as customer relationship management (CRM), Human Resources (HR), and accounting. For the employee, the cloud carries many perks. Businesses in the cloud offer their employees the ability to create a document on the ride to work using an app on a mobile phone, then open the file on a work PC when you get into the office.
But now, the cloud is getting even more personal. Large applications that assist multinational companies that currently operate in the cloud are now being joined by the consumer’s photos they have moved to the Web. Consumers can now store recordings of their favorite TV show right next to those intricate databases, and still be able to access them whenever they want – no extra equipment necessary.
According to Forrester Research, emails and communications software, documents, spreadsheets, music and videos are all examples of the sort of content consumers will want to access remotely by mid-decade.
According to Forrester, 46 million Americans used cloud computing services in 2010. Nearly 10 million in that group used paid services. Forrester expects usage to increase more than 400% to 196 million people by 2016, with 97 million of those paying for services.
IDC, a tech research firm, recently estimated that revenue from public cloud services exceeded $30.5 billion in 2011 and will grow to a staggering $72.9 billion in 2015. This growth is approximately four times faster than the IT market as a whole.
Another source, Gartner's recently published Gartner Hype Cycle for Cloud Computing, 2012, estimates that the cloud business performance management market will grow 25% year-over-year.
Cisco Sees Growth Opportunity
Cisco competes in many areas of technology. Its Power Trader platform provides online stock trading tools that claim to enhance collaboration, enable mobility, and improve the customer experience. Cisco is increasingly facing competition from new companies which target specific parts of its business, like Online Trading Academy, which provides online stock market trading education to investors. It is becoming increasingly critical that Cisco continues to expand its business portfolio in high growth areas such as the personal cloud.
It has always been more cost effective to buy space instead of machines. Why purchase a DVR when, for a small fee, recording your favorite program can be bundled into your cable bill? Instead, cloud-based services would allow video subscribers to record and watch shows from any Internet connected device whether they're home or not.
Cisco (NASDAQ: CSCO) seems to be the first to think targeting the personal cloud space – or at least implementing its cloud products in a consumer friendly way. The company is adding new capabilities to its video software platform for TV service providers. The new functionality will allow cable operators and other TV service providers to offer digital video recording from the cloud.
The all new ‘Videoscape Unity platform’ was recently released at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Nevada. The software suite and service will allow viewers to access video content on more devices from anywhere with WiFi or an internet connection. As it develops, Cisco claims it will allow more interaction with the programming via social networking sites, allowing comments, commentary, and ‘likes’.
Not only was this a huge wake-up call to other service providers, the bold partnership with AT&T (NYSE: T) that Cisco is pursuing should jar some companies out of their reverie and into action. Teaming up with AT&T for a wireless home security and automation service, the new AT&T Digital Life, Cisco revealed plans for a system that lets customers manage their home security anywhere, from their smartphones, tablets or computers.
The implications of this are thrilling for the consumer. All things from turning off your lights, arming your security system, to even watching the video inside and outside your home and control appliances, lighting and HVAC are now available wherever, whenever, from your tablet or smartphone.
Options for this amazing new home security system will include a video package, which includes the ability to view live video of the outside or inside of a subscriber's home, and an energy package, which allows remote control of lights, heating, air conditioning and appliances. Another package will allow subscribers to remotely open their door for a pet-sitter or repairman or to check from afar if the doors are opened or closed. The company is pushing for a roll out date of March 2013.
This seems like yet another way of AT&T eating away at the market share of others. Casually offering ‘Screen Pack’, a modest collection of newer titles, but nowhere near Netflix’s (NASDAQ: NFLX), it doesn’t attempt to overpower its competition. According to the Associated Press, "Netflix offers more than 60,000 titles that can be viewed on Internet-connected devices, while its DVD-by-mail service has more than twice that — some 140,000". AT&T seems content just to offer something else – in every category. Home security, movies, and – oh yes – phone service. No bold moves or earth-shattering rollouts – just a very subtle ‘Sun Tzu-esque’ way of chipping away at the enemy’s stronghold.
This new move with Cisco is yet another example, if for no other reason but because cloud DVR’s make sense.
Not only does it allow for more flexibility in terms of viewing and recording programs, but it could offer consumers much greater storage. It also increases the number of programs that can be recorded at once, and is also more efficient and cost effective for cable operators. The problem however comes to the companies offering physical recordings – DVD’s, blu-rays, and the like.
More controversy came back in 2007 when the TV and movie industry sued cable operator Cablevision for implementing what it called a "networked DVR." Cablevision won the suit the following year in the U.S. Court of Appeals, and continues offering customers the option to record and store content in the "cloud" instead of on individual boxes in the home.
While the Cisco Videoscape Unity platform is designed to allow more access to more devices from anywhere, it's up to the cable companies and other TV service providers to determine how they will implement the services.
Investors can and should ride the cloud wave. The future of cloud computing is extremely bullish. These three models are easy wins for the investor. A company that focuses on making the cloud more consumer-friendly and providing cost-effective space rather than bulky and pricey machinery could be set for explosive growth in the next few years.
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