When Competition in Cloud and Mobile Computing is a Mixed Blessing

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In today’s enlightened business world, competition is considered to be good. When monopolies are broken and suppliers are obliged to provide better value for money, customers see the benefit. Suppliers themselves may even do better thanks to increased interest in their solutions and a bigger potential market. Of course, there are still some rules. When low-cost airlines started, they had to show the same level of air travel security and safety as their more established competitors. More competition does not, as the saying goes, affect your statutory rights as a customer. But can excessive competition do damage in other ways?

Free Cloud Storage Costs More in App Developer Effort

It doesn’t take much to unearth ways to store large amounts of data in the cloud without paying a cent. Many prospective customers are besieged by well-known enterprises, each trying to get them to use its own free-of-charge storage solution. Now, ‘large amount of data’ is a relative term. For text documents, a megabyte may be large. Video clips on the other hand often need a few dozen gigabytes or more. However, this matters less when providers offer terabytes of – or even unlimited – online storage.  The trick is then to be able to use that space efficiently, for example, directly from applications. That means that application developers have to add in more code to get apps to work with different storage providers.

A Problem that is Getting Multi-Dimensionally Worse

When the world was all desktops and mostly Microsoft Windows, applications developers were in a more comfortable position. Microsoft synced its PC and server. Other developers worked with the Apple Mac platform, also synced between desktops and servers. Geeks had fun with Linux. Developers had to watch out for different generations of their chosen platform, but worked for the most part in a controllable environment. Now mobile platforms and their apps change that. First, they bring in new operating systems (Android, iOS and more) to be tested, and each OS also exists in N different versions. Secondly, mobile OS’s are no longer synced to server releases. Either side can and often does change at any time.

Hey You, Come Onto My Cloud

Half a century ago, the Rolling Stones wanted you off their cloud. Now online service providers all want you on theirs. Some cloud services providers like Box have identified powerful APIs (application programming interfaces) as a way to attract developers. By doing this, they increase their chances of having their solution on the ‘approved list’ made by app developers. The problem is that there is still no generally accepted way of getting data out of one cloud storage solution and into another. That means staying stuck with one provider or still more development effort to move between providers.

Developer Priorities and Load Shedding

Load shedding is a phenomenon known since the early years of computer processor design. When too many tasks arrive for the processor to handle, it simply throws out some of them and only works on a do-able subset. Some app developers do the same. The choice of which cloud storage systems are handled and tested may still be arbitrary or at best made according to which cloud storage providers have the most users (aka the most marketing clout.) Insisting on more cloud storage systems being supported will either mean development costs go up (and prices to clients too) or that less app functionality will be developed. It may be time for clients themselves to take a stand on cloud and mobile computing competition and encourage ‘best of breed’, rather than just smugly welcome all comers.

 

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Hadley Jones

Hadley Jones


Hadley Jones is a 20 year veteran of the IT industry, having worked in support, technical writing and marketing roles throughout his career. He now writes about IT and cloud computing as regular contributor to... See the full bio