I spotted an article with a catchy title: it’s 2018: who owns the cloud? Where the author asks this interesting question and develops the idea that “providing cloud consumers with a spectacular user experience” is critical and that Apple does it better than anybody (well on the “cloud” side of things, this is really open to discussion…). Well, of course, users always need to be served with a spectacular experience. That’s true for any product from printers to computers to networked applications. The “cloud computing” business is split in two: those who run the servers (infrastructure level) and platform and those who build the services (application level). Typically, cloud companies aren’t very good at building apps and application companies aren’t so good building infrastructure (think: MobileMe drama). Web companies have to do both but usually stay close to their core strengths, like “payments” for eBay and Amazon (that’s a “service”, btw). My guess is that the split will remain for the foreseeable future.
Even thought we say “the cloud”, we’re not talking about “one” cloud, but just about the concept that things are done remotely. If you use the cloud computing of a new startup, your “cloud” might be someone’s PC in a dorm room (slightly exaggerated). Even in the next 5 to 10 years, the cloud computing industry will not consolidate to the point where there is one huge dominant player (infrastructure level). Cloud computing is mostly based on open standards, so moving from one provider to another one should be annoying but not too hard. Just like no one “owns” web hosting today, no one will “own” cloud computing in 2018. The value is in the application, not the infrastructure.