The Cloud Wars.
Adobe recently announce that “everyone can join the Creative Cloud,” and while customers will have access to a free membership to explore certain features, a monthly price of US$50 (based on a one-year subscription) has been set. The idea is that users can access the latest version of Adobe’s popular programs (like Photoshop CS6 and Lightroom 4), without buying the boxed version and subsequent upgrades. In addition to receiving updates to the programs as soon as they are released, users also get 20GB of cloud storage for syncing their work.
On Amazon, Adobe Photoshop CS5 costs around $639. With a yearly subscription you save about $40. Not an amazing deal if you need to use the software every day, but you could “rent” it for $50/month, and only use it when you need to meet a deadline, and then stop paying while you are working on something else. The idea is good on paper, but I am not completely sold on the benefits of a subscription system. Unfortunately, I believe that there’s no turning back. This is how we will be buying and using software in the near future.
At the same time Adobe set the “Creative Cloud” pricing, Amazon lowered their S3 storage rates. Small businesses with fairly typical 50 TB of data capacity, will see a 12% reduction in costs. Bigger companies storing up to 500 TB of data will enjoy a 13.5% reduction in costs.
Amazon has been claiming that their system gives users an advantage over traditional IT, and the current price cut is a really good example. The number of files stored in S3 increased to 762 billion during the last three months of 2011, compared to 262 billion during the same period in 2010, according to the company. Interestingly, Amazon rents out its network to companies such as Dropbox, SmugMug, Netflix, and social game company Zynga, among many, many, many others.
Google’s long-rumored GDrive seems to be just weeks away. According to reliable sources, the new product will be free to consumers up to a certain size limit, and would also be folded into Google Apps for business. GDrive will definitively hurt smaller companies like Dropbox, which offers a 2GB free version and monthly plans of $10 for 50GB and $20 for 100GB. Just in case you missed it, Dropbox has been running a promo: you get 500MB for free when you upload photos and videos using their (beta) uploader, which automatically pulls media from any camera, smartphone, or SD card and drops it into the cloud. Repeat the process until you hit 5GB of free space. I’m pretty sure they are feeling Google’s steps approaching and are trying to get as many customers hooked asap.
If you have an Acer laptop (I haven’t seen one in years!) you can also try the AcerCloud, which allows remote access to any machine, even if it is asleep or in hibernation mode, and even if it is not connected to the same Wi-Fi network. Storage is unlimited, users can upload music, photos, videos, and documents, and it is free. Sounds like magic.
The cloud computing business is getting serious. Worldwide, $830 million was spent on such file and backup storage services in 2011, and that figure is expected to grow by 47% to $1.2 billion this year, according to Gartner Inc.