Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Google's Chrome OS and Online Backup

Google's announcement of a netbook OS includes a statement with major implications for the emerging world of online backup of consumer data, pioneered by firms such as Carbonite and Mozy.

"........They want their data to be accessible to them wherever they are and not have to worry about losing their computer or forgetting to back up files........"

Some quick thoughts:

  1. There's money to be made in the short-term: While Google's new OS could fundamental affect how consumers think of data (or more accurately, not think about data), there is still a large opportunity for other providers in the interim. Consumer electronics provides such an analogy: for long, the industry has promoted a Utopian vision of connected devices, e.g. where your refrigerator talks to your cell phone to create a shopping list. We heard for over a decade that such innovations would arrive within five years. Since we'll all be dead in the long-term, why not focus on how to make money today?
  2. New business models for data storage and backup: Even though the physical location of data becomes less important, the intrinsic value of documents, photographs, music won't decrease. One could argue that with better access and the ability to share (consumer e-Discovery?), the value of the data might actually increase. So, a new market could emerge for the protection of such data by a third party. For example, companies could provide "backup" of GMail, Facebook photos, Google Documents, etc. and any other digital footprint that consumers create. This service would protect against the possibility that any of these very large providers might suspend access or create a lock-in.
  3. Storage could be separated from compute: With today's infrastructure, primary storage is generally locked with the compute source because of latency and bandwidth limitations, but this may not be true in the future. Companies that are the independent "data banks" are a natural entry point for participating in such a future.

Google has proven time and again that it can introduce game changing products that solve real problems for large numbers of consumers. Even though its business model is heavily slanted towards indexing data and monetizing search, it could plausibly adapt to a subscription model once it convinces consumers of the value of this data. Now is the time to make some key bets on the future of data-storage, archival, and recovery.