Saturday, August 17, 2013

Vendor Opportunity (and Moral Imperative?)--Take Care of User's Data

In the latest episode of  Accidental Tech Podcast, the boys, mainly Siracusa, were discussing the fact that: one, devices don't automatically back up user's data, notably their precious photos; two, they should; and three, it seems like a great customer delight and vendor differentiation opportunity for Apple.

I definitely agree. But I feel like the problem is very, very close to solved. The major remaining ingredient being marketing. The obvious, and cross-platform solution, is Dropbox Camera Upload. I've been using it for about half a year on my Android phone, and it seems to work perfectly. Yes, at some point you will max out and have to buy space, but that point is reasonably high, at least if you exclude videos.

But even if you hit that point, there is the opportunity to buy a lot more space for a moderate incremental cost. It's a great freemium play, that has been very successful for Dropbox, the company. I can hear Siracusa objecting at this point, that consumers won't pay to increase their space when it maxes out. That's where the missing ingredient of marketing and partnerships comes in. On the Android side, a number of devices, including the popular Galaxy S III and IV phones, have included 50 Gb of free Dropbox space with the phone activation.

So I don't see why Apple couldn't do the same thing. The missing ingredients are really around the marketing and economic integration (no user decisions involved). It seems like both of those could be easily solvable by Apple. And I agree with Siracusa, it seems like a nice differentiation and brand-identify building opportunity for any vendor that solves it well.

Why doesn't seem interested in doing this is anyone's guess. I can see how Apple wouldn't be too excited about featuring a third-party solution, like Dropbox, prominently in its brand identity. Wait--maybe that's the answer! Apple is still miffed that Dropbox founder Drew Houston turned down Steve Jobs' offer to buy his company. Well, maybe they could work out a private-label solution with Dropbox. Or build their own service--it would be a much simpler build than Dropbox, since it wouldn't have to create the illusion of magic across all platforms.

An alternative is Google+ photo backup service. Also cross-platform. In contrast to Dropbox, it provides much more space. Admittedly it decreases resolution, but half a loaf is much better than none. Plus, if you want, there are options for preserving full resolution. Surprisingly, Google hasn't done all that much to promote this. Another lost marketing opportunity.

[1] Of passing interest, to me at least, is that Siracusa mentioned an old idea he had, from the hard drive ear, of providing better-than-nothing, transparent consumer backup via RAID-1 configuration, as an OEM-provided feature, again as a means for differentiation (his article here). I had blogged  about this very idea, including the opportunity for brand differentiation, right around the same time.

[2] This doesn't cover the no-access-to-a-data-connection edge case, admittedly. But I think that is a pretty small one. It does address the bandwidth caps problem, reasonably well, as both Dropbox and Google+ Auto-Backup have configuration options for wireless only.

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