Google Play Exemplifies How Cloud Is King

Google Play is an example of the personal cloud service Gartner said will be ubiquitous on roughly 90 percent of all Web-enabled devices by the end of 2013.

Some 90 percent of all Web-connected devices will have consumer cloud services tucked into them by the end of 2013, the better to help Web surfers quench their desire to store, synch, stream and share content from any device or platform.

That's the postulation from researcher Gartner, which defines the "personal cloud" as a system that allows consumers to seamlessly store, sync, stream and share content across devices including smartphones, media tablets, televisions and PCs connected to the Web.

Where can one find such a company that enables services that stretch across multiple devices, platforms and services? There are a handful, including Google (NASDAQ:GOOG), Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT), Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) and Netflix. Google hopes to become the biggest practitioner of this.

On March 6, the same day Gartner released its report, Google rebranded its core digital content services as Google Play. Play compresses the company's digital music, movie, book and application content services into one portal.

It's a new approach for Google, which has trucked in cloud computing for more than a decade since building its search engine. Google Search shuttles data to and from users' computers on the back of the 1 million-plus computer servers the company employs.

However, the company has also made a habit of releasing Web applications that were walled off from one another. Google Music and Google Movies were housed in separate Web destinations from the Android Market. No longer, with Google Play.

This content will be accessible via Android smartphones and tablets from this Google Play Store application, set to replace the Android Market app.

Users can, for example, purchase and watch a movie from Google via their computer, and continue watching it on their Samsung Galaxy Tab tablet or Motorola Droid Razr smartphone. The movie will pick up right where the viewer left off.

Consumers will purchase content through Google Wallet, which used to be called Google Checkout. This is a big move for Google, which has watched Amazon, Apple and others consolidate their own Web services through a singular purchase funnel.

"The shift to the personal cloud will accelerate rapidly in 2012 as consumers learn how to use new services on their devices," wrote Gartner analyst Andrew Johnson in a statement. "As cloud services become part of people's lives, device vendors and platform providers must integrate cloud services in order to win customers in 2012 or risk being displaced by those that offer these services."

The timing is certainly right. Gartner estimates that consumers will spend some $2.2 trillion U.S. dollars on digital technology products and services this year, a figure that could rise to $2.8 trillion worldwide on connected devices, the services that run them and content that is transferred through them.

However, Johnson warned that Google, Apple, Amazon and others must be ready to adapt to consumers' changing desires. Johnson recommends companies make personal cloud services a core part of their development efforts and educate consumers about new services.

And, of course, cloud service enablers must preserve consumers' privacy and security needs.