The cloud has a lot of technical arguments going for it. The problem is consumers don’t understand the cloud, they don’t understand virtual storage and growth and syncing and the complexities of things. The average consumer is generally pretty dumb, they just want to be able to do things and it just work. If they ask a question they want an answer, not the deduction behind the answer. It’s why I loved mint.com so much when it launched. I gave it accounts and it told me everything I wanted to know. If it was wrong I seldom noticed it, such as classifying a purchase into a wrong category. My suspicion is that 98% of the users don’t notice much of the mis-classification that happens. They look the first time and it looks pretty good so they trust it, because if you look at 90% of purchases and classify them, why use mint, why not just use excel, or even go back to a paper and notebook?
Cloud is that same type of issue, it needs to just work, users need to just expect their document to always be the same. I think the iPad but more specifically MobileMe will have a great shot at doing this. The reason the iPad will play a role is now the average consumer will have more than 1 device. They’ll have their laptop/desktop and an iPad. This user will want to work on the device, and more than just email. Having their application open a file, work for 15 minutes on a train/bus, turn it off, walk in their front door and open the same file on their computer will really bring cloud storage/computing to a consumer. Because apple controls the reins on the primary applications where this has value:
Because their control these and the cloud, the experience will be good, when there’s a single device/ecosystem its easier to focus on experience which they’ve done well.
This will push the expectation on developers to deliver the same kind of experience with the cloud, it’s going to become the norm now. Not because its cost effective, not because of the technical benefits, but because it’s going to be transparent to users, and users are just going to expect it from now on.