We often focus on market share for hardware, but cloud media services increasingly dictate our lives after the devices have reached our bags and pockets. Wouldn't it be nice to know who rules the online media landscape? According to Strategy Analytics' just-published study from the fall, it's Apple's iCloud and iTunes Match that are top dogs in the US at a combined 27 percent of usage -- a not entirely surprising lead when Apple has pushed hard on iCloud's media syncing since iOS 5, and has large swaths of market share in MP3 players and tablets, not just smartphones.
There's a considerably tougher fight involved for just about everyone else, however, including Google. Dropbox and Amazon Cloud Player are almost neck-and-neck at 17 and 15 percent respectively, while Google Drive holds just 10 percent. Music is clearly the driving force, Strategy Analytics says: when audio represents 45 percent of the content on a generic platform like Dropbox, companies ignore tunes at their own peril. Just don't confuse market share with absolute popularity. A full 55 percent of those asked hadn't used a cloud media service at all, which suggests that there's a long road to travel before we're all streaming and syncing our collections.
THE CLOUD STORAGE WARS: APPLE LEADS WITH 27% MARKET SHARE
Dropbox hits 17% of market share with no associated content ecosystem
Over half of Americans online have never used cloud storage service
Boston, MA – March 21, 2013: Apple is dominating the cloud storage wars, followed by Dropbox, Amazon and Google according to Strategy Analytics 'Cloud Media Services' survey.
In a recent study of almost 2,300 connected Americans, Strategy Analytics found that 27% have used Apple's iCloud followed by 17% for Dropbox, 15% for Amazon Cloud Drive and 10% for Google Play (see chart).
Usage of cloud storage is heavily skewed towards younger people, in particular 20-24 year olds, whilst Apple's service is the only one with more female than male users. Amongst the big four, Google's is the one most heavily skewed towards males.
Cloud storage is overwhelmingly dominated by music; around 90% of Apple, Amazon and Google's cloud users store music. Even Dropbox – which has no associated content ecosystem – sees around 45% of its users storing music files. Dropbox's recent acquisition of Audiogalaxy will add a much needed native music player to the platform in the coming months.
"Music is currently the key battleground in the war for cloud domination. Google is tempting users by giving away free storage for 20,000 songs which can be streamed to any Android device, a feature both Amazon and Apple charge annual subscriptions for," observes Ed Barton, Strategy Analytics' Director of Digital Media. "However, the growth of video streaming and the desire to access content via a growing range of devices will see services such as the Hollywood-backed digital movie initiative Ultraviolet – currently used by 4% of Americans – increase market share."
Barton continues, "The cloud's role in the race to win over consumers' digital media libraries has evolved from a value added service for digital content purchases to a feature-rich and increasingly device agnostic digital locker for music and movies. Dropbox being used by 1 in 6 Americans shows that an integrated content storefront isn't essential to build a large user base, however we expect competition to intensify sharply over the coming years."
Strategy Analytics found that, the big four cloud storage services aside, recognition of other brands was uniformly low. Furthermore 55% of connected Americans have never used a cloud storage service – although, amongst consumers who have used one, one third (33%) had done so in the last week.
"There needs to be considerable investment in evangelizing these services to a potentially willing yet largely oblivious audience," suggests Barton. "Given the size of bet Hollywood is making with Ultraviolet, this will be essential to their success given a crowded market and widespread apathy. However, more fundamental questions remain - is the use of more than one cloud service going to be too much for consumers to handle and will consolidation in such a fragmented market become inevitable?"
Barton concludes, "Although cloud storage is fast becoming a key pillar of digital platform strategies for the world's leading device manufacturers and digital content distributors, there's still a lot of work to do in educating consumers – particularly those over 45. With over half of consumers yet to use any consumer cloud based service, 2013 predictions for the 'year of the cloud' seem unrealistic. However given the market influence of the leading players pushing the concept, in particular Apple, Amazon, Google and Ultraviolet, I won't be surprised to see mainstream adoption and usage spike within the next two to three years in the key US market."