Then there's SaaS, which is where the big money (relatively speaking) is today in the cloud. With HTML5 now widely deployed, it's time for SaaS and traditional providers alike to get cracking on really usable Web apps that auto-adjust to your mobile device of choice. Rather than sell an app once for $5 or so, developers could charge subscriptions for mobile Web apps and have that recurring revenue to keep making them better. Given that updates are free to iOS and Android apps, at some point native-app developers are going to run out of customers and, thus, income to pay for continued enhancements. Switching to SaaS could fix that -- and help both developers and the cloud market.
Apple could be an ally here, as it already has a subscription model in place. Sure, it'll charge you 30 percent, but that gives it a huge vested interest to encourage app purchases -- it makes more money when developers do. There's a reason Apple made 16 times as much money from app sales as Google did last year, despite the Android smartphone sales surge. Imagine if Apple's revenue-sucking magic were applied to SaaS apps!
Beyond SaaS are all the other possible services that mobile users would need a cloud to access: navigation, for example. AT&T charges $10 a month for its mobile navigation service. That model could be extended to almost anything: videoconferencing -- after all, you're already paying for voice and data subscription, so why not video? -- radio and TV streaming, travel information and management, and expense reporting, especially if mobile payments happen. It's too bad Google is all about destroying competitors with free services and then selling ads to deliver to us -- it could drive a lot of cloud revenue if it put together a monthly Google Mobile service that included a Yellow Pages-like facility and a collection of such services.
OK, I'm being a little facetious, but on the serious side, the whole cloud mentality is about charging people to rent resources rather than buy them once. That's why vendors love the idea; they can make a lot more money if you keep paying for a service rather than buy -- er, license software. Long ago, enterprise software vendors realized they could collect rent on the software they sold by instituting (required) maintenance plans. Now consumer software makers are getting a clue: Adobe Systems recently unveiled subscription offerings for Creative Suite that effectively double or triple the price.
That is where mobile can perhaps help the cloud the most: It's trained people and companies to pay a monthly fee for access (your $30 or whatever a month additional cost for data access), as well as to keep an active credit or debit card for impulse shopping (such as via the iTunes Store, Kindle Store, and Android Market). Mobile and cloud are more aligned on the business model side than I suspect most people realize.
That may not be good for individuals and businesses -- you'll have several strangers' hands permanently in your pocket -- but it could be what makes the cloud as big a business as mobile. Otherwise, I'm not sure the cloud will be meaningfully more than what it is today.
This article, "Can the iPad and iPhone rescue the cloud?," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of Galen Gruman's Mobile Edge blog and follow the latest developments in mobile technology at InfoWorld.com. Follow Galen's mobile musings on Twitter at MobileGalen. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.