Cloud computing baffles average American

“‘The cloud,’ as a concept, may be all the rage in the technology industry, but consumers are baffled by the term,” Thomas Claburn reports for InformationWeek. “Research firm Ipsos OTX MediaCT recently conducted a survey of 1,000 American adults that plumbed respondents’ thoughts about cloud-based services. In reporting his firm’s findings, researcher Todd Board suggests that cloud computing is as alien to most consumers as the term ‘woolpack,’ an obscure word that, among other things, can be used to refer to a cloud resembling sheep’s wool.”

“‘When presented with brand names, nine out of ten consumers indicate they are using some type of cloud-related service,’ the report finds. Ask a Yahoo Mail user if he or she enjoys the cloud and chances are you’ll hear, ‘No, I prefer Yahoo,'” Claburn reports. “This perception gap is most pronounced with regard to email services and music services; users of online storage and web-based productivity apps mostly recognize that they’re cloud computing customers.”

Claburn reports, “The message for tech marketers, the report suggests, is to talk about comprehensible benefits and brand value rather than the ill-defined cloud. Apple, due to the strength of its brand, may not have trouble convincing customers to use its iCloud service. But the Amazon may have to work harder to sell its Cloud Drive, particularly in light of the recent EC2 interruption, the report argues.”

Read more in the full article here.


  1. On a slightly separate note, does anyone know if iCloud only works on a per app basis or are you able to access files created in one app in another? Basically, does it offer any shared storage, or will something like dropbox be the option for “power users”.

  2. I confess that it took me a while to figure out what the “cloud” was. I’m used to military IT people talking about software being stovepiped and data being in buckets, but “cloud” had me puzzled for a while. Usually a metaphor shares attributes with the thing it represents. A cloud is vague, ephemeral, and wispy. Why would I want to put my data in something that can evaporate on a sunny day?

    It was a facepalm when I realized that all it meant in plain English was storing data on someone else’s hard drive and accessing it over the internet. “Cloud” is the data-storage equivalent of a black box: we don’t care where it is, what it is, or how it works. We just care about putting our data where it’s safe and available at any time from any place.

    Bottom line: “cloud’ was a poor choice of metaphor. Like real clouds, it fogs things up, so to speak. Eventually we’ll use it often enough that people will get it.

    Apple will have more success with iCloud, not because anyone has a clue what “cloud” means, but because it’s built in, everyone is using it, and, whatever it is, it works.

    1. A cloud is a symbol for a server in diagrams.  Look at the patent applications and you will see it used.  This is not some made up term for advertising. It may be so widely used, and understood in tech circles that they don’t realize it is confusing to the rest of the world.

      1. Yes, the cloud is used instead of a box because there is no “one” discrete piece of hardware on which storage and computing is accomplished. Instead it is an amalgam of equipment that can scale up or down as needed. Amorphous, like a cloud.

  3. @Wetfx: Consumers have no occasion to look at patent diagrams or charts with servers.

    @Spark: Most people can’t understand what your explanation means, any more than you can understand me when I explain that an anarthous noun is definite if it is proper or if I explain that the archimandrite told the hieromonks what the staretz’s exegesis was, or if I explain that the diastolic pressure combined with the tachycardia indicates circulatory and renal failure, and possibly impending death. Not everyone is educated in every field.

    @qka: Did I baffle you with anything I said to Spark?

    1. I understood perfectly what Spark was talking about, in fact his explanation was one of the clearest I’ve seen. I’m not an IT wonk, I’m a person who works in the print industry, but I do have a deep interest in all things techy, so it was probably easier for me to understand. You, however, are just obfuscating things to be bloody awkward.

      1. @Rorschach Of course you understand. That’s why you are reading this web site. It’s kind of self-selecting. But when you have time, run down to the undercroft and fetch me the green chasuble and the monstrance. And you do know what color the monstrance is? My point is that you don’t read web sites that would inform you about such things, and most people don’t read computer related web sites.

        In the early days of automobiles, you couldn’t drive a car without a toolkit and a general knowledge of automotive repairs. Today most people have no clue what’s under the hood, nor do they need to know. One time the dealership told me I had skidded on an oil slick and broke the wishbone. I asked if I got my wish, but it turned out it really was a technical term.

        Computers are about halfway there. The less a consumer has to know about computing, the more successful the manufacturers and programmers are.

  4. it is amazing that tech writers and marketers need to be reminded that the other 99.999% of people don’t know or care what “cloud computing” means. They just want their computing devices to work so they can do what they need or want to do with them, just like they expect their cars, refrigerators, and other appliances to do. Computing devices are (finally) just appliances – thanks to Steve Jobs and Apple Inc.

  5. 6th Grade Science baffles the average Ammurikin’.

    The do, however, love Faux Newz, pickup trucks, Bud, Country Musick – especially the cowboy posers, Gawd & Sarah Palin.

    Posted from deep in Dixie-so spare me the charges of being a left coast elitist. I have lived all over the south and speak from 1st hand experience.

    1. “…Bud…”

      That says it all in one word. Anybody who drinks Bud and thinks Bud is beer is totally brainwashed. Bud (and Coors and Miller) use nothing but a bunch of hops steamed to release a bit of flavor and stirred into a yeast solution. The usual formula is one cup of dried hops per 55 gallon brewing vessel. These people wouldn’t know what beer tasted like if their geography grade depended on it. Unfortunately the advertising juggernauts of these purveyors of faux beer have convinced the Amurrican Male that it’s the real deal. In any other country these would be called “near beer” and calling it “beer” would put the brewers in trouble with the courts.

      Every other country, bar none, produces better-tasting beer than the US (save for some craft breweries).

  6. [ x ] baffles average [y]

    replace x with any noun and y with any group of people you care to identify, and it will still remain true. The only difference in [y] might be the attitude. Americans seem to have inflated their hubris to levels not seen since the Roman empire. we all know how that ended.

    dumb headline, pointless article.

  7. Seeing as we’ve all grown up seeing actual ‘clouds’ every day, of course the rather strained metaphor of ‘cloud computing’ is not a catchy marketing term. So go shoot the marketing dopes who came up with it!


    Much as it is difficult to underestimate the intelligence of the current citizens of the USA, (witness the TardParty), I see nothing injurious about news that the data ‘cloud’ concept is baffling to average anyone. 😛

    1. Cloud Computing! It’s clouds! It’s computing!

      Brought to you by the people who came up with that terrific term JavaScript! It’s not coffee. It has nothing to do with the Java coding language. Coffee and scripting have no coherent relationship! That’s its genius! 😆

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