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Operators Get an iCloud Competitor

F-Secure Corp. wants to give wireless operators an iCloud-like service to help them sell consumers on the idea of the mobile cloud.

On Tuesday, the security vendor is launching Content Anywhere, a cloud-based synching and storage service that lets consumers locally stream video and music, download pictures or documents and access their files over the wireless network.

Operators are just starting to break into the mobile cloud as their customers take on more mobile devices. And, of course, they're seeking a response to Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL)'s relatively new -- but 85 million-user-strong -- iCloud, says Curtis Cresta, vice president of F-Secure's North American operations. Apple has shown that controlling a subscriber's content makes for a much stickier subscriber. It's harder to leave when you're enmeshed in an ecosystem and not just one solitary device. And, unlike Apple, the wireless operators have access to a range of OSs, smartphones, tablets, even TVs, creating the opportunity to enrich simple storage with revenue-generating services. (See Apple Finds Friends, Synchs With iCloud and There's a Niche in the Mobile Cloud.)

"You become a potential hub for the consumer's digital life, and you can add the intelligence you have about the consumer and the intelligence in your network to enhance that digital life," Cresta says.

It's up to the wireless operators to figure out how they want to use Content Anywhere, but an important part will be setting the service up for their subscribers, who may not be as tech-savvy as Apple's legions. The operators can -- and likely will -- also charge for the backup and storage capabilities alone.

Building out the infrastructure to support personal clouds is not trivial, however. The operators will have to invest in data centers and core technology to ensure they can meet the challenge of streaming content over the network anywhere (not just on Wi-Fi, like iCloud) at any time. To make up for the capex required, Cresta says operators could choose to do less with their subscribers' digital lives -- store only certain kinds of content, bundle the cost into higher-tier data plans or only offer it to top customers, for example. (See Apple's iCloud Lets Wi-Fi Take the Strain.)

F-Secure has already signed up Orange France , SFR and SingTel Optus Pty. Ltd. for the service, and Cresta says it will announce a North American Tier 1 operator fairly soon. AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) unveiled its developer Cloud Architect strategy at CES last month, which Cresta says is similar in scope to Cloud Anywhere, although he didn't confirm whether AT&T was a customer. (See AT&T: Introducing Cloud Architect and AT&T: The CES Cloud Question.)

— Sarah Reedy, Senior Reporter, Light Reading Mobile

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