iCloud – big step for content management, but not for the cloud
The glaring feature of Apple’s much vaunted iCloud announcement? It doesn’t have much to do with the cloud
Published: 8 June, 2011
This will be a very familiar experience, and less susceptible to poor wireless connectivity than many services – and of course it keeps users investing in larger numbers of more powerful iOS products, rather than trading down to a simple appliance like a Chromebook. Apple may be making increasing amounts of revenue from content sharing and apps, but it still needs to sell heavy duty hardware, and so has to have a very different agenda from that of Google (encourage everyone to do more web activity via cheap gadgets, in order to drive its adverts and services), or Amazon (ditto to drive content purchasing).
As the analysts at ConnectedPlanet neatly put it: “Google views the cloud as the central repository of apps, content and service intelligence into which device or browser can tap; Apple sees the cloud as more of way station between the devices it sells and the software it and its close partners have developed, to the exclusion of all others.” That will provide many useful services for those with multiple Apple devices, but does little to push the boundaries of its services to appeal to new users and those who have so far been unconverted to the charms of iOS.
But iCloud will have a strong impact nonetheless, because the Apple community is so vocal. CEO Steve Jobs pleased the crowd at Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference in San Francisco by returning from sickness leave to address the event and unveil the platform. "iCloud stores your content in the cloud and wirelessly pushes it to all your devices," he explained. "It automatically uploads it, stores it, and pushes it … Now, when I buy a song on one of my devices it automatically downloads to all of my devices without having to sync or do anything at all. We're making it free, and we're very excited about it.”
If Jobs’ address lacked some of its usual dramatic impact, that was not because of his health problems but because iCloud had been so thoroughly dissected in advance – and, in some respects, pipped to the post by Google’s and Amazon’s cloud storage moves. Indeed, Jobs showed some rare humility when he admitted that Apple’s first, and hugely limited, mobile cloud offering, MobileMe, had “not been our finest hour”. That service will now be moved into iCloud.