Apple’s iCloud has “Every doc, every edit, everywhere” as the Mantra
Apple unveiled its next generation software – Lion, the 8th major release of Mac OS X, version 5 of iOS that powers iPad, iPhone and iPod touch and the much touted new cloud service offering iCloud. iCloud brings the cloud service to consumers and all of its features are aimed at making it “convenient and completely effortless’ for the users.
When you sign-up for iCloud, Apple provides 5 GB of cloud storage for free for user files. The purchased music, application, books and photos do not count against this free storage and so for individuals it is almost like having unlimited storage. With iCloud, the music you purchase in iTunes would appear automatically on all your devices (of course, from Apple!) – and no more sync required. Even for your past purchases from iTunes, you can access your purchase history and download the ones you already bought to any of your devices.
According to Apple, more than 25 million iPads are sold and customers have bought more than 15 billion songs from iTunes (making it the world’s biggest music store). iCloud is expected to still further the demand for iPad, iPhone as well as iTunes.
As part of iCloud, Apple provides a feature called iTunes Match that lets you store your entire collection, including music you’ve ripped from CDs or purchased somewhere other than iTunes – for $24.99 a year (no price change based on the number of songs). iTunes Match is a key differentiator to services provided by Google and Amazon, where the users have to take care of uploading their music – one by one.
It is actually interesting to note how iTunes Match works. Your collection is scanned and matched with around 18 million songs in the iTunes store. If the match is found in the store, it is added to iCloud library for you to listen to anytime, on any device. Only the songs that cannot be matched in iTunes are uploaded to iCloud. Apple points out that in case of matches it plays back at 256-Kbps iTunes Plus quality – even if your original copy was of lower quality. This indeed allows Apple to offer users almost unlimited storage with respect to purchased music – as only single copy is actually stored.
Though some even refer to iCloud as “Music Streaming Service”, it is not limited to Music. iCloud allows users to store Data – Music, Photos, Apps, iBooks and Contacts – in the cloud and can be accessed from any Apple device. iCloud also can be treated as a server for Apple’s email, calendars etc. iCloud enables user to view and edit the documents, in its latest state, on all their devices. Apple apps are seamlessly integrated with iCloud and it automatically updates any changes made. “”Every doc, every edit, everywhere” is the theme! Everywhere is of course limited to iPad, iPhone, iPod touch, Mac or PC (with Wi-fi or other Internet connectivity).
“We’re going to move the digital hub, the center of your digital life, into the cloud,” Jobs said. “Everything happens automatically and there’s nothing new to learn. It just all works.”
iCloud replaces MobileMe that came at a cost of $99 annual subscription fee and reached around 3 million users. MobileMe had a slow start and breakdown problems and acknowledged as such by Jobs. “We learned a lot,” Jobs said. MobileMe “wasn’t our finest hour.”
“If you don’t think we’re serious about this, you’re wrong,” Jobs said while showing pictures of the one billion dollar data center, will serve as the backbone of the iCloud service. It will help devices synchronize calendar items, contacts, mail, iTunes songs, photos, apps and other files.
iCloud automatically backs up all the data from the devices – Purchased music, apps, and books, Photos and video in the Camera Roll, Device settings, App data, Home screen and app organization, Text and MMS messages, Ringtones – daily over Wi-Fi. Note that iCloud uploads only what you’ve changed – and therefore quick and efficient.
As can be expected, the iCloud services offered will only with Apple’s devices and is sure to attract consumers in buying multiple Apple devices. But this also leaves an opportunity for competitors to exploit as they can provide similar services for all kind of mobile devices and thereby serving a larger customer base.
iCloud is clearly another milestone in bringing down the dependency on personal computers and local storage. “Mobile as desktop” (http://itknowledgeexchange.techtarget.com/enterprise-IT-tech-trends/mobile-the-future-desktop/) and “Cloud as Storage” is indeed a great proposition – if we can get past the issues related to Internet availability ad bandwidth.