Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Apple iCloud

Anyone who has read my blog knows I have a certain dislike for the Apple iPad.  For me, it is more toy than technology.  And I think the Apple jihad against Adobe Flash is disdainful and bad for all of us in the long run.

Yet, I have respect for Apple in other areas. I use my MacBook Air more than any computer I have ever owned. After using Adobe media editing products for more than a decade, I switched to Final Cut Pro in 2007.  It is a tremendous video editing product.

Apple will announce its iCloud service next Monday. Leveraging its South Carolina Data Center (see satellite image below),  Apple is going to shake up the world again.

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Why should we care?

Apple is making another of their signature BIG bets on a technology that everyone else has just been talking about.

In the past, I have complained that you need another computer to synchronize and backup the iPad.  This tethering requirement never made much sense to me. Starting next week, the iPad will lose its umbilical cord.

Storing your digital life on the web is an obvious path for Apple. They will subsequently use the iCloud to leverage greater dependency on iOS devices

How will it work?

iCloud will be like Facebook for data. Or for those who have been around long enough: It will be the 21st century equivalent of AOL.

You want some music?  It's on the iCloud. But music is not the only part.  Want to rent a movie? iCloud. Want to start watching that video on an Apple TV and finish watching on your iPad? iCloud.  Update your software? iCloud. Want to share the pictures you are looking at in iPhoto? iCloud. Want to make a video call to Grandma? iCloud. Want to make a free phone (a.k.a. Skype) call to another part of the world?  iCloud will eventually be there to.

Apple is going to make the iPad the Control Window to everything you have on the iCloud. A computer will be completely optional.

(Aside: expect to see to see iTunes and Mobile Me branding fade with time. iCloud is the new brand)

Cloud Storage for Dummies

I never understood why Apple outlawed files and folders on the iPad.  Now it is clear.  iPad content will seamlessly move from iPad to iPad to iPhone to desktop using the iCloud.  Newbee users won't know that it is just a synchronized file system. Apple will call it 'magical' - and many users will buy it.

What About RIM and everyone else?

Amazon, Google, Microsoft and RIM need to get serious and provide some coordinated competition.  Each has strengths that beat Apple in particular areas. Individually, they lack the breadth of solutions to match Apple in the consumer oriented application space. They need to seriously consider a more unified response - or at least - a less proprietary approach.  Either way, they will need to back their bets with significant investment.  Will they do it? That is a good question.

The iPad will be less about hardware and more about the underlying services. Just like the iPod was never really about MP3. It was always the vehicle for weaning users onto iTunes and thereby locking them into iPod hardware. iPads will now wean us onto the iCloud. It's Déjà vu all over again


UPDATE: Based on question from forum

Hardware Paradox

Apple is primarily a hardware company. Yet iTunes is more important to them than hardware. 

Here's why I say that: To continue selling hardware, Apple needs barriers that stop others from offering alternative hardware that just costs less. iTunes is that barrier.  Mac Computer buyers are offered exclusive iWork and iLife applications.  Where do they by these apps today? iTunes!

Now Apple is doing the same with the iPad. You can buy cheaper hardware (Soon to be 200+ Android tablets available - many with attractive prices). You can buy better hardware (the PlayBook). But you cannot get Apple services any other way.

iPads are no longer just about hardware.
Competitors need to take note.

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