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iCloud.com: Apple's most important development in years?

Gordon Kelly

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iCloud.com: Apple's most important development in years?

There was no grand keynote, no 'magical' new product and the Apple Store didn't even go down for 'updating', but last week may have seen the most significant move by Apple in recent years: it bought a domain name.

The Cupertino company shelled out $4.5m for www.iCloud.com. The lucky beneficiary was Xcerion, a Swedish Dropbox rival, which has since renamed its service 'CloudMe'. It bought this domain just three weeks earlier. For now Xcerion is still listed as the owner of iCloud, but any attempts by Apple to keep this a secret are well and truly out the bag.

To be fair this appears to be one secret Apple is not overly determined to keep. In April it openly placed an order for 12 petabytes (12,000 terabytes) of storage from Isilon Systems, enough for 160 years of HD video. In the same month it posted a job listing for a 'Cloud Systems Software Engineer' "to join the team building the future of cloud services at Apple". The company is clearly ramping up operations as it builds towards a public unveiling, possibly at WWDC 2011.

"At this year’s conference we are going to unveil the future of iOS and Mac OS", said senior vice president of Worldwide Product Marketing Philip Schiller. "If you are an iOS or Mac OS X software developer, this is the event that you do not want to miss."

Again this is big talk for a company which is famed for its secrecy ahead of events. So why the public posturing and thinly veiled business dealings? Because it wants, no… it needs everyone to know when it comes to Cloud services Apple really is working on it.

To put it bluntly this is because Apple is years behind when it comes to Cloud computing. When it comes to streaming music, rivals have not just come, but in the case of high profile failures like Sky Songs and Nokia's Comes With Music gone too. In fact these companies are already diversifying. Just last week Spotify was rumoured to be readying a movie streaming service after concluding deals with US film studios. Come on Apple.

BOFH UK

May 4, 2011, 4:44 pm

"Forcing mobile devices to be physically tethered to PCs makes little sense"

Sorry but I'm not entirely sure that's accurate. There's a couple of REALLY good reasons to have a physical link to iTunes (albeit in addition to a cloud service would be ideal). Firstly the initial sync to the device tends to be double digit gigabytes and the thought of doing that over a wireless link is not one to inspire joy.

Secondly having a local copy of your media is probably a good thing on the whole. Then there's bandwidth issues to consider, especially for homes with multiple devices. Right now, for instance, we've got a Mac running iTunes and pulling down podcasts and other content that can then be loaded straight on to iPhones and iPads. One download, multiple devices.

Again, not saying that cloud services wouldn't be nice but I honestly think those racing to cut the cable might be in for a nasty shock if that option goes away entirely. Where I'm really interested in seeing Apple move forward with regards the cloud is file management. Looking at what's coming up in Lion, AirDrop in particular, and it seems fairly likely that this is one area that Apple are likely to make a big step forward.

Gk.pm

May 4, 2011, 11:32 pm

Ahhh couldn't miss yet another cloudgasm article from TR.

"Apple is years behind when it comes to Cloud computing."

Is that with our without MobileMe? Did you just remember it on the second page?

If you mean the media streaming market isn't it such a big well established market already. Oh wait actually it isn't and most players have either closed down (like you said) or are being more and more restricted every day (Spotify) or may just be acting plainly illegally (Amazon).

"Google Android has always operated in the Cloud"

Oh so can I sync my music over the cloud on Android then? Oh no I can't.

Not sure how the Spotify announcement is any relevant to a cloud discussion, since the sync is done over local Wifi.

The rest of the points were already well covered by BOFH UK.

TR get your facts correct and fix your website, stop dreaming about cloud lala land.

RonRoyce

May 5, 2011, 1:28 am

So...Google's been developing and working on the cloud thing for a while now but seems to get rather ambivalent press. Now we have the possibility of iCloud and someone at TR pops a ball sack. Why the big deal? They are behind the curve!

Next, we'll be told the whole cloud thing was Apple's idea in the first place.

rav

May 5, 2011, 2:09 am

@BOFH UK
I read it more as you are forced to use physical tethering as the only option. Like you said there are definitely some benefits but for day to day syncing I'd love to be able to update my iPod Touch via WiFi. The option to choose would be amazing, if very unApple like.

@Gk.pm
I don't know the figures but I'd guess that Mobile Me is a niche service. None of my many iPhone loving friends use it, indeed most use Gmail. The webapps aren't that impresssive either.

Gordon394

May 5, 2011, 5:01 am

You're missing the point BOFH UK. The key is in the word "forcing". I'm not saying tethering a device shouldn't be an option, it should. But to make it impossible for a mobile device to live without being regularly tethered to a computer is daft.

Gordon394

May 5, 2011, 5:05 am

Gk.pm you state no facts of value. What you are stating is opinion.

Spotify syncs music both with and without WiFi and requires no tethering. Playlists are automatically synchronised between desktop and phone.

This certainly isn't a 'Cloudgasm' and I'm looking forward to seeing what Apple unveils this year. 'Cloud lala land'? Let's see who is right over the next 12 months...

Gordon394

May 5, 2011, 5:08 am

Interesting to see your reaction. Other comments interpreted this as a negative article on Apple. You see it as a love in.

Truth is it is both. Apple deserves criticism for being behind, yet we are excited to see what it does come up with now things are clearly ramping up.

I beat you to your last line. The last line of my March feature: Why Apple Runs Shy of the Cloud stated:

"Sadly Tuesday was another example of Apple trying to delay the inevitable and squeeze every last drop out of its existing business model. The good news is Apple will eventually make the leap. It has to. The bad news is when it does we'll be told Apple invented the concept and urged to embrace the 'iCloud'…"

So at least we're thinking along similar lines.

Gk.pm

May 5, 2011, 3:27 pm

@rav
What do you mean by niche service? It was out there (apparently they stopped selling it 2 months or so ago) for anyone to use, easy to purchase online or even in many stores.

The webapps are too flashy which drags the interface down a bit (like TR) but at least they don't bombard you with ads which seem to have read your email unlike the free alternatives. I also still prefer iDisk over Dropbox for example.

In any case webapps on browsers are not cloud services, so any comments on their quality are immaterial to my point that Apple was already running a quite complete "cloud" service since at least 2008.

Apple even had general cloud storage with iDisk well before 2008, while Google never got their fabled gDrive thing off the ground having only launched a very limited solution in the middle of last year which only works inside Google Docs.

rav

May 6, 2011, 1:03 am

By niche I meant relatively small userbase.

Not having ads is definitely nice but would you really expect anything less when paying a fee? I think Google miss a trick by not offering paid for ad free services or is our data that valuable?

I haven't used iDisk so can't comment but love Dropbox as it works across so many platforms. And it's free!

To get the best out of Mobile Me you really need a Mac which is quite a kick in the face to the majority of iOS users who are PC users.

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