Monday, 13 June 2011

Apple sticks its head in the (Internet) clouds

In a week, with big tech news from Microsoft, Motorola, Nintendo, and Sony, plus some intriguing gamer innovations, Apple’s version of a cloud-based digital future stood out from the rest. At the annual Apple Worldwide Development Conference in San Francisco, Steve Jobs took a break from his medical leave to introduce the iCloud.

In its simplest form, the cloud in Apple’s hands becomes the place where all the apps, books, music, photos, calendars, and documents on your Apple device are stored.  In turn, when you switch on an Apple device — phone, computer, tablet — all that information is available to you, “pushed” from the cloud, and automatically kept up to date on all your devices. With this move to the cloud, Apple has cut the cord to iTunes, previously the only way to store and manage your Apple data, and has placed all that management into the cloud.  

“iCloud keeps your important information and content up to date across all your devices,” said Jobs in his keynote address. "All of this happens automatically and wirelessly, and because it’s integrated into our apps you don’t even need to think about it—it all just works.”

The cloud concept is tied to iOS 5, a new version of the Apple operating system for iPhones, iPads and the iPod Touch which will be available in the fall. Under the new mobile OS, users including new iPhone and iPad purchasers can activate their gadgets right out of the box and get software updates over the air — WiFi or cell data network — with no computer required.

Although Google Android smartphones and devices have been doing some of the same cloud integration with contacts, appointments, Google Docs, and the like Where Apple broke with any other cloud effort to date was its plan for storing your music collection in the cloud. The new Apple vision is well designed. Many flaws present in the Appleverse were solved (such as users’ unholy reliance on all storage and updates being manually channelled through iTunes). Its scope and vision once again demonstrates why Apple is the most formidable technology company in the world.

But then there is one nagging thought: Unless you’re an adherent to the Apple way of life, you’re left out in the cold. If the cloud is Apple’s view of Heaven, the Pearly Gates are closed if you use a non-iOS device.

Cloud-watching in the consumer world is at this point a three-way race between Apple, Amazon, and Google. Apple has certainly shown more of its overall vision than the others, but this is a race in progress with no finish line in sight. Then there's companies including Microsoft and HP, or perhaps a startup in some garage somewhere with the imagination to come out of nowhere, could cream the competition and step boldly into the winner's circle.

Who do you think will win??

Thank you for reading and please feel free to comment!

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