There is no particular point at which Apple will stop finding a way to ease the users and in the process get monetary benefits either directly and on a very few occasions more indirectly than directly. iCloud is one of those rare services which falls in the latter category. This article will discuss what iCloud is, how it will help the users and how it will help Apple. Finally, a quick review on the said service in the end.
iCloud is a cloud storage and cloud computing service from Apple Inc. which will allow users to store data on remote computer servers for download to multiple devices such as iPhones, iPods, iPads, and personal computers running Mac OS X or Microsoft Windows. The data may include music files, worksheets, documents, photos, applications, Safari and Internet Explorer bookmarks, reminders, notes, iBooks and contacts – almost everything a user would have. iCloud will replace Apple's MobileMe service which acts as a data syncing center for most of the data by June 30, 2012.
- First Official mention: May 31, 2011
- Announcement at Apple Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC): June 6, 2011
- 20 million users: Within one week of launch
- iCloud available for download via iTunes Update: October 12,2011.
Unveiling of iCloud by Steve Jobs in June at the World Developer Conference
How iCloud Works:
Once a user downloads any data or buys an application from any iProduct, he/she has an option of storing it on the iCloud. Once this is done, the user can use the Apple ID and log into any of his other iProduct and use the same data or application. iCloud simply acts as a medium to store this data on the cloud for this kind of a flexible access.
iCloud stores and manages the links of the uploaded content but the actual storage happens on the clouds of either Microsoft Azure or Amazon Web Services.
iCloud features for the users:
- iPhone Finder: iCloud allows users to track the location of their iPhone, iPod touch or iPad on a map, display a message or play a sound on the device, change the password on the device, and remotely erase its contents .
- Photo Stream: This allows users to store the most recent 1,000 photos on the iCloud servers up to 30 days free of charge. When a photo is taken on a device with Photo Stream enabled, it is automatically uploaded to the iCloud servers and from there it is automatically made accessible to the rest of the user's registered devices. .
- Back to My Mac: This service allows users to login remotely to other computers configured with the same Apple ID that have Back to My Mac enabled.
- iTunes Match: The user can upload any file bought from any source to the iTunes library on the cloud and iTunes Match will try to match the same file with one in the Apple library. Once it is matched, the user gets to use it with all the benefits of a song purchased from iTunes and also take full use of the iCloud by using it on all the various iProducts .
For now, 5 GB of storage is available without charge. Users requiring more storage can get additional storage for USD 20 per 10 GB per year. MobileMe members are automatically given 20 GB until the close of the MobileMe service.
Though Apple charges for cloud space beyond 5GB, the earnings in this regards is not why the iCloud vision was envisaged by Steve Jobs. The key reason is the integration of all the iProducts. For example, a user can now take the full advantage of having an iPhone only when the tablet he buys is an iPad and the music player he buys is iPod. Only in this way, he/she can re-use all the apps, music files etc. and enjoy the experience of seamless backend transfer. From the marketing point of view, this has been a brilliant step. How does it fare in the technical and the functional aspects is what the article will explain in the next and the final review section.
iCloud : a Quick Review
Having failed in their attempt at online service through .Mac and MobileMe (the predecessors of iCloud), it was very important for Apple to win the market by iCloud. And it does perform pretty well in few of the sections like syncing contacts and calendars effectively and reliably, storing the data seamlessly on the cloud and also all the features explained earlier including iPhone finder, Photo Stream, Back to my Mac, iTunes match. But the main problem with iCloud is that it is not as simplistic and does not follow a minimalistic approach as it should have been for two reasons, firstly, it being a new platform and secondly because of Apple’s mantra – “Simplicity is the greatest form of sophistication”.
iCloud fails to impress on the following counts:
- The design in not intuitive as compared to the other iProducts.
- A lot of configuration is required in order to sync data more so when it includes documents and apps.
- A negative impression and loss of trust, for instance, a lot of complaints claiming loss of data while configuration and restore failing to get it back.
- Problems in integration with Mac .
Nevertheless, this is just the starting of the Cloud journey and rest assured, Apple is not going to leave any stone unturned in making it one of the best experiences for the users. Till then, it is wait and watch.