iCloud – A few thoughts

It doesn’t need an introduction. But this year’s WWDC 2011 wasn’t a ‘traditional’ developer conference. In fact, ask any Apple fanatic, and they’ll tell you WWDC is synonymous with an iPhone refresh, showing off the new must-have piece of gadgetry we’ll be living with for the next year. This year’s total focus on software drifted from previous Keynote spectacles, with Apple keeping the iPhone 5/4S up its sleeve…for now. But without further delay— iCloud.

Steve Jobs at WWDC 2011

I’ll assume that, if you’re reading this, you’re probably already familiar with what iCloud is and roughly what its main features are.

Putting my fanboy prejudice aside, this is easily the best cloud-based music service available for consumers right now. The table below illustrates this point fairly accurately. And, having already had a hands-on with iOS 5, it’s easy to see how Apple are going to integrate the iCloud into the iOS seamlessly, making it very unobtrusive. Within weeks, we’ll be asking how we went without it!

iCloud is undoubtedly going to open up cloud technology to millions of people, and it’s set to change the way we consume our digital media. But it’s so much more than that. Apple have learnt from their mistakes with MobileMe—what Jobs describes as “not Apple’s finest hour”. The tech wizards at Infinite Loop have rebuilt and and rebranded a service that was in a state of disrepair and disrepute, and turned it into something that has the potential to be the epicenter of our digital lives. As a user of the MobileMe service since the days of ‘.Mac’, I am already living part-time in the cloud, and I cannot wait to move there full-time!

Am I starting to paint a good picture for you? iCloud is a huge deal. And it’s the best out there right now for the music you own. What’s more, with the capital Apple has to invest, and the company’s momentum, I wouldn’t expect to see any serious contenders stepping up to take on iCloud anytime soon.

So, should you get rid of your Spotify account yet? In short, no, not yet. Apple’s service focuses primarily on the music you already own, making it more of an instant download service from the cloud and less of the streaming service Spotify is famous for. It’s an unfair comparison, but with Apple’s endless resources and Spotify’s absence in the US market, it might not be long before Apple push more in the way of streamed content. It would certainly be a welcomed addition to my dusty Apple TV!

Whether or not you like iCloud, its success won’t be because of its price tag. The Apple ethos of minimalist design, and the ‘everything just works’ attitude will be what lures consumers into Apple’s proposition. You’ve already got an iPhone, so why put your music in one of Amazon or Google’s virtual lockers? Spotify runs nicely as an app, but offers a very different experience to your other music players—which is what makes its future cloudy (excuse the pun). I know where I’ll be putting my money now, but time will tell. In case you’re still not sold on Apple’s iCloud, take a look at their 3rd new data center in North Carolina.

This is the ‘big cheese’ of data centers—packed from floor to ceiling with what industry experts believe to be a mixture of HP and Teradata’s most advanced servers. The decision to pack their server farm with such a varied arsenal of tech suggests that Apple have clearly thought about the most effective means of storing different types of data; Teradata’s appliances are traditionally used for numerical data and analysis, as apposed to music and video files. It’s this sort of care and attention that will prevent the iCloud from suffering the same service outages that have become common place on Twitter and Tumblr’s servers. It’s still difficult to comprehend the amount of data Apple will be handling, but the picture (right) showing a very small part of the huge complex is estimated to hold around 8 petabytes. That’s over 106 years of HD video footage. That’s a lot of data. This demonstrates Apple’s commitment to a future in the cloud; I think the very fact that it held such prominence at WWDC alongside the iOS and Mac OSX revisions shows Apple are serious about iCloud. Very serious.

What do you think?



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