“Why should I believe them? They’re the ones that brought us MobileMe? It was not our finest hour, but we learned a lot.” Steve Jobs June 6th 2011
Apple’s new cloud service has been met with uncritical excitement by industry commentators. It is wonderful what a rename can do. Apple has had a ‘cloud’ offering for three years called MobileMe, successor to .MAC and iTools, so iCloud is now the fourth internet service Apple have attempted. If this had been Microsoft, there would have been catcalls all around the blogosphere. I’ll admit that there is a lot more functionality announced for iCloud than MobileMe has ever managed to achieve, but then almost anything has more functionality than MobileMe. It’s an expensive service (Â£120 a year in the UK, $90 in the states), launched as far back as June 9, 2008, that has delivered very little and suffered a string of technical problems; the documentation was mainly a community effort, built up gradually by the frustrated and angry users. It was supposed to synchronise PC Outlook calendars but couldn’t manage Microsoft Exchange (Google could, of course). It used WebDAV to allow Windows users to attach to the filestore, but didn’t document how to do it. The method for downloading and uploading files to the cloud-based filestore was ridiculously clunky. It allowed you to post photos on a public site, but forgot to include a way of deleting photos. I could go on with the list, but you can explore the many sites that have flourished to inhabit the support-vacuum left by Apple.
MobileMe should have had all the bright new clever things announced for iCloud. Apple dropped the ball, and allowed services such as Flickr to fill the void. However, their PR skills are such that, a name-change later (the .ME.com email address remains), it has turned a rout into a victory, and hundreds of earnest bloggers have been extolling Apple’s expertise in cloud matters. This must be frustrating for the other cloud providers who have quietly got the technology working right.
I wish iCloud well, even though I resent the expensive mess they made of MobileMe. Apple promise that iCloud will sync files, apps, app data, and media across all the different iOS5 devices, Macs, and PCs. It also hopes to sync music across devices, but not video content. They’ve offered existing MobileMe users free use of the MobileMe service for a year as the product is morphed, and they will be able to transfer to iCloud when it is launched in the autumn. On June 30, 2012, MobileMe will die, and Apple’s iWeb is also soon to join iTools and .MAC in the hereafter.
So why get excited about iCloud? That all depends on the level of PC integration. Whereas iOS5 machines will be full participants in the new world of data-sharing (Sorry iPod Touch users) what about .NET libraries? There is talk of synchronising ‘My Pictures’ libraries with iOS5 and iMac machines, but little more detail as yet. Apple has a lot to prove with iCloud and anyone with actual experience of their past attempts to get into cloud services will be wary.