Why iCloud is a Dream Come True
Like many Apple followers and enthusiasts, my morning yesterday was strikingly similar to that of a young child eagerly awaking on Christmas day. But instead of running down the stairs and assessing the gifts under the tree, I grabbed my MacBook Pro from the living-room hutch and immediately began scurrying around the Internet awaiting coverage Apple’s 2011 Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC). Having already shaken the boxes a bit by reading rumors on the large technology blogs, I had somewhat of an idea of what Steve Jobs – a figurative Santa Clause – would be unveiling at the San Francisco event. While improvements in Apple’s iOS mobile operating system and the next generation of Mac OS X (dubbed “Lion”) were given, the hands-down most important thing to come out of the event yesterday was the highly speculated iCloud storage and synchronization service.
Having said this, I think that iCloud is an excellent product for Apple simply because it ties together a great deal of the company’s famed products. iOS devices such as the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch will soon have the ability to sync user data (contacts, calendars, etc.) as well as more interactive data such as documents, images, and media with Apple Macintosh and even PC desktops.
Now, I can easily see where someone critical of the situation could come to question the “innovation” behind this service. MobileMe, while known to have its kinks and flaws, already provides the ability for users to synchronize their calendars, contacts, bookmarks and mail between devices. But the reality is that this is the full extent of MobileMe’s offerings (less the “Find My iPhone” feature). Sure, it got the job done for synchronizing the essentials, but it really didn’t offer all that much in terms of the ability to utilize the product as a backend for third-party applications.
What I was really excited to see during the WWDC hype was the fact that Apple was encouraging the developers of applications to take advantage of iCloud in order to make their products more fitting in the mobile lifestyles of end-users.
You see, I’ve recently “seen the light” with services such as Dropbox that allow applications to take advantage of an API-enabled storage system that users have complete and total control over. By taking advantage of this freely available storage, I’ve seen applications that have been able to offer seamless backup and synchronization. The thing was, using Dropbox has always been somewhat of a “hack”, and not something seen as a standard. And of course this functionality was all leveraged on the assumption that users took advantage of Dropbox and had active accounts.
Because iCloud is going to be freely available to iOS and Lion users, developers will be able to develop their applications around a storage backend that they can rest assured will be available to users. With this in mind, I honestly think that developers will be more open to taking advantage of “the cloud”, and I think that when it boils down to it users are going to be the ones who ultimately reap the benefits.
Let’s look at 1Password, for example. Shortly after reviewing the application a few months back, I came across the Dropbox integration built into the application. By utilizing this relatively common service, the 1Password developers were able to implement synchronization services into their product – both for desktop and mobile – without developing their own secure storage mechanism. It’s such a simple concept, but it’s a move that I don’t think enough developers have opted to take thus far simply because it involves a third-party.
Now, let’s imagine if 1Password and a handful of other applications began to take advantage of iCloud. Not only would it be seamlessly integrated into both Apple’s desktop and mobile platforms, but it would put users in complete and total control as well.
The potential for more robust applications all while giving the user more control? Count me in.
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