iCloud is a key enabler of the “post-PC” experience for iOS users. It supports wireless daily backup, storage of purchased music, apps, and books, and synchronization. It also has some interesting Mac OS X features, and it’s free. But the most-compelling feature of iCloud is what it means to future applications on iDevices, the Mac, and even Windows!
iCloud Is Much More Than MobileMe
It’s easy to look at iCloud as a simple evolution of MobileMe, and that’s how the majority of users will see it. After all, Apple mostly focuses on end user computing and the iCloud site focuses on familiar applications.
Photo Stream is a great example of the sort of application enabled by iCloud storage. It will push and cache photos to any supported device, including iPhone, iPad, Mac, and Windows PC. Think of it as a cloud-enabled shared photo frame. It’s much like Picasa or Flickr’s offerings, actually.
But scratch the surface, and iCloud is much more. The iCloud storage platform is available for developers of Mac OS X, iOS, and other operating systems. This is how Documents in the Cloud stores Pages, Numbers, Keynote, and third-party application content, and developers will eat it up.
The iCloud Storage API
The most important new feature is the iCloud Storage API, a real, honest-to-goodness cloud storage API. It supports revision control and push updates to devices, as well as storing “key/value data” in the cloud, opening the door to lots of creative uses.
But there are already many other cloud storage services with APIs. iCloud is different because the Apple ecosystem makes it so. This isn’t mere fanboy talk: The installed base of iOS devices and apps will spur adoption on the part of developers to be sure, but let’s not forget the users.
Apple already has the largest pool of e-commerce users short of Mastercard, and all of these users will transparently be able to use iCloud storage in many applications. Like Game Center, Facetime, and iTunes, it will just work. iCloud Storage is another front in Apple’s war to take over the computing client world.
At WWDC, Steve Jobs specifically talked about Apple spending 10 years trying to “get rid of file system storage”. Although you might think a “storage guy” like me would be upset by this, I reacted with joy. I will not shed a tear when the old “disk, folder, files” paradigm is destroyed, since I’ve seen the power of real API-driven cloud storage. The iCloud Storage API is a huge step in the right direction, and it’s especially important that Apple is taking it.
iCloud Storage won’t keep massive companies like EMC and NetApp awake at night. In fact, they’ll likely be cheering its success since they provide the equipment that supports the service. But end users are entering a new world, where local storage decreases in importance and cloud services like iCloud come to dominate daily interaction with apps. iCloud, like Apple’s computers, truly is designed “for the rest of us!”