Why Apple's iCloud Service Will Be Successful

iCloud Service Provides Much-Needed Seamless Synchronization of Digital Media and Applications

June 30, 2011

Apple’s iCloud redefines the benefits of using an online back-up service. iCloud keeps all the applications, data, and files on your many devices in synch. It backs up your work in progress and all of your files across devices and provides a seamless online/offline, cross-device computing experience. We evaluate Apple’s promised iCloud offering against the 12 criteria we set for a consumer-friendly cloud service.


Apple’s iCloud service was announced on June 6, 2011. It will be available to end-users “this Fall.” It will be free to all users of the Apple iOS 5 operating system which will run on iPads, iPhones, and recent iPod Touches. It will also be free to users of the next gen OS X Lion operating systems for Macs. Using iCloud with a PC requires Windows Vista or Windows 7.

Apple’s iCloud service appears to be much maligned and misunderstood. Perhaps that’s because the idea of a “cloud service” is not well understood to begin with. Or perhaps it’s because Apple has defined the benefits of the cloud quite differently. Apple is using its iCloud service to provide a seamless user experience. In doing so, Apple is raising the bar for mobile, online, and offline computing.

We believe that Apple’s iCloud vision delivers quite well on the critical requirements that most end-users of computers and mobile devices have for a safer, more reliable, and more consistent user experience.


No Streaming Audio or Video

Many pundits have declared iCloud a bust because it doesn’t provide real-time streaming audio and video from the cloud to your web browser and/or mobile devices. We believe that’s actually a plus. Streaming audio and video to mobile devices clogs Internet bandwidth. A better behavior for providing rich media to mobile devices is to store that media locally and play it locally.

Uses iTunes Library Instead of Users’ Audio Files

Others have criticized Apple’s iCloud offering because its iTunes Match service (which costs $24.99/year) substitutes Apple’s iTunes’ versions of digitized music for the end-users’ own music tracks ripped from the audio CDs they already own. Audiophiles are concerned that the audio quality of the Apple iTunes versions will be inferior. They are also concerned that Apple will replace their favorite music tracks with a lesser or different performance.

Privacy advocates are concerned that Apple will share the details of users’ audio collections with the record labels, thereby “reporting” what music people actually “own” (legally or illegally).

Just Catches Up to Amazon’s “Download What You’ve Already Bought”

Many Apple fans are disappointed that there’s nothing revolutionary about Apple’s iCloud offering. They see it as Apple’s “catching up” to Amazon’s storage of every digital asset (book, game, music) you ever bought from Amazon. That’s true. In fact, it’s really amazing to me that Apple is so late to this party. I’ve been able to store every digital book I ever bought on Amazon for several years. I can download and read them anytime I want. It’s about time that Apple caught up! (What I also like about Amazon’s behavior is that it will tell me if I’m about to buy a duplicate and remind me that I already own that work!) But I also believe that the ability that Apple offers to synchronize your media collections across multiple devices will prove very valuable.

It’s Not Cloud Computing; Just Cloud Storage and Synching

When most people think of “the cloud,” they think of cloud computing—using virtual computing resources in the cloud, or cloud storage, which Apple does offer. But Apple is actually the first player to use the Cloud primarily for synchronization of files, applications, and media across multiple handheld and PC devices. In fact, Apple doesn’t want to store ALL your files in its cloud. Apple’s automatic Photo Stream storage will only store up to 1,000 photos and only stores each photo for 30 days. (Apple assumes that you’ll want to manage your photo library on your own computer and/or local server.) But Apple does do a great job of automatically synching the photos you take on one device, e.g., your iPhone, with all the other devices you use, e.g., your iPad, PC, or Mac, so you’ll always have copies of your latest photos on every device (if you want to).


Before Apple’s iCloud and new operating systems’ announcement on June 6, 2011, I enumerated the 12 things that would make a consumer cloud offering really customer-friendly. Readers added their own suggestions. Let’s take a look at how the Apple iCloud offering stacks up—both as a media service and as a personal (or business user’s) file and media synchronization service. I’ve summarized my ratings on these 12 criteria in the ...


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